Screenwriter Phoebe Ephron used to tell her four daughters, “Everything is copy.”
All four girls subsequently grew up to be writers. That philosophy proved particularly useful during the storied career of her oldest, the ferociously talented Nora, who became a celebrated journalist, screenwriter and director (When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, among others). Famously confessional in her prose, Nora even got back at Watergate scribe Carl Bernstein — her philandering, soon-to-be former husband — by penning the wickedly funny 1983 roman à clef, Heartburn.
As a longtime reporter, I’ve taken inspiration from that pithy Ephron quote for years. I think most writers also live by that credo, making literary hoopla out of the scraps of their lives. Well, I have to warn you that the experience that I’m about to unspool is barely a scrap — it’s more like a tissue.
I found out at 8:00 this morning that I have Covid. The emailed results of the pro forma PCR I took yesterday in order to host an out-of-town friend were indisputable: POSITIVE. The lab made the all-caps lettering red, just in case the test taker’s heart hadn’t already stopped beating by then.
Surely catching the variant du jour is grist enough for the mill, right?
I must admit that I’ve been rehearsing to tell some version of this tale for the better part of three years. That’s how long ago we founded The Insider, “the oldest pandemic publication in history.” As editor of The Insider, I have interviewed a zillion — okay, half a zillion — people with Covid. That includes college students, pregnant mothers and anxious parents. If Covid could be transmitted by discussing Covid via Zoom, I would have caught it a half a zillion times by now.
But despite the fact that I’ve been hearing for years about constricted breathing, about nostrils and taste buds that no longer work, Mr. Covid never found his way to my door. At this point, it seems most people I know have been afflicted by the virus and have their own overheated pandemic story to tell. I wouldn’t say I was jealous of the Covid confessors — no Covid envy here — but I’ll cop to an advanced case of Covid curiosity. I can’t hear enough about sore throats and Paxlovid rebounds. A girl can only hear so much about Paxlovid without wondering what her own rebound would be like.
Naturally, being a professional yenta, I know good gossip when I hear it. So I put out the word immediately that I was now part of the pandemic posse. Out of the excessive number of friends I called to announce my news, most were sorta shocked. They know how careful I’ve been because I’m well past my teen years and have an underlying health condition to boot. No Broadway shows, restaurant interiors or movie theaters since this wicked pandemic began.
Without fail, everyone I told this morning asked how I had caught Covid. I have no clue, except it’s still rampant in Manhattan and contrary to what some people may have told you, Manhattan is still home to 1.6 million people. I’ve been vaxxed and boosted up the wazoo. One friend insisted that was the source of my ailment, proclaiming with great authority that it was the Moderna booster shot that I had last week that had tipped me over the viral edge. I joked with a different friend that my mysteriously acquired medical condition was the Immaculate Infection. (Apologies to 2.6 billion Christians for that one.)
Although I’ve lived a very Covid-cautious life, it’s like Mardi Gras on the Upper West Side. The restaurants and bars are packed with maskless revelers, as are the concert halls and museums. And last week, New York’s new governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul, announced that masks would no longer be required on buses and subways. Maybe the news hasn’t reached Albany yet — although New York City is no longer the nation’s coronavirus epicenter, and deaths are mercifully down, a third of the residents of the city have now had the virus. I’m not blaming my illness on gubernatorial misjudgment (well, I guess I am) but officials giving into pandemic fatigue are sure making it harder to outrun the exhalations of my fellow Empire State residents.
So, you ask breathlessly, what has it been like having Covid for 10 hours? I am embarrassed to admit: it has been a breeze. I have been very fortunate — barely a scratchy throat so far. Under my own (contagious) breath, I am timidly whispering, God Bless Moderna!
That could all change by the time you read this. If it does, you can be sure you will read about it in my forthcoming memoir, The Covid Hours: I’ll Have What She’s Having.
Editor's Note: Andrea Sachs does not have Covid. A second (and third) PCR test showed that her first was false positive. She is, however, grateful that so many of you were concerned about her health.