My two most recent brushes with the coronavirus occurred about a week ago. As far as I know, they are my fourth and fifth potential exposures — without getting infected.

One encounter was at a wedding in the New Orleans area last Saturday night. A cousin’s son was the groom, and Ryans came in from four states: Mary Ann and I from Mississippi, my brother and his wife from Florida, oldest son John from Texas, daughter Audrey and her husband from Tennessee. Middle son Thomas and his fiancée Kayla had the easy trip since they live in New Orleans.

We all wore masks. But almost no one else among the 100 people there did. Count me among those who quickly gets uncomfortable with a mask, but I was surprised we were in the minority.

Mary Ann and I took off our masks during the ceremony, which was outdoors. The reception was in a large ballroom that was not crowded, and we only mingled with a few other relatives and friends. Still, on the drive home, I wondered if we used poor judgment.  

Seven days later, Mary Ann and I remain healthy. But I had to deal with another situation when an employee came down with the virus last Sunday.

He had last been in the office two days before but never showed any symptoms. He started feeling bad last Saturday (the same day as the wedding I attended), and tested positive the next day.

He is halfway through his two-week quarantine, working from home and feeling OK after some fever, chills and sensory loss.

His desk is close to my office, and he and I talk every day. His news dredged up all those concerns that went through my mind in the earliest weeks of the pandemic.

Back then, when I woke up in the morning with a sore throat I would think, this must be it, I’ve got it. Then I would gargle, the soreness would subside and I’d realize that I must have breathed through my mouth while sleeping, which dries out your throat.

Last Sunday night, I went into the office to write employees an e-mail about the positive test. I said we would spray disinfectant in the public parts of the building, suggested that we all wear masks in the office for a while and asked everyone not to panic.

I had some experience with this, because in June, another employee had been the first in the building to test positive.

Once his infection was confirmed, I had to tell everyone in the office. Nobody visibly freaked out, but you could tell that some people were worried. I was, too. If a bunch of us had to quarantine at one time, who would write stories, run the press or apply mailing labels to the papers?

This week, the reaction was more subdued. There was no panic — it was more like a shrug of the shoulders. The difference is that everyone has had time to adjust to living in 2020’s coronavirus world. There is certainly is a risk of illness, but it’s fairly low.

Eight months into this, those are the only two infections at the newspaper. I hope this column does not jinx it.

My other two close encounters were several weeks ago. One was when Mary Ann’s sister and her husband stayed with us for two days to attend a funeral, and they found out after returning home that at least one person they were with had tested positive. This is the one that most concerned me, but in the end all four of us dodged infection.

Another involved the McComb Rotary Club, which has started meeting again for lunch every other Wednesday. Tables are set up for two people, and one day I sat with a guy I’ve known for years.

But at a later meeting, he asked me how I was feeling. Fine, I replied.

“No problems?” he asked.

None at all. Which was interesting, because a couple of days after we shared a table, he got the virus. He had no symptoms at Rotary, which I guess means no one else was likely to get it from him.

I am thankful to be healthy, but even more grateful to be lucky. Even when someone around me gets the virus, they have no symptoms when we are in contact, thus reducing my chance of infection.

This can only last for so long. Sooner or later the virus will come for me. If that happens, assuming there is no serious illness, I will do my two weeks of solitary penance, armed with some books, a computer, Turner Classic Movies and any medicine that’s needed.

No doubt 2020 has been a tough year. But those of us who have avoided serious illness should know that it could be a whole lot worse.

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