I have reported Covid for two years. Then I understood it.

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Two years after the coronavirus became the focus of all my coverage as a science reporter for The Times (and all my waking hour thoughts), it just so happened: I tested positive for the virus.

My case was mostly mild, as the virus is generally for any healthy individual in their 40s. But the experience nevertheless gave me perspective that I would not have gained from reading scientific papers or interviewing experts.

Over the past two years, I’ve written hundreds of articles about the coronavirus — about asymptomatic infections, tests, the body’s immune defenses, superinfections, and boosters. I have interviewed myself dozens of times to answer questions about the disease, the pandemic, and the United States’ response to the virus.

But all along, my relationship with the virus has remained academic and impersonal. Even when a variable swept through the delta of India and I remained sleepless, worrying about my parents, he wasn’t quite at my door.

To be honest, I’m surprised it took so long for me to catch Covid. As someone who covers infectious diseases, I am not allergic to pathogens, and my family and I have taken some risks during the pandemic. My husband has been teaching squash indoors, often without a mask, my kids have been going to school in person — albeit masked — since the fall of 2020 and I’ve flown on planes, including a 20-hour flight to India in the midst of the Omicron rush.

But we were all vaccinated, boosted (except for my 10-year-old daughter, who doesn’t yet qualify for a booster shot) and relatively healthy, so we knew that while we might have some symptoms if we wanted to get Covid, we would likely recover quickly. We were careful, especially around vulnerable people, like my mother-in-law and friends with young children.

During an (indoor) dinner in early March, my friend and I marveled at how our families escaped from Covid. The virus appeared to be in decline and cases in New York City were lower than they had been in months. We thought we were in the clear.

I should have known I was tempting fate.

Three days later, I found an email in the spam folder from the city’s school testing program alerting me that my son had tested positive for the virus. The school was informed immediately. That evening, a friendly man working in the city called to give me some information. He began with the phrase “Covid is a disease caused by a virus called the Corona virus.” It was almost dinner time and I was still finishing my story – knowing about the coronavirus of course – so I asked if we could skip it forward. But he was asked to review every bit of detail about the disease, symptoms and quarantine protocol.

After 16 minutes of this one-sided speech, he asked me if I had any questions. I haven’t, and I’m lucky enough that I don’t need city-quarantine housing or free supplies.

That was Thursday, March 10th. Looking back, my husband felt the weather earlier that week, but a quick test showed he was virus-free. My son also had an itchy throat, but it made him suffer from seasonal allergies. Just like the experts I interviewed said, the symptoms are indistinguishable.

Even though my rapid test was negative, I decided to act as if I had Covid. I have informed my co-workers. I left for a walk with friends. My kids canceled all their activities. In the end the test result was positive.

On Friday night my daughter had a low grade fever but it was full of rebounds again by the next morning. As expected, we adults were the hardest hit. I was gripped by a severe cold and feeling very upset. By the following Wednesday, I was too sick to work. I learned that even those with a mild case can experience serious symptoms.

I am honored to have the luxury of working from home when I feel I can and taking time off when I’m not. I am also fortunate that my children are old enough that they do not need constant care and that they attend a school that accommodates distance learning. I knew even before I contracted Covid that the disease had a massively disproportionate impact on underserved communities, but as I said on The Times podcast “The Daily,” contracting the virus puts that knowledge in sharp perspective.

I have written about many diseases – HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, polio – that I have never had before. I could have done it without experiencing Covid. I’m not worried about these symptoms lasting for a long time – vaccination significantly reduces the risk of so-called long-term Covid – but I am still excessively fond of naps.

I am grateful to have gained a richer and broader immune defense against the virus. But mostly, I’m glad to have a deeper understanding of what our readers are going through.

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