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The 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Best Story Written with Covid Goes to Me!

By Emmy Serviss / Boston

I was so careful.

I was SO careful.

I was SO careful, but I wasn’t careful enough.

After two years of complying with the lockdown, wearing my mask, getting vaccinated, getting boosted, washing my hands and being as responsible an adult as I could possibly be during a pandemic…. I finally fell victim to Covid.

I’m trying really hard not to blame myself. With the especially contagious Omicron variant, I knew it was unlikely that I could avoid getting sick forever. But I guess there was still a small part of me that thought I could be one of the lucky few to avoid it entirely.

But alas, here we are.

The worst part of catching Covid now is that I caught it while traveling 3,000 miles from where I live. I was supposed to be spending a week in Seattle with fellow comedians, enjoying our first in-person conference since 2019. I got to enjoy a couple days in Seattle with friends, but then spent the rest of the time quarantined in my hotel room.

Not exactly the experience I was hoping for
Not exactly the experience I was hoping for

I keep trying to tell myself if it had to happen, and if it HAD to happen while I was traveling, at least the timing managed to work out in my favor. I had two days to see friends I haven’t seen in three years and to meet friends I had only known virtually. I got to perform with my Boston teammates and teach my sketch workshop. And even though it was cut short, I did get two days’ worth of photos and videos and participate in lots of silly bits with my very silly friends.

Thankfully, the venue where all of the performances took place required masks always be worn while indoors, and participants needed a negative PCR test to be able to perform. Many attendees also brought at-home tests, so we were constantly testing to ensure we always had updated information on everyone’s health.

The downside is that apparently the PCR test isn’t foolproof. I took my first PCR test on Wednesday, and it was negative, so I was cleared to perform. The next day we got word of the first positive Covid test among the attendees. I felt fine, but signed up for an additional PCR test anyway, just to be careful. My second PCR test came back negative, so I thought I was in the clear.

But alas, here we are.

Also, for the record, at a conference with probably over 100 people attending, there were only about 10 of us who contracted Covid. Those of us who tested positive reached out to organizers to let them know, and then we quarantined immediately. Zero infections would have been preferable, but I’m relieved we kept the spread moderately contained.

Nothing like Christopher Meloni to cure what ails you!
Nothing like Christopher Meloni to cure what ails you!

On Friday June 24, the world was stunned by the appalling decision of the Supreme Court, and try as I might, I couldn’t focus on comedy. So, I spent most of the day in my hotel room processing my emotions and writing a response to the Roe v. Wade article I wrote for The Insider last week. I felt a little guilty for being antisocial that day, but I knew I needed some quiet time. I was also starting to feel a little run down, but I attributed it to jet lag, overstimulation, irregular sleep and a rollercoaster of emotions.

Turns out my seclusion on Friday was a good move, because as the day went on, I felt crummier and crummier. I finally took an at-home test, and sure enough, it came back positive almost immediately. I was both not surprised and extremely upset at the PCR test not confirming it sooner. If I hadn’t inadvertently quarantined early, I might have unknowingly exposed more of my friends.

Covid breakfast of champions! Excluding the Lysol, obviously.
Covid breakfast of champions! Excluding the Lysol, obviously.

My first day of quarantine, I didn’t start feeling out of sorts until later in the afternoon. By the end of the day, I was feeling really run-down and had a slight tickle in my throat.

My second day of quarantine was the worst. I had body aches, chills, congestion, probably a low-grade fever and a slight cough. I spent most of the day sleeping. A friend of mine recently had Covid so he offered to bring me coffee and get some supplies from the local grocery store.

I had plans to visit the Museum of Pop Culture, visit the Chihuly Gardens, attend the final performances of the conference, and rock out at a ‘90s grunge themed after-party. Instead, I tossed and turned fitfully, and then indulged in a Law & Order: SVU marathon.

The third day of quarantine wasn’t as bad as the previous day. Way fewer body aches and chills, and I didn’t spend as much time sleeping. And apparently GrubHub delivers to hotels, so I was able to get food sent to my room contact-free! I started writing notes to document my sickness, though it really wasn’t that interesting.

· Slept 3 hours

· Woke up and coughed a bit

· Drank nasty hotel room coffee

· Finished Season 2 of Stranger Things

· Slept some more

I’m definitely not complaining, though. I am very thankful that this has been a mostly boring experience. To date, I haven’t lost my senses of taste or smell so here’s hoping I avoided that symptom!

Today, my fourth day of quarantine, is when boredom really started to kick in. Other than some fatigue and a slight cough, I feel mostly fine. The hotel room suddenly seems infinitely smaller than it did yesterday. And now I’m painfully aware of all the things I missed out on and the people I didn’t get to hug goodbye, as they headed back to their home cities. However, I’m VERY thankful that the quarantine period is no longer 10 days, because the idea of getting stuck in Seattle is not very appealing. (I mean, it’s a lovely city, but I have things to do in Boston.)

Stockpiling garbage so that housekeeping doesn’t come in while I’m quarantined
Stockpiling garbage so that housekeeping doesn’t come in while I’m quarantined

As luck would have it, my flight home to Boston is a red-eye, so I’ll just squeak in the fifth day of quarantine before being able to head home. While this has not been the trip that I envisioned, I still have to consider myself lucky.

I’m lucky I got to see friends and perform before I got Covid. I’m lucky I’m vaccinated and boosted so my symptoms are mostly mild. I'm lucky that I trusted myself and took an at-home test. I’m lucky that I’m able to quarantine safely to avoid the spread. I'm lucky that after a few more days of rest at home, I’ll be fine.

Two years ago, I may not have been this lucky. It’s possible even just a year ago, I may not have been this lucky. We’ve come a long way in the last two years, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Hopefully we’ll reach a point where we can get our yearly flu shot, pneumonia shot and Covid shot. But until then, keep wearing masks, get boosted and be safe.

Hopefully during my next trip to Seattle, I’ll get to spend more of it in the actual city.

But alas, here we are.

The Space Needle is slightly less impressive from my hotel room
The Space Needle is slightly less impressive from my hotel room


Emmy Serviss is a Boston-based writer, actor and video editor. Once it is safe to return to live theater, you can find her performing with ComedySportz Boston and the sketch group SUZZY. When not on the stage, Emmy enjoys indulging in her new pandemic hobbies, laughing way too loudly and counting the days until Halloween.



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