Ever since I took a COVID-19 antibody test last week, I've been anxiously awaiting my results. Then finally, the call came in. 

"Your COVID-19 antibodies test came back negative," the voice on the other line said. 

After steeling myself to expect the worst, I felt waves of relief. But then, if I'm being truly honest, I felt very confused.

In preparing to cover coronavirus stories, I've been voraciously consuming content. In the early days, I would wake up two or three times a night just to see if live blogs had any new updates, and began checking international outlets so I could see if there were any developments that sleeping Americans were missing. The television was constantly droning in the background cycling through Cheddar, MSNBC, CNN,  FOX News, and my local News 12. Everything I heard made me think I should have contracted it by now. I've stood outside some of the nation's most beleaguered hospitals. I went inside PPE factories, and talked to restaurant owners, protesters, and MTA workers in-person. I've had slight sniffles, random aches, and pounding headaches — but not all at once and never with a fever. I've been breathing New York City air! 

I am not at all suggesting the coronavirus is a hoax or in any way should be taken lightly. From my weeks of reporting in the field, I've walked inside the field hospitals and saw the overflow refrigerator trucks for the deceased. I've talked to exhausted medical professionals. I know people who were infected by the coronavirus, and I know people who have passed away from it. It's serious, it's scary, and it's very real.

But if all the reports were true, why hadn't I contracted the virus? I called Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He listened to my list of recent activities and ailments. He then asked if I had been wearing a mask, washing my hands, and socially distancing when I can. I responded yes — I have been following those recommendations religiously. 

"Well, then, I'm not surprised you tested negative," he admitted. 

This coronavirus is so new we know very little about it. A lot of information may come from legitimate studies and sources but are based on small samples or anecdotal evidence. There are inflammatory headlines that lack context. Statistics become outdated quickly as new data comes out. Other information gets twisted and misinterpreted, like, for example,  drinking bleach could help. (Definitely not true.)  

We're not even sure if the antibody tests are accurate. The test I took, from Quest Diagnostics, is not FDA approved. The test I took claims a specificity of 99 to 100 percent, meaning for every 99 people who should receive a negative result, one will receive a false positive. Also, as with any standard lab test, there is also the potential for contamination associated with sample collection, handling, or processing. In any case, we also don't know for sure if a COVID-19 positive result means a person has any immunity.

The only things we know for sure? Wearing a mask, washing your hands (or using hand sanitizer when you can't), and socially distancing when possible does work. These three methods have been proven to help stop the spread of the disease and lower your chances of getting infected. It's the advice Horovitz himself follows. 

"I'm a specialist in New York City," he added. "I've seen COVID-19 patients. I don't have antibodies, and my PCR is negative. I'm a COVID virgin." 

But, I told him, I've ridden the subway and the bus for a story! I brought a package directly into my apartment without leaving it outside for a few days! I bought a can of corn from a bodega that looked like it was there since the 1918 flu pandemic! Once, I slipped up, and I petted an adorable cat

Horowitz sighed. "It's not going to get absorbed into your body because you touched something," he patiently explained. "It doesn't work that way." 

To get the coronavirus, respiratory droplets from an infected person — usually when they sneeze and cough — need to enter your mouth or nose. A mask is meant to block most of those. And if you're more than six feet away from someone, it makes it less likely those droplets can reach you. Now, you could theoretically touch a surface with your hand then put that hand directly in your mouth or nose, but if you're wearing a mask it makes it much more difficult to do that. The virus has very low survival rates on surfaces and packages, and there's no evidence it's transmitted through food.

"Your chance of getting infected is about your chance of actually getting the virus you yourself put into your own body because you're not observing the rules," Horowitz pointed out. 

Based on a test done by New York state authorities, they believe about 21 percent of New York City residents may have been infected with the coronavirus, although the accuracy of the test has been questioned. That would be more than one in five. But, that also leaves four out of five people who haven't been infected, meaning that while it is very infectious levels would have been much, much higher if it was simply spreading by air or by touching surfaces, Horowitz argued. 

Even if someone in your household has it, it does not mean you will catch it. Early WHO research out of China suggests the chance you'll get infected by a COVID-19 positive person in your household hovers around 10 to 15 percent. 

"The big thing to think about is trying to use logic to override your fear," said Dr. James Wantuck,  chief medical officer and co-founder of telemedicine company PlushCare. "It comes down to duration and risk. A subway ride when it's sparsely populated, one time, a couple of weeks ago? Your chance is very small versus riding it every day, with a packed car with someone coughing." 

Wantuck understands the apprehension about the coronavirus. It will change how we live our lives, but it shouldn't stop us from living, he argued. He spends a notable amount of time counseling patients through telemedicine who are too frightened to leave the house, even for basic trips, like going to the grocery store.

"There has to be some measured response," he said. "You can't not eat. You can't not make a living. You have to take some risks, just like driving is dangerous, but we do it every day." 

I thought about several of my own friends who are experiencing internal dilemmas when deciding whether it's better to risk going to the grocery store or getting groceries delivered by a person they don't know. If you go to a store, there's the debate about how to get there.  Is it riskier to use rideshare, not knowing who sat there before you, use public transportation, even when you can sit further away but are still with more people, or walk back and forth and risk running into someone who is not wearing a mask. Then, when you are at the store, should you stand on markers spaced six feet apart or behind them? The anxiety caused by all of it can simply feel like too much.

The questions that people are struggling with don't just have to do with their behaviors. Minor medical symptoms, that you might not think much of in standard times, suddenly raise lots of questions. Maybe that slight sniffle is just allergies. Maybe those random aches you feel have to do with your decision, after 33 years, to take up running. Maybe that pounding headache is because you downed a bottle and a half of wine last night, and you're just hungover. 

Wantuck himself hasn't been tested, though some of his fellow physicians have. He doesn't see the need. He's asymptomatic and none of his family members have had symptoms either. He is, however, washing his hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing. 

"There's a lot of unknowns, and you point out risks," he said. "But human contact is a necessary thing for most people, and certainly eating and exercise is. All these things you're preventing yourself from doing can cause physical harm. There's a balance we have to strike." 

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