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Jeff Mills: Doubt remains even after negative COVID-19 test

Jeff Mills: Doubt remains even after negative COVID-19 test

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GREENSBORO — There’s a pretty good chance I’m a living, breathing brick. A free throw that clanged off the rim during one small moment in a bigger game.

In this basketball-crazy state, that’s among the best ways to illustrate my end of July 2020.

It’s Day 11, and I’m finally starting to feel like my old self again.

I still have a nagging cough, and my nose runs like Tarik Cohen. But I’m on the mend, the worst of my symptoms behind me, the fever finally relenting on Day 10.

My body is healing. Yet my mind remains troubled most by uncertainty in this season of pestilence.

Was it COVID-19? Or wasn’t it?

The test results said “negative.” The doctor said “not so fast.”

Doubt remains my companion.

Since that weird Thursday in March, when the ACC Tournament simply stopped, I’ve done what I could to keep my distance from others.

I’ve limited trips out my own front door. I’ve worn a mask in public and washed my hands constantly.

But 11 days ago, I woke with a sore throat, a low-grade fever and a relentless headache like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Even my teeth hurt.

In the next 24 hours, I checked a lot of boxes consistent with coronavirus: cough, body aches, fatigue, congestion and runny nose.

After a virtual visit with my doctor’s office — I’m lucky; I had no shortness of breath nor loss of taste or smell — I was sent for a drive-thru COVID-19 test. I’d heard the horror stories of nasal swabs that felt as if they scratched the brain, but it wasn’t nearly that bad.

The bad part was the wait. And the worst part the doubt.

Three days after the SARS-CoV-2 test, the results came back “Not Detected.”

I was relieved. No one wants to have COVID-19. And yet the test comes with a fairly significant disclaimer.

“This test has not been FDA cleared or approved. This test has been authorized by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization.”

There’s more: “When diagnostic testing is negative, the possibility of a false negative result should be considered in the context of a patient’s recent exposures and the presence of clinical signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19.”

Great. I still had all my original symptoms, still checked all those boxes.

So negative result or not, the doctor quarantined me (and my family). Turns out the current tests are running only about 80% accurate.

That’s terrific ... for a free-throw shooter.

Look at it this way: North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, Duke’s Nolan Smith, N.C. State’s Cat Barber and Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress all shot 80% from the foul line in their stellar careers.

Combined, they made 2,401 free throws. I’ve seen all four men make clutch foul shots with games on the line.

But I’ve seen all of them miss, too.

For the record, they missed 615 times.

That’s a lot. And it plants seeds of doubt, even with the percentage in their favor.

It means I could be a brick.

Regardless of the test results, I must behave as if I were infected with coronavirus. It’s the responsible thing to do.

So I’ll count my blessings that it wasn’t worse, that time and rest are healing me.

I just wish I knew for sure, that there was a concrete explanation for why I felt so awful, instead of lingering doubt.

Jeff Mills is a sports writer working from home under quarantine. Contact him at 336-373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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