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Our Covid experience

I read these posts, and some were a help, some I should've read more carefully.

My post is a cautionary one about the best laid plans going awry. We had out business/pleasure trip planned, but at our second stop in Germany (after Mainz) my husband tested himself because he was having symptoms that seemed exactly like previous bouts of sinusitis. He was positive for Covid, unfortunately. Thankfully he was able to conclude his business with the German company remotely. We had travel insurance through GeoBlue. I'd be interested in others' opinions on this company. A doctor did return his call several hours later, asked about his symptoms, and suggested that there was not much for him to do but isolate and hydrate. The doctor suggested we did not need a second hotel room for me. He was doing better in 3 days or so, but during that time, even though masked (meals in the room could have been my exposure, not sure), I also tested positive. My course was a little lengthier, as it involved a fever as well, but we were grateful for room service, an extraordinarly thoughtful staff, and Uber eats on occasion. Neither one of us required any further medical services, but we were very concerned about not futhering the spread, as we have a friend who is immune compromised, so we know how that feels.

We extended in the same hotel for our quarantine period, but of course, our follow on plans to travel to Barcelona on 3/26, and to another business appointment in Madrid on 3/28 had to be canceled, as well as plans we had made for our time there.

We are extremely lucky that we had hotel points, and that we were staying in a modest cost location.

And, we are also going to be able to see at least Barcelona for a few days before flying home, as we were able to change our previous flight from Duesseldorf Airport to Barcelona to a new date. I will have completed a 24 hour period of no fever before leaving isolation as the CDC has recommended. So, a chance for a few days in Barcelona as consolation (no Madrid), along with gratitude for a return to health.

Our quandary now is that our initial testing was done with home tests- big cautionary lesson there- should have gotten BinaxNow before leaving the US, or made ourselves go to one of the many, many testing centers in each city we visited, so as to have an record of a positive test. Oh, and I have learned that if you already have a positive antigen test (a potentially less sensitive test), there is no need to double check it with a PCR test (a more sensitive test), it will just be positive also. We've read that false positives are rare. We now need either a negative test before returning home, or a recovery letter, but not for transit between Spain and Germany. We also made sure to read the CDC information directly from their website, to counter misinformation if it arises. The CDC actually responded promptly when we send a question to clarify.

I just wanted to encourage people to use our experience to continue to think realistically and carefully about their alternative plans for an isolation/illness period, and decide if you can tolerate and/or afford a drastic change in plans. It's possible you will be fine. My husband's associate was not affected, as we traveled separately during the first par t of our trip. Good luck...do the hand hygiene and pack a thermometer, lots of masks, and some tests, you never know.

Posted by
2507 posts

First, I am so sorry that you both got sick and had to quarantine but glad you are both going to be ok. Secondly, thanks for reporting in. It will help others. My husband got a mild case of covid in Costa Rica in February. (I reported this on the forum and to the tour company and our fellow travelers.) The test to come home from Costa Rica showed he was negative. When he got home, he tested positive. I was exposed to him and others who we later learned had covid on the trip and also tested negative before leaving Costa Rica. Somehow I managed to avoid getting covid and tested negative two additional times upon returning home. Yes, based on our recent experience I am bringing extra BINAX NOW tests as well as self-test kits on our upcoming trip. We will also keep our masks on at all times when we are with the group. Our problem in Costa Rica was thinking that as we were all fully vaccinated and boosted and in our own little bubble that we were safe so we relaxed our mask protocol. Big mistake.

Posted by
8653 posts

I am glad that you are both better. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the rest of us. You certainly confirmed my plans to bring the BinaxNow proctored home tests!

Posted by
6670 posts

Thank you for sharing this experience, I'm sure it will help a lot of people think about options before some are faced with situations like yours. It also suggests why it may be wiser, if tourism is the only purpose of the trip (unlike yours), to travel to just one country instead of two or three. I presume that a recovery letter from a German doctor would be relatively easy for you to get, for use in returning to the US, but I'm not clear how your time in Spain will affect the usefulness of that letter. Will it be accepted for US return at BCN even if you still test positive shortly after recovery?

And I'd be interested to know what experience you have with GeoBlue (which I hadn't heard of) on any claim you might file for trip delay or interruption, or any cost of the doctor's advice and recovery letter. I hope you and your husband have good health from here on, a good time in Barcelona, and a safe trip home. Madrid will be there, along with much else in Spain, for your future travels.

Posted by
2017 posts

Thanks. I think it is wise for people to think hard and have a backup plan with insurance. Traveling right now is still a risk and IMO with masking and social distancing ended, it's likely that more people will be infected.

I'm glad to hear that you both are on the mend and with some other peoples experiences, it helps me to learn what my own insurance covers or doesn't overseas. Take care.

Posted by
2768 posts

Sorry to hear you got sick but I’m glad things are working out.

I would advise everyone to look into telemedicine services that will provide you with a recovery letter once you fit the criteria. Your US medical doctor may do this, or there are various services. Meeting with a doctor over zoom or similar videoconferencing service, once you are recovered and out of your isolation period, sounds much easier than searching out a doctor in another country, especially if there’s a language barrier.
To get this you need a DOCUMENTED positive test, so the binax now ones with the proctor will work as would a lab in person wherever you are.

Also bring a thermometer - one of the recovery criteria is no fever, so would be good to know!

Posted by
496 posts

Sounds like you did the right thing - good on you.

You don't need a recovery letter - with an antigen test it will test negative once you are clear of infection - around day 7 . The need for a recovery letter is linked to PCR tests which can give a historic positive test for months post-infection

Posted by
8653 posts

@Lissie. I think I would much rather have a recovery letter than worry about how long I might test positive.
I know that quickmd offers recovery letters.
https://quick.md/blog/doctors-notes-medical-certificates/documentation-of-recovery-for-recent-covid-19-infection-cdc/

I think I could also choose the telemedicine option offered by my doctor's clinic at home. Some have mentioned getting a recovery letter by calling the Kaiser 24 hour help line. The options are out there. It is good to have a plan and phone numbers, links in place prior to travel in case you need this.

Posted by
4352 posts

Thanks so much for reporting in on your experience! A thoughtful response and report are valuable. I also appreciate the other tips - while I have full insurance and am (mentally) prepared to quarantine any time along my way, a good set of steps is useful. And thanks for the thought on a thermometer, Mira. I will toss mine in next week.

I AM glad you can salvage a little of your trip! A little Barcelona is better than no Barcelona. :)

Posted by
4946 posts

Thanks for explaining that, Mira. I wasn't aware of that requirement. I've added thermometer to my packing list!

Posted by
92 posts

Thanks to so many for your kind comments!

@Dick: GeoBlue is really a travel health insurance add on to your already existing health insurance, affiliated with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I really shouldn't have called it travel insurance, as it expressly does not provide any trip cancelation benefits. It is more for the purpose of things like finding a doctor who speaks English when you need one, telemedicine visits (the doctor visit that husband received was provided at no cost), coordination of health care and coverage should you require local treatment at any level, medical evacuation if adequate care cannot be rendered in your travel location, things like that. I'm retired from working in a hospital, so those kinds of possibilities were on my radar. If (heaven forbid), you passed away, it would pay for repatriation of your remains. You can get a policy for just the duration of the trip, or as a yearly renewal. My husband has traveled to places like Thailand, and India previously, so I consider these things important.

Since my husband travels frequently, he has built up hotel points for 2 different chains. Not always the most authentic way to travel, but it does cut expenses, and really saved our bacon in this situation! That was kind of another reason that I hoped people would think carefully about plan B. It could get expensive fairly quickly if you don't have that kind of cushion, and your budget and time available are very tight.

My husband was super confident that this was not going to affect us, but it did. Nice to have experienced German thoughtfulness, and interacted with their pharmacists, but still, if I had it to go again...maybe not.

@Lissie: Be careful about your assumptions on how soon you test negative on an antigen test. I am planning to fly back to the US in 4 days. I have only been fever free for 24 hours (when CDC says you can/should be able to break quarantine. We are able to fly carefully to Spain today. I am double masked, and keeping my distance from others. As of yesterday, my antigen test was still positive, and my understanding is that it may remain positive for up to 90 days. We are hoping, of course, that my antigen test on Monday will be negative, but no guarantees. If we have to stay in Europe too many more days, it will impact my husband's schedule, and we will need replacements for our US issued prescription medications. I anticipate that GeoBlue and/or our home doctor could assist with this, but it would be one more thing to handle. I understand from another poster (Mira?) that there are services to assist with this. We did pack a week's extra meds, but don't want to go past that, if possible.

Still, we're feeling ok today, so life is good.

Mainz was a wonderful little city to visit. Under different circumstances, I'd like to go back. Essen wasn't as fancy, but turned out to be a nice place with good hearted people. I regret that I didn't have a chance to do the explorations I'd planned.

Posted by
713 posts

@jmhettenh - Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I have my flights and hotel reservations booked (as of several months ago) for a two-week trip to the UK in early June. For the last couple of months I've been on the fence about making the trip, and the reason I probably won't, is that so far my "Plan B" options don't look good. Plan B meaning I test positive for COVID between arriving in London and my scheduled flight home (with or without symptoms). This discussion has given me additional insight and information that's helpful.

Posted by
10366 posts

Ninety days is based on the very heavy viral load cases, such as we saw many of before the vaccine. Since November, we’ve been surrounded by a lot of Covid, some retested negative after five days, others after two weeks.

When I reported on our Covid letters back in November, I said to get an official test asap to start the countdown in order to have a start date. It’s a paradox, that someone who is feverish and contagious has to go out to get tested. But it’s necessary.

Our doctor will not treat us when we are outside the country because her medical license is not valid outside the country.

Finally, a person who still tests positive, has to check box #3 on the US documents that are turned into the airline at the gate. People with negative tests, check box 1. Having our letters in the local language, and format facilitated boarding.

Posted by
92 posts

Glad that our experience could be helpful! We enjoyed Barcelona. I was careful not to eat close to others, as I was still testing positive when we arrived (24 hrs post fever, however, and feeling better). It was actually an interesting turn of concerns to be more concerned for others, than worrying about contracting Covid myself. I felt it would be most considerate to be double masked in public. Still, we felt ok doing a bit of touring, and a lot of walking around. We saw Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, and the Miró museum.

Three days after arrival in Barcelona, we went to a small testing site that could give us documented results by email, so we didn’t have to wait there. Thankfully, at that point (5 days post fever by then), I tested negative, so we were able to fly back to the US on our new schedule. Bets, you are correct under the current scenario that your initial positive test needs to be documented (either Antigen or PCR) in case you need a letter of recovery in order to fly home. That’s where the Binax Now video proctoring would have been wonderfully handy! We were unable to acquire that test in Germany.

My husband and I had a different length and course for our illnesses. He had no fever, recovered, and tested negative faster than I did. We just didn’t study what to do if you test positive as carefully as we should have. Changing rules, and misinformation make it all the more challenging!

So very glad to be home from this particular trip! Glad for some of our experiences, but grateful to be home.

Posted by
39 posts

Hello. We are still debating our trip for this very reason: the predeparture from EU to US testing requirement. I have read and reread CDC guidelines and am still a bit confused. I was told if you test positive and are asymptomatic .... even if still positive .... you can fly back in 5 days. I wrote to CDC and the wording was still vague as follows: If you tested positive for COVID-19 but never develop symptoms, you can end self-isolation at least 5 days after the test, as long you don't develop symptoms during that time. Do not travel during your 5-day isolation period. After you end isolation, avoid travel until a full 10 days after the day the specimen was collected for your positive viral test. If you must travel, wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of travel. Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a well-fitting mask, such as restaurants and some gyms, and avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after the day the specimen was collected for your positive viral test.

That said, has anyone used Ihealthlabs which are a lot cheaper for proctored remote exams than Binax? Someone above mentioned testing positive for 90 days....do you have to stay there 90 days in that case or longer? From the CDC comment above, as long as you are asymptomatic you should be able to fly home (or I am misinterpreting).

Thank you - I know this has been discussed A LOT above but I am still feeling confused and the CDC reply only added to my confusion.

Posted by
8653 posts

@ Lori, no, you do not need to stay there until you test negative. You may fly home with documentation of recovery instead.

Posted by
4946 posts

That said, has anyone used Ihealthlabs which are a lot cheaper for proctored remote exams than Binax?

I wanted to use my iHealthLab tests from the government, until someone on the forum pointed out that you cannot use a tablet or smartphone, as stated in the "Technical Requirements" on their site:

"Use an Internet-connected laptop or desktop computer only; tablets and smartphones are NOT supported."
https://ihealthlabs.com/products/ihealth-verified-covid-test-service

Posted by
92 posts

We weren't sure about how to get a letter of recovery at the time. I look back at the thread and see that some good suggestions have been made on that point. I think GeoBlue let us down by not responding to that inquiry. I'm just grateful to have tested negative finally, because United needed either a negative test or letter of recovery in order to issue our boarding passes for the flight home.

We made a big mistake in the very beginning by not having a proctored test to demonstrate what the beginning date for our illnesses were. We did eventually get one in Germany just in case, so that we had some evidence of some kind of start date, but it was behind the actual start of our illnesses as shown by the home tests.