I get my hair cut at Great Clips. Yes, that Great Clips.
The one at 1864 S. Glenstone Ave. in the Plaza Shopping Center at Sunshine Street.
The one where two stylists have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Barbershops had just reopened when I walked in on the sunny afternoon of Tuesday, May 19. A stylist, who stood at a distance of at least 6 feet, told me I needed to wear a mask.
I typically wear a mask when I go into businesses. But I didn’t on this day because — as best I recall — I didn’t think you could cut the hair of someone wearing a mask.
So I went back to my car to get my mask.
At least three stylists there, maybe four, were working. All wore masks.
The stylist had me briefly hold my mask in place as she removed the straps and trimmed one side of my head and then the other. It’s not that hard.
The next week is when it was reported that a stylist who worked that day tested positive for the virus. She had worked eight straight days and cut 84 heads of hair.
This haircut set me on a path of decision-making in which I tried to do what was right despite being 99.9 percent certain I was not infected.
I’m sure some of you will say I have been too cavalier, starting with the haircut.
I’ve also covered a downtown rally of about 50 people objecting to the stay-at-home order. Few wore masks, but I did. I run side-by-side on Saturdays with a running buddy. I have had a few people over to my house socially.
I’m also sure some of you — especially those who frolicked in that Pool of Infamy over the weekend at Lake of the Ozarks — will say I’m a great big sissy for wearing a mask in the first place.
My stylist apparently was not positive
The infected stylist apparently did not cut my hair.
I know this because I called the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and talked to a spokesperson. She told me I’d be contacted by the health department if my stylist was the one who tested positive. She also advised me to call my doctor if I started to experience COVID-19 systems.
The next week it was reported that a second stylist working that day was positive. I still was not contacted by the health department.
I had no worries because I had no symptoms; I felt great. My stylist was not positive.
Yet, I had read of the possibility of being infected and not having symptoms.
That is the scariest thing about this disease. Who’s infected and who isn’t?
Last weekend, I talked to Dr. Shelby Smith. He’s not my doctor, but he’s a friend who for four years has helped me as a volunteer with a summer running program for kids who live in Springfield’s Zone 1. It’s called Run for Fun.
Shelby is unable to volunteer this summer but mentioned that his two sons almost got haircuts at that Great Clips. But they did not; their mom did the job.
Which led me to mention that I did get my hair cut there, and that I had checked with the county and was told there seemed no need for me to be tested.
Shelby was skeptical. He suggested I call my own doctor and get a referral to get tested — even without symptoms.
I wondered: Is that a waste of a test? But I decided to be tested for one reason. I was going to do Run for Fun this summer — only this year with social distancing and a lot of disinfectant — and I would be around children.
So I called my doctor. I chose the phone option for my doctor’s nurse. I left a message.
I had not heard back, so a few hours later I called again. This time I chose the phone option for anyone in the office.
The person I spoke to told me that since I had no symptoms my doctor could not refer me for a free COVID-19 test offered by the health department.
But before the day ended, the nurse called me back and told me something different: She’d talked to the doctor and he had sent my name to the county for testing.
Here’s what the test is like
The next day a woman at CoxHealth called and set my test for 12:40 p.m. Wednesday in the College Station parking garage, where there is a mobile testing unit. She told me I’d get the results within 48 hours.
Here’s how it works. You stay in your vehicle for the test. It’s like a drive-thru with only one menu option — a 6-inch swab up your nose and down into your throat.
I was given paperwork. It said I would get the results not within 48 hours but within four to five days.
It said that after the test I should not go to work but, instead, head home and await the results. I signed it.
Like others at the mobile unit, the man who administered my test wore a mask and a protective shield and what looked like a plastic running suit.
The swab is about 6 inches but he told me he holds it about an inch from one end so it’s actually only 5 inches that probes the nose and beyond.
It went in and my eyes immediately began to tear up, like when water goes up your nose; and it kept going; and finally I felt it exploring the back of my throat like a bug I’d swallowed.
He told me three times “almost done.” It lasted six to eight seconds.
I did not go home. I went to our cavernous newsroom, where I am farther away from sportswriter Wyatt Wheeler than I would have been from my wife at home. Wyatt and I typically are the only people in the newsroom during these days of pandemic.
Wyatt asked if I was afraid and I told him I was 99.9 percent sure I was negative. He asked how I could be so positive about being negative.
I could taste. I could smell. I know my body well; even if I were asymptomatic I believe I would have somehow known I was infected.
So Thursday night I Facetimed with a friend I often visit with after work.
On Friday I had already decided I would not attend a small gathering on a friend’s farm on Saturday without first knowing I had a negative test result — even though I felt sure my test would be negative.
At 10 a.m. Friday I found out I had tested negative.
I feel like I knew it. Yet it seemed best to behave like I didn’t.
These are the views of News-Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has been at the paper eight years, and over his career has covered everything from courts and cops to features and fitness. He can be reached at 836-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail at 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.
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