Testing positive for Covid requires sending a whole lot of notifications

At the start of last weekend, two negative Covid tests in a row had me thinking that my sore throat was the result of too much conference socializing or maybe a summer cold. But then I self-tested one more time Sunday night, because I was set to fly to Denver the next afternoon for the Stream TV Show–and that positive result has since led to my having to notify more people than I might have imagined.

An Abbott Laboratories BinaxNow Covid-19 rapid antigen test shows the two strips that indicate a positive result.

That list started with the toughest case: my wife and my kid, from whom I’d have to isolate at home until no longer testing positive. Fortunately, in-house quarantine is easier to manage in the spring when you can open every window for maximum ventilation and eat every meal on the front or back porch.

Next I had to e-mail the organizers of my now-foregone conference. I said I’d cancel my flights and keep that trip credit handy for their next event, after which I’d complete my outline for my panel and e-mail those notes to whoever might step in for me. They were okay with that.

Then I e-mailed the people I’d spent the most time talking to at last week’s WithSecure conference in Helsinki. (The organizers had covered my airfare and hotel, but I’m not sure I can call that travel “free” now.) None of them have written back to say that they’ve since tested positive, which makes me wonder if I’d been in the wrong square meter of indoor space for the wrong 15 minutes.

After that, I sent a note to the organizers of Dublin Tech Summit, where I’m supposed to speak next week. I advised them that while I was reasonably optimistic that I’d get past this and resume testing negative by this weekend, I couldn’t guarantee that. They wished me luck.

Screenshot of the COVIDWISE app for Android that shows the screen on which you enter an eight-digit verification code to sumit a positive test result.

My last act of notification didn’t invove conversations with actual humans. After getting an official PCR test Monday and receiving the results early Tuesday along with confirmation that they’d been reported to the Virginia Department of Health, I had to share them anonymously with VDH’s COVIDWISE exposure-notification app. That would allow other people with smartphones running Apple and Google’s privacy-optimized Exposure Notifications framework to get warnings of their potential exposure if this software concluded they’d been sufficiently close to me for sufficiently long, as judged by algorithms computing randomized Bluetooth beacons.

The e-mail and text I got from the test operator Curative didn’t say how I would do that. But the app itself explained that I had to visit a VDH page and plug in my last name, birth date and test date to get a verification code that I could then type into the app. That’s “type,” not “copy and paste,” because this Android app refused the latter form of input.

My wife reported that her copy of COVIDWISE pushed a notification of the possible exposure nine hours later. But the more important thing is that no other sort of Covid notification has greeted her or our kid since then. Five days after first testing positive and entering my little house arrest–during which my sore throat and nasal congestion have vanished as the positive strip on my recent tests has begun to look notably lighter than on earlier tests–I remain the only person in the family to have exhibited any symptoms this month or tested positive ever.

Weekly output: Supreme Court stops Texas social-media law, Russian digital attacks, NESN goes DTC, new bipartisan privacy bill

Until a few hours ago, my agenda for the week ahead involved flying to Denver to moderate a panel at the Stream TV Show. But after a few days of feeling a moderately sore throat–and having months ago made a self-test part of my pre-departure routine before any work or personal trip–I broke out one of the antigen tests we got for free from the government. And this time, I got to see in person what a positive test looks like on one of these things.

As a result, the post I wrote this week for Patreon readers about my busy travel schedule this month is now… not inoperative, but certainly less operative.

6/1/2022: Supreme Court Ices Texas Social Media Moderation Ban, PCMag

I filed this the morning after I arrived in Helsinki for WithSecure’s Sphere conference, taking advantage of jet lag having me awake way too early.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari for iPadOS, featuring the photo I took of this talk showing Hyppönen standing before a screen showing his talk's title: "Ctrl Z"6/2/2022: Why Russia’s Cyberattacks on Ukraine Have Failed to Make a Significant Dent, PCMag

That event–as in, this event that covered my travel costs–had some enlightening talks. But the only one that I felt yielded a newsworthy post, given the constraints imposed by the conference schedule and my own jet lag, was this talk by WithSecure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen about why Russia hasn’t been able to leave much of a digital dent in Ukraine.

6/3/2022: Red Sox Regional Sports Network Launches $30 Streaming Service, PCMag

After waking up for no apparent reason before 4 a.m. (have I mentioned how bad jet lag whomped me on this trip?), I decided to take advantage of that sleepless time and bang out a post about NESN finally going direct to consumer (aka “DTC”), giving cord-cutting Red Sox fans an alternative to paying for a traditional pay-TV bundle.

6/4/2022: Legislators Introduce Bipartisan Digital-Privacy Bill That May Not Be Doomed, PCMag

My Saturday work–Friday having been spent nodding off on the two flights that took me home–was reading up on and writing about a new privacy bill that seems like it might offer a workable compromise. I mean, except for the fact that Congress has spent the last decade finding new ways to fumble away opportunities to pass meaningful federal privacy legislation.

Weekly output: Collision recap, YouTube TV rate hike, coronavirus antibody testing, data caps returning

I had an exceptionally low-key Fourth of July: My wife and I watched the flyover from our sidewalk, I cooked dinner on the grill, and after dining we watched the fireworks from a nearby street.

In addition to the stories below, Patreon readers got a post from me about that site’s confusing and vague presentation of possible sales taxes on membership fees.

6/30/2020: Collision from Home 2020 at a glance, IT World Canada

Lynn Grenier wrote a recap of panels at last week’s virtual conference that mentioned one of mine, making this the first and probably the last time I’m in the same story as Justin Trudeau.

6/30/2020: YouTube TV Now Costs Almost Twice What It Did Three Years Ago, Forbes

The headline wrote itself. I revised it a day later to note a smaller price hike at a competing service, FuboTV, and add a reminder to readers that they can watch PBS over the air for free.

7/1/2020: Here’s what it’s like to get a coronavirus antibody test, Fast Company

On this piece, the lede wrote itself.

7/1/2020: Data caps still alive as pledges from internet service providers expire, USA Today

Between the inability of the nation’s largest Internet provider to make up its mind, my own inattention, and USAT’s status as an online and print publication, this column has had a few iterations. First we updated it later Wednesday to add Comcast’s decision to reinstate and raise its data cap–a move made after that cable operator left its customers guessing after its previous pledge to suspend enforcement of that limit had expired. Then we revised the piece again to correct my own misspelling of somebody’s last name (yes, I managed to get “Smith” wrong because I typed in Cox spokesperson’s Todd Smith’s name and got a different Todd’s surname lodged between my brain and fingers at the time). Finally, the column as revised and extended ran in the July 2 print edition of USAT.