My Costa Rican Covid Vacation

For 2 years I’ve been wearing a mask, social distancing, and of course, I have gotten 3 vaccines. But my luck ran out in Costa Rica during my recent vacation there in February of 2022. But before you go running and say the vaccine didn’t do its job, STOP! It did do its job. I had a very mild case and kept me out of the hospital.

First of all, let me tell how I got it. Or how I think I got it. The first nine days of my vacation were not typical of most tourists. I had an AirBNB apartment in San Jose and spent a lot of time catching up with old friends. All of them had at least two vaccines (Costa Rica is currently giving third shots and working to get the kids vaccinated.) One night I did meet up with a group of friends at a pizza joint. All had had at least 2 vaccinations. I had planned to Uber it back to my apartment but one couple insisted on taking me. It was about a 20-minute drive. And we wore our masks. But even with the precautionary measures I still managed to catch it. One other woman was in the car and 2 days later she tested positive.

Costa Ricans take Covid very seriously. Their measures are similar to what municipalities in the US had been doing. They require indoor mask use and social distancing, as well as regulating the size of gatherings. They also take temps before entering some restaurants and they are absolutely hand-sanitizer crazy. I consider those 2 measures unnecessary but I respect their local laws and follow them.

Anyhow, 72 hours later or so, when I flew up to Guanacaste to meet up with my husband who had flown in from the US, I came down with my first symptoms. I woke up sweating and feverish. I attributed that to the change in environment, as the NW part of Costa Rica is considerably hotter than the Central Valley. In the morning my voice was horse and I had a slight sore throat. I took some Advil and that helped. But then I developed a dry cough. More than anything it was annoying. For the first two days I was very tired but I just basically was lying out by the beach. I decided to take a Covid test (I had brought a box of two from the US). It came back negative.

The dry cough continued for two more days. Taking my allergy medication (Alavert) helped some.The fourth and final night it seemed to be the worse. But it just suddenly went away overnight. However, that same night my husband had a fever (he always gets a fever rash on his chest). It was exactly 72 hours after his first exposure to me. That next afternoon I decided to test again. Positive.

We suddenly started reading and researching. We were scheduled to do our official Covid tests to return home to the US the next day. I needed to know what lay ahead for me. Even though my symptoms were for the most part gone, I knew there was a strong chance I would still be positive. I was. But my husband came back negative.

From our research we knew that Costa Rica required a 7-day quarantine. Doesn’t matter that the US said five days was fine. We also knew that being cooped up in a hotel room with the possibility that the staff would know would not be fun. After much discussion, we decided that my husband should fly home since his negative result could change after 24 hours. We found a very nice AirBNB apartment for me (in fact, I wish I had stayed there the whole time).  I stocked up on groceries before he left. I also did early morning beach walks (with no one around) and walked to the beach every night to see the sun set, avoiding people. I had a very nice balcony and lay out quite a bit.

The truth was, I felt fine. Many of my friends in San Jose were worried but they didn’t need to be. My husband would not have left me if I had not given the green light.

Back home my husband tested negative twice with the at-home antigen test. He then got PCR test at Walgreens. Positive.  The day after I got home from Costa Rica (which was eight days after my positive test) I tested negative. He was still positive, with the antigen test finally testing positive. His Covid symptoms have lasted longer, although still mild. Dry cough, fatigue, diarrhea, and some tightness in the chest. He’s going to the doc tomorrow.

I was very fortunate. My advice for everyone traveling abroad is to know the country’s quarantine restrictions. The US is still requiring (as the date of this blog in late February) negative antigen tests to get back in. But even if you think you’re fine, you might test positive like me. So know before you go!