Well, it finally got me.

For nearly two years, I had avoided it, but in early January, I was one of thousands across Colorado who tested positive for COVID-19.

I can’t say for sure how or when I was exposed, but my best guess is through my boyfriend’s job, which is at a corporate retail store. We stayed in on New Year’s Eve, but he was called into work Jan. 1 to help with a delayed truck delivery. A few days later, he was cold and tired and went to bed early. The next morning, he woke up with a runny nose, and it wasn’t just a case of the sniffles. It was like a faucet had been turned on. He didn’t have a fever, but we gave him an at-home antigen test anyway. And sure enough, the result was positive.

Luckily, I worked from home that Monday. My boyfriend’s job required a positive test from a community site — a PCR test — for him to be excused from work, so I went online to schedule a test for both of us, which proved to be a challenge.

Previously when I got tested out of precaution, it was a breeze. But early January was around the time omicron was peaking, and appointments weren’t readily available. Finally, I was able to get a test for myself and another for my boyfriend at two different testing sites several days after the positive at-home test.

On the day of the tests, I was still symptom free, but the following day, it hit me like a brick wall. I got my PCR test results back two days later, but I definitely didn’t need those results to know I had COVID. While my boyfriend experienced mild to no symptoms the entire time, I was down for the count, with a fever, chills and all the other telltale symptoms of COVID — except loss of taste.

Now finally well enough to write this column mid-February, I asked a colleague to help me look into the number of positive COVID cases recorded during the week I had it, and what I found shocked me.

According to the Colorado COVID-19 Data graph on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website, 13,660 cases were reported statewide Jan. 4, which was my boyfriend’s runny nose day. By Jan. 6, the day we got tested, that number had spiked to 19,477 — the highest number to date according to the graph.

I have heard of a thing called COVID shaming, meaning the feeling of excessive guilt one may experience for getting COVID. I’ll admit there was some mental anguish when I had it. Mostly, thoughts of “when is this finally going to be over?” but I was also worried I possibly had exposed someone else when I went to the grocery store Jan. 2, before both my boyfriend and I had symptoms.

I have to remind myself that going to the grocery store is a common errand that everybody has to do. I wear a mask, I’m vaccinated and I stay 6 feet from others whenever possible.

No one should ever feel guilty for contracting a virus that has been spreading worldwide for two years now. And no one should make another feel shame for getting the virus, just because the former has been fortunate enough to have not been exposed.

I got so much support during the time I was out with COVID. Sources with whom I had interviews passed on a get well soon wish and happily rescheduled. Community members and organizations provided courtesy photos for events that occurred while I was quarantined. One of my freelancers sent a box of locally-made artisan chocolates as a pick-me-up gift. Coworkers offered to help with anything they could to ensure that Life on Capitol Hill and Washington Park Profile made it to press on time.

If there’s one good thing that came out of my COVID experience, it’s that it is human nature to care for others. And we should all remember to have empathy for others because you never know when you, in turn, may be in need.