Brian and Sami Avner don’t know if they’ve had the virus 

 

A pair of local Jewish professionals, with young children, are part of a growing category of American life – people who aren’t sure if they’ve had the coronavirus. 

Brian and Sami have exhibited mild symptoms associated with the virus, but they haven’t been tested. They’ve spoken with medical professionals and have been advised to seek in-person treatment only if fevers rise above a certain level, with difficulty breathing. Nobody in the family is experiencing that. 

Brian’s fever has been gone for a few days now, after his symptoms first began in mid-March. He was the first in the family to get sick; he doesn’t know how he contracted it. Others in the family soon followed. Sami and the boys, 2 and 4, still have a low-grade fever. 

Sami said the experience has been frustrating.  

I think the big thing is we really don’t know, and there’s no good way for us to find out with mild symptoms,” said Brian, coughing at times as he interviewed by phone“We both talked to our doctors and our pediatricians for the kids.” 

March 20 was Sami’s mother’s birthday, so the family went for a ride to see them from the car. There were tears. “We didn’t want to risk anything happening to them,” Sami said.

Part of the confusion for the Fox Point family comes from their symptoms. The kids’ symptoms have been onandoff low-grade fevers for the last week, while Brian has experienced the typical cough and fever, followed by cold symptoms – it’s unclear how cold symptoms may or may not fit in.  

“I even called the Ascension Covid 19 hotline and talked to them about it. That was when I had had a fever for eight days,” Sami said. 

The boys are high energyBrian has tried to explain the situationWe have germs and we don’t want to share them with other people.” 

Brian said, “There’s only so much we can do from the house.” 

Brian is director of education at Congregation Sinai in Fox Point. Sami is executive director of Tikkun Ha-Ir, the nonprofit that seeks to “repair Milwaukee.”  

“As one of the leaders of the Passover food drive I am taking a different role this year,” Sami said. She’s not participating in person. “It’s really hard because I am one of the main organizers.” 

The illness can be tiring. If Covid 19 didn’t exist, the Avners would reach out to friends or family for help with babysitting.  

“We’re just kind of in this limbo and we don’t know what we have. We have to assume it could be the worst to keep our friends and our family and everyone else safe,” he said. He’s grateful for others who have delivered groceries or otherwise helped. 

Even though the Avners aren’t sure if they’ve had the virus, Brian said it’s important for the family to stay away from others. I keep coming back to the Jewish value that if you save one life, you save the whole world. We have that obligation to protect people. Even if we’re unsure if we might save anyone, we still have that obligation.” 

This is all new, Brian said, for all of us. 

“We’re all trying. We’re all going to make mistakes,” he said. “I’m thankful we are all trying.”