By Jerry Wagner I guess it is becoming increasingly common to have someone say, “I caught the virus.” Well, I tested positive on November 28. But I don’t feel like I caught the virus. I feel like it caught me. After all, I didn’t run after the virus—I tried to evade it. Like my friends and relatives, I took all of the precautions. I wore a mask, practiced social distancing, washed my hands, and used disinfectant to the point that my hands were chapped all of the time. At the office, we did the same. In addition to allowing most of our staff to work from home, those few souls who came into the office had their temperatures taken and were quizzed daily on top of doing all of the above. Visits to restaurants were few and far between, but when they occurred, it was only to establishments that followed all of the same protocols. And we ate outside. Still, on November 10, my wife Pat came down with COVID symptoms (days of intense headaches and fever). By the next weekend, she had tested positive after an overnight visit to the hospital where she had twice tested negative. After they sent Pat home, the doctor had me go for my own test. I waited an hour and a half in a line of cars. Then my nose was swabbed and I was sent home to wait for the results. Although she had been fever-free when she left the hospital on Sunday, Pat’s health continued to decline after she returned home. She was sleeping a lot and barely moving when she was awake. I talked daily with her physician but quickly discovered that in our area you could not get any treatment unless you were hospitalized. As the week neared an end, Pat’s temperature spiked again. The headaches were back, and her pulse and oxygen readings were falling precipitously. It was clear; I could not do anything more for her at home. The only way to get her treatment was to have her admitted, once again, to the hospital. Now, armed with a positive COVID test result, the hospital’s response was immediate. She had an X-ray, and COVID-related pneumonia was found. They started her on a five-day course of remdesivir and daily injections of the corticosteroid dexamethasone. Five days later, she was released. Thanks to the great efforts of the hospital medical team that has to heroically live with COVID minute by minute every day, she has been doing fine. She has steadily improved and is back to normal. In the meantime, on the day before Pat came home, my test results came back (six days after I was tested). I was negative … and those results were meaningless. For four days after my test, and before she was admitted to the hospital, I had, of course, been caring for my COVID-sick wife. Again, I had followed all of the protocols. Separate living quarters were maintained, and both of us wore masks around the house. Yet, in the end, the virus caught me. I had regularly taken many supplemental over-the-counter medications since March: quercetin; vitamins D, C, B complex; melatonin; and zinc. I had even stepped up my sauna and cold-shower regimen (reportedly successful with the Spanish flu in 1918 and in some Scandinavian countries this time around), increasing it from every other day to daily. I ran, but I could not hide. The virus caught me. On a Thanksgiving with no guests, and with turkey delivered to the doorstep by my sister-in-law, I had a headache and a slight fever. I was in bed with a terrible headache and fever the next day, sleeping virtually 24 hours. By Saturday, the fever and headache were gone. But a deep cough and altered sense of taste remained. I scheduled a rapid-response COVID test for the afternoon. (I found it by doing a Google search for “rapid COVID test near me.”) The testers take two nasal swabs: One is for a 15-minute antigen test. The other is for a more accurate three-day PCR molecular test to send in if the first test is negative. A positive rapid test is more than 98% accurate; a negative test is only about 70% accurate, hence the backup PCR test, if needed. I tested positive. No need to go on to the PCR testing. Monday morning, I let my doctor know that I had tested positive. In turn, he let me know that the monoclonal antibody treatments that I had been bugging him to authorize for Pat prior to her hospitalization were now available at our local ER on an outpatient basis—and that I qualified to receive them. That afternoon, I had the Eli Lilly bamlanivimab or BAM treatment. The treatment is available for emergency use thanks to the federal government’s pre-purchase of the medication while it was in the development stage. It is administered via a two-hour IV. It is considered a neutralizing antibody to help limit the amount of virus in the body. In effect, it is a man-made antibody to supplement your body’s ability to make antibodies against the virus. This is a significant development. If you test positive, now there is a treatment available that you can get without having to be admitted to the hospital. And it’s not just BAM. While administering my IV, the nurses told me that they had received their first doses of the antibody treatment developed by Regeneron for use under the same protocol as BAM. This is the same treatment President Trump received during his illness. Just as Pat immediately began to improve with the first dose of remdesivir, I saw improvement after the BAM treatment. And as you can tell, I’m back to work. Thank you for bearing with me as I related the medical focus of the last month in the Wagner household. So many people have told me that I am the first one they knew who had had the virus. With the present surge in cases, I thought it important to provide more than the evening news’ view of what it is like to have the virus and the steps available to each of us now to deal with a positive test. Remember, risk is always with us As in everything else, I do believe there are financial lessons to be gleaned from our virus experiences of the last 30 days. I’ve written so often about the truism “Risk is always with us.” The markets rally and we think there’s not a storm anywhere. The market corrects 10% and we think the worst is over. A 30% crash occurs and we think we’ve been vaccinated against any further bear market shocks for the next five years. Once again, I’m here to tell you that it just ain’t so. Like a virus that won’t go away, risk is still in the air before, during, and after all of these events. Even though the risk will catch up to investors, we needn’t fear that risk. We can take steps to mitigate the effects of it. But we have to prepare, and we have to know and use the tools that have been developed to deal with it. Making dynamic, risk-managed investment strategies a part of your portfolio, like taking steps to improve your immune system, will fortify the body of your investments. Using quantified, disciplined strategies will allow you to better deal with the emotional impact of a market illness. Using active approaches to manage your investments, in contrast to passive approaches, lets you respond to the illness as it is happening rather than just lying in bed and taking it. Hedging and other defensive moves are to your portfolio what remdesivir and BAM are to a COVID infection. For all we went through over the last month, I strongly believe that Pat and I survived because of the measures we took, and the medical efforts that triumphed, before we tested positive. Similarly, our dynamic, risk-managed investment strategies were created to increase your chances of surviving the next market crash in the best possible financial health. We may not be able to vaccinate your portfolios against a financial virus, but we can do our best to keep it at bay and mitigate any damage caused by it. Some may say I caught the virus, but I still prefer to say that the virus caught me. In the same way, you can say that risk is always with us, but you can also dare to say that you did something about it. May God bless you and your family with joy and health during the holidays and in the year ahead.