As cases of COVID-19 go up nationwide, we are witnessing tragically overwhelmed hospitals, heroic healthcare workers who don't have the correct PPE to protect themselves as they save lives and treat patients, and a heartbreaking spike in deaths. We also hear, now and again, of that rough estimate that 80% of the people who get this virus will be fine. We wanted to speak to one of those 80% about their experience.
As Governor Andrew Cuomo said at Wednesday morning's briefing, referring to his brother Christopher who tested positive but is still doing his CNN show: "Show the country what it means to have coronavirus, that experience can be helpful to people."
In that interest, I've been communicating with Zach, who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and reached out to Gothamist after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Zach began working from home on Wednesday, March 11th, eleven days before the city went on PAUSE, as many offices around the city began working remotely. The following Monday, March 16th, he began to feel mild symptoms in the evening: sore throat and a pressure behind his eyes. Below is what he experienced, from onset of symptoms to recovery:
I woke up at 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning with sweats and the chills, and a headache and eye pain. I couldn't get back to sleep until around 6 a.m. I called my work, and on their advice, I called CityMD who told me to come in for an evaluation. I had been in contact with someone else who had been confirmed positive: because of this, they did a rapid flu test to make sure I didn't have the flu. It came back negative after around twenty minutes, then they gave me the COVID-19 test. Both flu and COVID tests felt identical, they put a swab up your nose and swish it around up there — quite uncomfortable.
Q: What was the CityMD experience like?
A: They said they would test for the flu and then Covid if flu came back negative — all the doctor said was that it would probably last a week or 10 days and to eat whatever I felt like if I was hungry (I guess some people have lack of desire to eat as a symptom). The experience was a little off-putting, only because everyone in the waiting room had masks and gloves on, and not knowing if I had it yet, it honestly felt like the worst place to be (had to use a touchscreen to register, pay with a card by handing it to front desk, touch handles on the front door etc.). The doctor told me I would get my results in 4 or 5 days, and told me to stay at home, drink water, rest and eat as I desired.
Q: The person you were in contact with who was positive, how prolonged was this contact? (I've been reading about how this and viral load may determine how sick a person gets.)
A: We were together for around an hour, assuming I got it from the person I think I did. We were not close together, but were talking to each other from essentially across a table.
For the next few days I had a mild cough and the chills on and off, eye pain and a headache that was gradually dissipating then coming back then dissipating again. I would feel extremely tired and out of breath after even mild activity.
On Saturday, I felt back to normal again aside from a mild cough. They called me on Saturday to tell me that my test had come back positive, and to stay at home for at least 7 days after I had first felt symptoms.
On Sunday, I felt probably the worst I had the entire time with it — extremely fatigued and lethargic and unable to move from the sofa.
Q: Had you felt anything like this when sick before? Did you ever get to a point where you thought you should go to the hospital?
A: I have had all the individual symptoms before for illnesses here or there, but never the combination of them (or for as prolonged period of time). I was never ill enough that I thought I should go to the hospital, but even mild shortness of breath was the closest I got to panicking that would need to happen.
On Monday morning, I went right back to feeling good again, with a mild cough persisting.
I felt 90% back to full health, with a little bit of a cough and throat clearing to be done. The one thing that definitely took me by surprise is that I have heard it described as a "dry cough," but my cough was not dry, it was definitely chesty with phlegm etc. This led me to believe I didn't have COVID-19 when in fact I did. I also had diarrhea the day before my throat and respiratory symptoms kicked in — I was not sure if it related, but they asked me about it in CityMD! [Note: Recent data has suggested digestive issues could be an early symptom.]
This was the first day I was 100% symptom free. I was able to go on my first run since I caught the virus, so barring anything unusual I’m at the end of my coronavirus journey.
Overall, it felt like a low-medium intensity flu that kept vacillating seemingly randomly from day to day... Honestly, the strangest thing for me was how they would vacillate. For me, days 1, 2, 7 and 9 were the worst days of symptoms, which was a very strange feeling.
Not sure if it's interesting to anyone other than me and my family, but 2 days after I was fully symptom free, I proposed to my longtime girlfriend and we got engaged!
There's antibody testing, and Zach says he'll be looking into doing this (we'll be following up to share that experience).
As the Washington Post noted, “serology tests aren’t aimed primarily at people who currently have the disease caused by the coronavirus, but anyone who has ever had it — those who were very sick and got better, those who had mild symptoms they mistook for something else and those who never felt sick at all. Those people, whether they know it or not, may have disease-fighting antibodies that give them some immunity to the new coronavirus."