What’s it like to have COVID as a healthy Utah resident?

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(Hello! I usually write about product management, and entrepreneurship, but this post will be a little different. A few weeks ago one of our good friends started sending my wife updates from her sister who had tested positive for COVID-19. The updates were so honest and detailed that I thought it would be worth sharing more broadly as we each decide what level of social distancing we’re willing to commit to. COVID affects different people in different ways but when it does find a vulnerable host, the results, even for those who survive, are scary.)

Preamble/Ramble

This is not a political post. The politicizing of things that have nothing to do with politics has always been a “thing” but this year’s been an especially rough one as we see things as fundamental as basic human rights and response to a deadly pandemic turned into political fodder. It’s been confusing to see our state’s and our country’s COVID numbers continue to climb as the rest of the first world plateaus and declines. I’ll share some sobering charts at the end but to start I want to outline the 3 points I hope to get across:

1- This virus can affect anyone. Yes it is especially deadly for individuals with compromised health but any adult is susceptible regardless of age or health.

2- We’re all in this together. That means this isn’t about whether you yourself can “tough it out”. It’s about how many at-risk people you potentially infect while toughing it out and how that extends the duration of the pandemic .

3- If you’re a “survival of the fittest” proponent (I just threw up in my mouth), please consider the health care costs of all the “non-fit” who are hospitalized or pass away, and how that will impact our economy.

Also side note: If you’re still on the herd immunity bandwagon, please stop listening to your neighbor’s facebook posts and read at what scientists think about it.

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Meet Andy and Barbara

(I’ve changed their names for their privacy.) Andy and Barbara live in Utah and are in their early 50s. They describe themselves as healthy, and have married children and grandkids. Andy is a business owner. Barbara is a cancer survivor.

When the pandemic started they were not concerned because they felt people in their age range and level of health were not at risk. They already had good hygiene habits picked up during Barbara’s battle with cancer. Andy was frustrated with the restrictions put in place during Utah’s red and orange phases because of the impact it would have on his business and the economy.

On May 16th when Utah Governor Gary Herbert loosened the restrictions for all but a few counties, Andy and Barbara were excited to get back to regular life. They dined in at restaurants and returned to normal shopping, including visiting Costco. At this point mask wearing was still just a recommendation and they (like most Utahns) didn’t see the need for it.

Andy came down with a fever the second week of June. The following are excerpts from text message status updates that Barbara sent to her sister. I’ve added some comments in italics.

6/12/20

Our kids are so worried about Andy. But he is ok. Last night was rough. He was burning up. But today he is doing better. Not sure if this is Corona. And why I just have cold symptoms and he had only a fever and body aches.

6/13/20

I got the fevers now. Good times over here.

Andy and Barbara are tested for COVID-19

6/14/20

Horrible night! Up all night with Andy. His throat is raw. Like incredible pain. So he was up all night super miserable which meant I was up all night. So is this strep? And I guess I’ll send my kids to the store to buy something to numb his throat.

Is this kind of a sore throat a symptom of Covid?

We both tested positive. The email said someone would be calling us

They want us to tell them where we were for 10 days before it all started.

6/15/20

I am feeling better. And I think Andy is too. His throat is still super sore. But we are both improving.

Hate being sick! Hate being bored! Hate being home! Hate this whole deal! Man this sucks!

I’m still very congested. Super bad. And lots of diarrhea. We are both fighting a fever at this moment.

I have a strange smell in my nose. All day. Like faint burned rubber

And both Andy and I are so exhausted right now. Over the top.

I’m in a dark hole today mentally. Pretty down. Really want my mom.

I’ve had so much anxiety today about this whole thing. Been so emotional all afternoon.

6/16/20

So today is day 5 with Covid. Last night was an improvement. Andy was able to sleep from 3:30 am to about 7:30. That was huge. I took tylenol and sudafed at 10 pm and haven’t taken any thing since and finally don’t have a fever. Yesterday evening my fevers were pretty intense for about 2 hours. But this morning finally after 5 days I don’t have one. Andy also isn’t complaining about fevers. He said if he has one this morning it is really light. Body aches are gone for both of us. But I am fighting the exhaustion still. That seemed to hit me last night worse than the other days. We both really know the zpacks are working. I am a day behind Andy on the zpack but we know they are making a big difference. My congestion is improving. The strange smell in my nose is gone this morning too.

We just hung up with the health care worker. She said we were most likely contagious 2 days before we came down with symptoms. That puts us contagious Tuesday the 9th. She asked us for names and phone numbers of people we had seen on the 9th and 10th. She also was pretty sure we got it at Costco.

6/17/20

So we woke up feeling better today but had lots of coughing. Now the coughing is gone and I just woke up from a 2 hr nap and I could sleep 2 more hrs. I feel sick to my stomach like I have the flu. Have you heard of this part of it? Andy is doing the same thing. We are exhausted and sick to our stomachs. And no appetite. We would really say we have the flu.

Wow. We are so sick. Feels like it is starting over.

6/18/20

We slept ok. We are pretty wiped out. We need to push fluids in Andy today. He would be better if we get his fluids up. Our taste has left. This is one of the things bothering Andy. But I’ve been firm with him and told him he has to get his fluids in today or we will end up at the hospital getting him an iv for fluids. So today we will work on fluids. Rest. And getting food in us.

I have experienced the no taste thing with chemo so I know to push through and eat anyway. Andy has not experienced it before and he is being stubborn. So I will be hard on him and demand him to eat and drink and push through. Wish me luck.

6/19/20

If [mentions some family members] got this they would die for sure

Our days are reversed. Andy is having my yesterday and I’m having his. I have diarrhea. Nausea and chills. I’m in bed. Feel like crap! He is up and eating and drinking and watching TV.

We are heading to bed. Both extremely dizzy and weak and tired and sick to our stomachs. It won’t end. It literally won’t end.

6/20/20

Andy and I are sick of each other. Still feverish and woozy for us both. But eating was progress.

6/21/20

At this point Barbara convinces Andy that they need to go to the emergency room.

On our way to the er

Andy is white as a ghost. I called the er and he saw that it wasn’t that big of a deal [to arrange] and I drove him

We are in separate rooms. They have started fluids in Andy. They can’t get a vein with me

Chest xrays on us both done.

So my blood work looks really good. They will unhook me and let me drink water while I wait in there with Andy while he gets another bag of fluids.

They said day 10–14 are really hard days but they were very happy with our chest xrays and our blood work. So after Andy gets his other bag we will be able to go home. He said our xrays show that haziness around our lungs but that they look really healthy. And my blood work was way better than Andy’s. They said it is clear I’ve been drinking and he hasn’t.

We are eating and then going to lay down. The nurses said they don’t even have a clue about this virus. All they are doing is trying to stop the spread. Treat the symptoms and stop the spread.

Andy and Barbara return home that evening

We both don’t feel any better. My migraine is back with a vengeance and Andy is exhausted and dry mouthed. We have never been so sick. And I just cry because I’m so over it and tired of hurting and feeling crappy! 11 days! And no end in sight! I just want you to be able to be here and rub my back. I feel so on my own. And I’m caring for Andy and no one cares for me. So I’m so having a pity party. Plus I hate having this head pain. No medication is touching it. Nothing! I just want mom. I just want to feel safe and cared for.

6/22/20

I’m awake. I took Tylenol pm last night. Worked on my migraine so far. I’m just getting moving. Andy is downstairs. I haven’t talked to him yet. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m having tons of diarrhea. Other than that and being tired. Pretty good.

6/23/20

The health worker just called us and said that if we keep the fevers away that we will be cleared to go out in public July 3rd. So unless something happens to us tomorrow she will close our case tomorrow. Yes. 2 full weeks. She said it would take a while to get our strength back. And that Andy’s cough would linger for several weeks. But that it wasn’t contagious anymore.

6/24/20

Day 14- wow! Wow! Wow! That was hard!!! We made it!!

Yesterday we both had diarrhea all day. But we were able to stop taking pills.

Our health worker called and said that we would be released today. She said that we were free to resume our lives on July 3. Even though it will take a long time to get our strength back.

We both slept well. Woke up well. Have eaten and we aren’t sure if our stomachs will be calm today. But basically we made it.

Epilogue

A few things stand out most to me:
- How many times they thought they were getting better only to get way worse.
- The lonely, helpless feeling and how dark things got mentally.

Many Utahns and Americans are just “done with this” and feel entitled to get back to normal. What they might not realize (or are indifferent to) is by doing so, and refusing to social distance or wear masks when they do, they are actually prolonging the time it will take to get back to normal, putting lives at risk, and hurting the economy.

This virus is real. It sucks, it is taking away our freedom, and it isn’t fair. But it’s real, and it’s not going away until we take it seriously; until we learn the lessons we’re meant to learn from it. We’ll lose many more of our rights and freedoms later if we don’t take it seriously now.

And Now For Some Charts

As of 7/11/20 this is how the US compares to a handful of other first world countries according to Johns Hopkins University. The quantities themselves are subjective due to total population but the trends clearly show that our rush to get back to normal has actually put us in a position where we’ll have to do just the opposite:

United States:

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Canada:

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United Kingdom:

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France:

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Germany:

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Spain:

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Italy:

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12 years early stage startup experience. Currently Director of Product at Weave. I like creating things that make people happy.

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