Three weeks removed from COVID-19 diagnosis, Garfield County’s first describes her recovery process
Aside from a small scare four days after becoming the first person in Garfield County to test positive for COVID-19, Dani says the recovery has gone as well as could be expected.
But there has been a mix of good and bad days these past three weeks, she said.
“I still experience some heaviness in my chest, and tend to get winded easily, so I have to take a lot of breaks,” Dani, who did not want her last name used, said in a follow-up interview on Friday.
Dani was the first Garfield County resident to test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, on March 14.
On March 18, the 33-year-old Glenwood Springs-area resident said she was summoned to the hospital after suffering a bad asthma attack that was brought on by the respiratory illness.
“I was having a hard time breathing and called the hospital, and they were kind of freaking out because they could tell I was having a hard time trying to catch my breath,” Dani said.
She was advised to come in to make sure it wasn’t the beginning stages of pneumonia, which is a concerning development with COVID-19.
A sufferer of adult-onset asthma, Dani said she was reassured that it wasn’t something more severe, and was given her usual routine of a nebulizer treatment and an inhaler.
“We did pretty much everything through the car window, so I didn’t even go inside,” she said. “They still call me every couple of days just to check-in.”
COVID-19, which first appeared in Wuhan, China in December of last year, and for which there is no vaccine, was in March declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.
To date, there have been nearly 1.4 million cases worldwide and more than 78,000 deaths, prompting business shutdowns and mandated limits on social interaction around the globe to try to slow the spread.
The first cases and the resulting public health response came to Colorado in early March.
As of Tuesday, there were 5,429 confirmed cases out of 28,094 people tested in Colorado, resulting in 1,079 hospitalizations and 179 deaths.
Garfield County had 48 confirmed cases Tuesday of COVID-19 — and one confirmed death.
Dani said she considers herself recovered, for the most part, but she’s not letting her guard down.
One lingering effect is just plain fatigue, she said.
“My body is just working overtime right now. The biggest concern, and what my doctors have said, is picking up the actual flu or a cold, because my immune system is compromised,” she said.
Dani has also asked the question about whether she could be susceptible to contracting the disease again.
“They want me to treat it like I could get it again, just like anybody else,” she said.
However, there’s not enough data to know if someone who has had COVID-19 would have a natural immunity to contracting it again, since it’s caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
“The immune response, including duration of immunity, to SARS-CoV-2 infection is not yet understood,” according to a Centers for Disease Control response to that and other Frequently Asked Questions posted on its website.
“Patients with (respiratory-related coronavirus) are unlikely to be re-infected shortly after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19.”
Time Magazine reported last week that patients in China, South Korea and Japan who were thought to have contracted the disease a second time most likely were experiencing lingering infection from their original diagnosis.
Dani said she was finally able to get outside for a short hike last week with her 6-year-old son and another friend who’s 4, whom she has been watching during the day after she was considered to no longer be contagious.
As everyone is being asked to do, she said they’ve been practicing social distancing and taking other precautions when they do venture out.
Dani told the Post Independent the day she was diagnosed what she told Garfield County Public Health officials — that she had been at an Aspen bar where a local band was playing on Feb. 28 and had met some of the Australian tourists who were the first to test positive for COVID-19 in Pitkin County.
She began to experience the tell-tale symptoms — high fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath — nine days later, on March 8.
When she read about those first Aspen cases on March 10, she said she knew she likely had been infected, as well.
She went into self-quarantine along with two friends with whom she had been in contact within the ensuing days. Dani said they didn’t get nearly as sick as she did, and that they are also now recovered. Though they weren’t tested, they do show up in Garfield County’s data as presumed positive because of their known contact with someone who had tested positive.
“I do wish we could be doing more testing,” Dani said. “I would like to know if the kids got it while I had it, but didn’t have symptoms. It’s just something that, unfortunately, we don’t have enough tests for.”
Dani had also been working from home until recently when the construction subcontractor she works for decided to suspend work until Colorado’s stay-at-home order is lifted. As of Monday, that was to be on April 26.
She said she has also had some follow-up correspondence with county public health, but not a lot.
“I called them on March 24 to make sure it was OK for me to go back to work, but they were pretty overwhelmed,” she said.
According to a statement from Garfield County Public Health, phone contact is made with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 “to find out what symptoms they are having, when their symptoms started, and ask questions about risk factors including whether they need to be hospitalized and to provide them with isolation and quarantine information for themselves and their close contacts. These questions are typically only done once during the course of their illness.”
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