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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

In Other Words: While We Wait for the Hammer to Fall, For One It Already Fell

I stopped in the grocery the other morning and it was a scene from the zombie apocalypse. People hurried up and down aisles gathering their supplies. There was an uneasy quiet that hovered in the store. Very little chatter. Almost no eye contact. And what eye contact there was was full of suspicion and fear. Heads were down. Distance kept. It was weird. And understandable.

There is only one story these days. It doesn’t matter how we begin a conversation, it will always end up at coronavirus.

The virus is here. To think otherwise is foolish. It is silently moving among us. It just has not manifested itself fully. It is only a matter of time until we catch up with the rest of the country. (There is a link at the bottom of this column that shows the explosion of the virus.) The flood is coming.

You might know Ryan Courtade. He grew up in Fort Thomas but he now lives and works in New York City, one of the epicenters of the virus outbreak. He contracted the virus near the beginning of March. We chatted online about his illness that is not quite over but he is, thankfully, on the other side and on the mend.

He recently posted his story on social media.
Ryan Courtade at the hospital. Courtesy: Ryan Courtade
On March 2 (the day after my birthday), I was exposed to Coronavirus - unbeknownst to me and the person who had the virus. They did not find out that they were positive until a week later.

“On March 10 I started feeling ill. Sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath. I called the NYS Health Department to tell them that I was exposed to a confirmed person, and that I was having shortness of breath. They told me that I ‘probably have COVID-19’ and that they would pass my information along to the NYC Health Department for a follow-up. To date (March 22) - I have heard NOTHING from the NYC Health Department, and no follow up from the State either. 

“After eight days of being self-isolated in my apartment, it was getting very difficult for me to breath. Walking the length of my small NYC apartment had me short of breath, light headed, and wobbly. Wednesday morning I went to Mt Sinai Hospital. Arriving at the hospital, you could tell they did not want me there. They quickly tried to detour me to a testing facility, or to return home to self isolation. But after some insisting and I think because they could see I was so short of breathe, they allowed me to come through the front doors and get examined.

“I was examined, they listened to my lungs, and swabbed what felt like my brain cavity for a COVID-19 test. 72 hours later, I have not received the official results. 19 days since my first contact, and I've still not been told officially that I have COVID-19. But I have no data to point to the last ten days of health, other than to say based on everything I've heard and what I have been told, I fell victim of COVID-19.” This was on March 20 and he still has not received word about his test.

Courtade says, “Yeah, I was just chatting with my boss” about the timeline of the symptoms.  “It is interesting because it matched the timeline that they are publicizing pretty spot on. A few days of no symptoms, followed by a sore throat, then fatigue and achiness, and then shortness of breath. All over a 10 day period.”

Courtade can even pinpoint the day and person who carried the infection. It was March 2, the day after his birthday. A coworker was unknowing infected from someone from her synagogue. She and Ryan worked side by side only one day. “This isn’t bogus or something to lightly dismiss,” he says. “She had no signs. She came in on a Monday - and on Tuesday received a note from her synagogue warning people who attended a recent funeral or a bat mitzvah were exposed to the virus and were told to self-quarantine.”  Her family has since contracted the illness.

And that is how this spreads.  It is quick. Unsuspecting. And the infected may exhibit no outward symptoms as they spread the illness.

Courtade goes on to say, “Thankfully today I feel like I am finally on the other side of the health effects. My breathing is returning to normal. I'm also happy to say that those that I know who have been affected are also doing well at this point.

“My prayers are with anyone who has to go through this - and with anyone who has family or friends going through this now. For those affected by their work being shut down. For those with children who are now learning remotely. For the businesses who can't afford to operate. And for everyone impacted by COVID-19 in any way.”

And that’s where we are - anxiously awaiting some unknown event to befall us like a hammer ready to fall.

Just because it’s not in your neighborhood (yet) doesn’t mean it doesn’t pose a threat. It’s coming. Heck, it’s already here. But the more prepared we are, the better we can weather the storm. Stay home. Wash your hands. Be sensible and sensitive. Use social media to check in on friends, neighbors, and family. The science is good. Follow it.

As Ryan Courtade says, “It’s a different day. A different world. And I fear it will get worse before it gets better. But we will get stronger, we will pull together, and we will get through this... together.”

Here is a link to an interactive map showing how quickly the virus spreads across the country as of March 20.

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