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Sarasota Wednesday, Jul. 1, 2020 1 year ago

So you have the coronavirus. What's next?

Our reporter gives his thoughts on experiencing the virus.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

So everything is open again in the state of Florida and, I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite sure it’s going well.

More than any other point this year, it’s likely that you might have come down with a case of the coronavirus. I did, and it hasn’t been great.

This isn’t my finest moment. It’s painfully easy to follow the social distancing rules the country’s medical professionals have been encouraging us to listen to for months. But for one day, I decided to pretend like things were normal. 

It turns out there’s a cost to being that level of stupid. Within just a handful of days, I was feeling the many symptoms that we’ve spent months reading about. A nasty fever I felt one morning had me burning up by the end of the night. Headaches, and an utter lack of sense of taste and smell. What’s worse was the constant presence of *something* in my chest, something that made my breaths shallow.

I’ve been lucky. I rode out the initial symptoms from the comfort of my home instead of a hospital bed. But that doesn’t mean I’m OK. Some COVID-19 patients thought to be recovering have had symptoms return in waves for months on end. With any luck this will be my only column, but there’s a chance you’ll be hearing from me again.

Here’s a quick run through of what I've learned from my mistakes. 

1. Get Tested. And Stay. The #[email protected]%!. Home.

COVID-19 cases are rising, drinking at bars is again a thing of the past and it seems like every day a new restaurant is shutting down due to exposure. 

If you feel yourself getting sick, it’s best to assume you’re a problem child and that you need to stay home. As soon as you’re able,  get yourself tested. I went to the UTC site and it could not have been easier. Yes, the nose swab stings, but so do getting shots and we found a way to not be babies about that. 

Results take about four to five days. So assume you are positive and stay home. 

2. Check your breathing. 

The coronavirus is a weird illness. It’s hard to know exactly when it’s getting dangerous, but the thing you need to watch is your breathing. 

If the thing in your chest is getting so heavy that you can’t breathe, it’s time to make plans to visit the hospital. I only had a single night (so far) where I was trying to get shallow breaths in at 3 a.m., unable to fall asleep, but that was enough for a lifetime. My breathing started improving the next day but if it hadn’t, I’d be writing this from a hospital bed. Let’s hope this trend continues.

3. Figure Out Where You’ve Been

You need to find out who else you could have gotten sick. Even if you weren’t showing symptoms, it’s still possible you were contagious. With any luck, you’ve been wearing a mask and the odds of transmissions are low. It's kind of like an STD scare, except your chest hurts instead of your private parts.

In any case, it’s time to put your thinking cap on and figure out who you’ve been in contact with, and let them know. 

4. Get cheap groceries

Here’s a relative upside: You aren’t going to spend much on food! Because you can’t taste anything. Seriously, all sense of taste and smell is out the window, and it may be that way for a while. It’s a great time to try out ordering groceries online.

Remember Captain Barbossa, villain of the hit 2003 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl?” He was a cursed skeleton man who couldn’t taste his favorite food — apples — no matter how many he ate. That’s you now. 

You could also have a friend deliver you your groceries since you’re home locked up. Why not try healthy foods you didn’t have an interest in before? You’ll have an advantage, for the time being.

5. Think. And think. And think.

Bad news: hanging out on your couch in a fugue state isn’t a fun time, but it’s going to be your life for the foreseeable future. Take this time to figure out what’s wrong with your life, what you’re truly afraid of, and how you can overcome it. For example, did you know I have a performative personality that requires an audience at all times, and I become anxious and itchy when I’m alone and without one? Fun thoughts like this are probably headed your way, so make the most of it and grow as a person. 

The CDC says you need to spend at least three days at home with no fever, and 10 days since symptoms start, not to mention two negative tests in a row, so you’re going to have some time. 

6. Slowly recover. 

This thing went for your lungs, and you’re going to feel that every time you get up to walk. The only way you’re slowly going to recover is through rest, but a small amount of exercise every day can do a lot. 

For me, running or lifting weights are out of the question, so I recommend yoga, push-ups, or other activities you can do inside. Don't overexert because it will take you out for a day or more. 

7. Get Tested Again

While the CDC advises it's safe to go out 10 days after symptoms appear, it’s important to get tested again. Their website has a test-based strategy that says you’re free and clear once you test negative twice, at least 24 hours apart. I’m close to this stage, waiting a few more days to be sure I’m clear of symptoms. Hoping for good news.

8. Give Back

Remember how in the fifth Pirates movie, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,”, Captain Barbossa redeemed himself by sacrificing himself to save his daughter and Jack Sparrow? Well that can be you too, kind of.

Blood Banks and medical organizations are in need of plasma from people who have already beaten the virus. I’m looking forward to this step — It can save lives, and it’s the least we can do. 

As an aside, this is the time to tell your friends that this thing is real. It’s easy to pretend it’s not real, or it won’t affect you. But it can, no matter your age, and we all need to do better to help stop this. I know I do. 

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Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

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