Campbell County’s Patient With Coronavirus Describes What It’s Like

In a candid 20-minute phone conversation that followed, the county resident revealed she wished to remain anonymous for the sake of her family and friends but felt compelled to share her experience with the virus over the past week and share her story.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

March 25, 20208 min read

Corona 2

Reprinted with permission from our friends at County 17

Campbell County’s first and only documented case of coronavirus says she’s “fine,” encourages community to stay home to slow the spread

“So, I’m the lone COVID-19 patient who has tested positive in Campbell County,” the Gillette wife and working mom told County 17, light-heartedly, via Facebook messenger Monday afternoon.

“Yep, that’s me,” she said.

In a candid 20-minute phone conversation that followed, the county resident revealed she wished to remain anonymous for the sake of her family and friends but felt compelled to share her experience with the virus over the past week and share her story.

“I kinda figured I’d speak out in an effort to maybe calm everyone down,” she said. “I know people are freaking out.”

There are some things she’d like the community to know about what it’s like to have the virus, and what’s important.

“I’m fine, really,” she began.

It started with a runny nose last Monday, she said.

Last Tuesday, on St. Patrick’s Day, she developed a cough and a low temperature.

“I thought I had a chest cold,” she said. “So, I decided to take off work and go to the doctor.”

The family’s physician tested her for flu. Negative.

Next, she was tested for RSV, a common respiratory virus. Also negative.

Last, the doctor said they’d be testing her for COVID-19.

She knew about the novel coronavirus, obviously. She’d read about the crisis in Wuhan, China online. She’d heard about cases in the U.S. and in Wyoming.

“I didn’t think I was going to test positive,” she said. “In fact, I can remember thinking the doctor was wasting a test. I hadn’t been out of the country. I hadn’t even been out of the state recently. I was just going to the doctors to see what could be done to treat the symptoms for my cold.”

She said she wasn’t really worried about the test results, but the family doctor, who she trusted, told her to stay at the house until they got the results back on Friday.

Thankfully, she followed her doctor’s orders and stayed home.

The doctor’s office called her early Friday afternoon to share her test results.

“They told me I had tested positive for coronavirus,” she said. “I denied it. I said, no. I don’t know. It’s not. Is it?” she recalled. She mostly remembers asking the voice on the other end of the line, “Now what?”

She’s going to have to isolate herself in her home away from family, the voice told her. “And the State (Health) Department is going to call and ask a bunch of questions including which people you’ve come into contact with outside of your family since Monday.”

Then, they hung up.

She tried to remember everyone she’d been in contact with. There were probably three or four people outside of her family and coworkers she had encountered, she thought.

Before she could even write the names down, she received a call from the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).

“They were very nice,” she recalled. They took down the names and made contact with those people, she said. They would likely be asked if they had experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing, and those who had displayed symptoms would likely get tested. To her knowledge, none did.

To prevent the spread of the virus in her home, she said the family has been using Clorox wipes and spray disinfectants nonstop. She wears a mask whenever she leaves the bedroom, which isn’t often, she admitted, and always uses the same plate, fork and cup before placing them directly in the dishwasher, which gets up to temperatures hot enough to kill the virus.

“We keep six feet away at all times,” she said.

Since contracting COVID-19, she said her husband has been on his A-game. Her mom and mother-in-law have been taking turns bringing groceries and arts and crafts to the doorstep, where they drop them off. “They’re mostly bringing things to help keep the kids fed and busy,” she laughed. “But some of the crafty things have been kinda cool.”

“The kids and I have to speak through the bedroom door,” she said. “My husband, too. Even the dogs, since they don’t know yet too much about if it can transfer from humans to pets and we don’t want to risk it. We love our pets.”

She paused, presumably thinking of the experience as a whole.

“I might be able to go back out into the public on Thursday,” she said optimistically. “But, we’ll have to wait and see. The state of Wyoming actually has an order out on all of us – the 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide – so, we will all need permission first before reentering society.”

Per protocol, a patient who tests positive for COVID-19 must be cleared by the WDH.

“I have had a really bad cough and runny nose and a slight fever,” she told County 17 when asked about her symptoms. “But, for the most part, I’m fine, really.”

She continued, “I don’t have any underlying health issues beyond asthma and I’m not struggling to beat the virus even with that,” she said. “I’ve been taking oral steroids and Tylenol. That’s it.”

Next, she asked that we assure our readers she has not left home. She added that she did not go to any local stores or restaurants when she was not feeling well.

“Tell everyone I didn’t go to out… I didn’t do anything,” she said. “Let people know I’m not out infecting!”

Although the illness hasn’t been anything major for her, specifically, she said, “If everybody just spent some time with their families right now and stayed home for the recommended 15 days, or more, I think a lot of the virus will kinda weed its way out of the community and we’d all be better off.”

Stay home with your families, she stressed, repeatedly.

“COVID-19 has brought our family closer together,” she said. “Let it do the same for yours.”

As states including Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest to announce statewide stay-at-home orders on Sunday resulting from the toll of the coronavirus outbreak, which grew to more than 31,000 cases and 390 deaths in the U.S. last week, and quickly, Campbell County’s only reported case, although experiencing just minor symptoms herself, urged members of the community to heed the advice and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Wyoming Department of Health among others.

“Stay at home,” she said. “Self-isolate, whenever possible, and limit your regular activities and social gatherings. Do your part to reduce the risk of spreading and contracting the virus.”

She still can’t quite figure out how she contracted the virus, she said. Although, she admitted, she had traveled to Sheridan for an appointment on or around the week of Monday, March 9.

As of today, Tuesday, March 24, at 7:45 a.m., she remains the only patient reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 in Campbell County.

To date, 29 people in Wyoming have tested positive for COVID-19 across eight counties, including Fremont, Laramie, Sheridan, Teton, Carbon, Natrona and Campbell counties, per WHD.

“Quarantine isn’t much fun, but I would much rather be in quarantine at home and know that I’m not exposing anyone else to this — and I’m doing my part to help stop the spread of the virus,” she added. “I know not everyone else who has tested positive has been so lucky.”

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Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter