It’s far simpler to spread the coronavirus and the potentially deadly COVID-19 disease it causes than we could have imagined. We say this now from personal experience.
It’s an experience that has vividly taught us why it is so difficult to slow the disease’s spread. Its path through our society is made easy through ignorance, false assumptions, and shrug-of-the-shoulders attitudes by too many. Yet, even for those who do their best to be careful, it slips unseen by their defenses.
And, too many of us have an ingrained mindset that we don’t want to make unnecessary work for people who are already busy. To go to the doctor, to get tested, when we really didn’t feel that bad seems an imposition on overworked medical staff.
We make these observations as someone who has written frequently about COVID-19, its symptoms, and the actions we are supposed to take if we suspect we have been infected. We knew that some people who contracted COVID-19 suffered only mild symptoms or none at all.
Based on our own experience with the disease, we believe many falsely assume what they have isn’t COVID-19. It’s allergies. It’s another nuisance bug floating around the community. To be suffering from COVID-19, we assumed we should have a fever – that goes with being sick, right? And, we thought, we should be feeling considerably more “sick.” We were wrong.
Ours started with mild fatigue and headache back on Monday, Oct. 12, and we thought, fall allergies. It would have been great to crawl into bed early that night, but Tuesday morning’s deadline for printing the Monitor-News was looming. A front page was waiting for stories, there was a column to finish, and 10 pages of the newspaper to lay out. We worked into the evening.
Our temperature had been a steady 97.5 degrees throughout the day, based on multiple tests.
Through the night and early morning hours of Tuesday, Oct. 13, we had the chills come and go as we slept fitfully. Up at 5 a.m., the chills gone, but our shirt was soaked with sweat, we sat down to write. At 7 a.m., we were off to the office. Done with the week’s publication by 10 a.m., we headed home to lay down for a few minutes. We reached for our office infrared temperature gauge for one more check on the way out the door – still 97.5 degrees. Our short nap lasted three hours.
With no body aches, no cough, no congestion, no sore throat, no difficulty breathing, no fever, and no loss of taste or smell, we were sure we didn’t have COVID-19. Yes, the chills and headache, add some minor sniffles, were signs of the virus but also of many other maladies.
With an employee’s spouse testing positive last week, we decided we would get tested just to see if we had the virus. Over the past few weeks, we had been feeling great. The test came back positive. So much for our assumptions.
We have no idea where we could have contracted the virus. We’ve limited our public exposure and worn a mask in all the public places we’ve entered. We wash our hands frequently, avoiding touching our face or eyes, and use hand sanitizer. It wasn’t enough. We were one of the fortunate ones in that our symptoms were mild.
As of Sunday, nearly 2,500 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19 complications since the disease claimed its first victim in the state in March. In the worst 12-month period for the flu in the past decade, 2017-2018, there were 440 deaths caused by the virus. October 2020 saw 441 deaths by itself.
More than 232,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands more suffering lingering side effects such as fatigue and shortness of breath due to damaged lungs. In the 2017-2018 flu year, 61,000 Americans died. We could lose double that number in just the two months remaining in 2020 as total deaths approach 350,000 to 400,000.
For those who say these numbers are grossly inflated, consider this fact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors deaths from all causes in the U.S. This data creates a reliable picture of how many people die each year on average. It then can look at that average and compare it to recent deaths in the country.
Between the end of January and the start of October, there were 300,000 “excess deaths” above the long-term average. These statistics indicate that the official COVID-19 death totals of 230,000 may be low.
Some dismiss the rapidly rising numbers of COVID-19 cases as simply a result of more testing. But here are a couple other truths: The positivity rate among people tested has increased to 9.9 percent. State health officials have said a positivity rate of 5.5 percent should trigger increasingly restrictive policy decisions. Also, new hospitalizations due to COVID-19 complications hit a record of 151 Saturday. The number of people requiring ICU beds is increasing.
America needs a national mask mandate and leadership that will inspire us to come together in wearing them to protect loved ones. Masks will keep our hospital beds and ICU units from filling up. Masks will keep doctors from making the heartbreaking decisions of who gets lifesaving treatment and who might have to wait. Masks will put America back to work sooner and prevent another shutdown. Masks will keep our children in school.
We need to exercise common sense. A party bus traveling from town to town, stopping at multiple bars, with its riders not wearing masks, is a guaranteed way to spread the virus. It baffles they are allowed to operate.
What we’ve learned from this experience is to get tested if you show any of the signs. Don’t assume because your symptoms were mild that it must have been allergies or some other bug. Don’t be blind to whether or not you could be infecting family, friends, coworkers, and others in your community.