It has gradually become evident that Covid-19 was much more widespread in January and February than was initially recognized. A recent article in the New York Times talks about people who had Covid-19-like symptoms early in the pandemic, but were in locations where the virus was thought not to have arrived. Now, some of them are wondering if it was Covid-19 after all.
I am one of those people. Here at Kendal, on February 25, I came down with a nasty cold. My temperature jumped 5 degrees (to 102.5 from my “normal” of 97.5). By evening, I had chills and intense shivering that no layering of blankets could help, and the beginnings of what would become a persistent cough.
By morning, I still had a high fever. When I started to get up to go the bathroom, my legs were so weak they unexpectedly buckled and I sat back down on the bed. I was startled, never having experienced anything like that. I wondered, momentarily, if I would be strong enough to get to the bathroom, just a few steps away. I was able to make it, however.
I called the Health Center, and the Kendal nurse stopped by our apartment (a house call!) and took my temperature and a nasal swab. I would learn a few days later that “it wasn’t the seaonal flu”. Could it have been Covid-19? No one knows. I didn’t meet the criteria to go to the hospital ER for that test—the only place where Covid-19 testing was available at that time.
That evening (Feb. 26) I was feeling somewhat better, and by Feb. 27 my fever had subsided. My strength came back. Apart from occasional coughing episodes, my flu-like symptoms had disappeared. Because of my coughing, I had started sleeping in the den to avoid keeping Jan awake.
A persistent cough. On Feb. 28, I felt well when I woke up, but almost immediately had a prolonged coughing fit. I went to the Health Center, where my lungs were checked and pronounced clear. I continued to have some coughing episodes for another week, but I felt fine apart from that. I did notice, however, that my sense of taste was mostly gone. On March 3, I skipped the Kendal Singers rehearsal because I was still coughing fairly frequently. I canceled the Energy Committee meeting on March 5 (which I was supposed to chair) for the same reason. By March 10, I was sleeping through the night with no coughing.
Meanwhile, Jan came down with a milder form of what seemed to be the same disease (primarily a sore throat, fatigue, and a persistent cough, but no fever or chills). It would be another week until I moved back into our bedroom—until then, one or the other of us was coughing frequently through the night.
We didn’t eat in the dining room during this period. Initially, when I was sick in bed, Jan brought home our dinner from the café. I had no appetite and didn’t eat much—mostly soup and sherbet, as I recall. I lost 9 pounds that week. When I felt better, we both went to the café and brought home dinner. Then, as our coughs improved, we ate at a table for two in the café, where we could keep our distance from other residents. By March 10, we felt able to eat in the dining room once more. (The following day, March 11, is when the change to take-out-only was announced.)
So: did I have Covid-19? Did Jan? Did you? Covid-19 was not supposed to be in our area in mid-February, when I got sick (although perhaps it was). But given my symptoms (fever, chills, weakness, prolonged dry cough, loss of taste, confirmation that it was “not flu”) I suspect I may have had it, and I suspect Jan’s cough might have been a milder case of it. Jan thinks we probably didn’t have Covid-19. How could the Covid-19 virus have been present here at Kendal without any cases serious enough for testing at the hospital? She makes a good point. It could well have been something else, and perhaps we’ll never know.
Anecdotally, I have heard that other Kendal residents had a similar experience around the same time. Were you one of them? I would be interested in hearing from any of you who had symptoms that might have been an unconfirmed case of Covid-19.