Did I Have The Coronavirus in January 2020?

There’s been a lot of conjecture lately on whether or not people have already had the coronavirus in December 2019 or January 2020. An article in USA Today quoted Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, saying “when we do look back…we will probably find that this disease was here earlier than we thought.”

I think he may be onto something. Additionally I think social distancing is imperative and I’m sorry we weren’t doing it sooner. But this virus, like all horrible things, will bring with it a lesson in how we conduct ourselves when we are ill in the future.

Let’s step back to early January 2020. All was relatively normal in Santa Monica, California. For me, my bi-weekly mani-pedi is an indulgence and a treat. It’s a time for me to relax, get a foot massage, a hand massage, and a way to feel better about myself while I take a break from the stress of work. I really savor my hour at the nail salon. It is a small luxury and yet it brings me so much joy. I was looking forward to settling in.

Once your shoes are off, and your feet are immersed in a hot foot bath, and your hands are soaking in bowls of warm water, and your nails are being attended to there’s really nowhere to go. I was probably 15 minutes deep into the process when a woman entered, coughing up a storm.

Now I’m not as extreme a germophobe as Howie Mandel but I’m pretty darn close. My manicurist (whom I’ve been going to for years) thankfully understands this about me, and knew, when she saw the infected woman coughing, that I would have a problem. So she sat her a seat away from me. We have all seen the coronavirus videos depicting how easily a virus can spread through droplets, through the air, and within proximity of someone less than six feet away—at most, I was four to five feet away from her.

Infected was youthful. If I had to guess, I would say she was in her mid-to-late 20s probably a millennial. She was also very loud and in stature reminded me of a savanna buffalo, large and ponderous. When she spoke it was more like a wail, as if a cheetah was continually gnawing on her leg. In tow was her friend who took the seat between us. Whenever Infected spoke to her friend she had to turn her head and thus spew disease-ridden droplets in my direction.

At one point she bellowed, “I think I have pneumonia or something. I’m so sick.” When I heard this I immediately donned my face mask, which I carry with me in case emergencies. (I did mention I’m a germophobe). Mind you, this was months before the coronavirus, and given my situation, immersed in water, I could not just get up and leave.

I was basically trapped near this callous, self-entitled, infected, careless bint who decided to enter a store and proceed to contaminate everybody in it solely because she desired a pedicure. She even mentioned several times that she “needed to go to urgent care because she had a fever.” Why someone would engage in this type of unsafe and inconsiderate behavior is beyond my ken. But then, I don’t have the same attitude when I get a sickness. I don’t go out in public or share my illness with the world, because I figure no one wants it.

A good lesson here would be
don’t go out when you’re sick,
but there are a lot of idiots in the world.

After hearing her expound on all her symptoms, “fever, cough, fatigue, aches, etc.” I thought, “Oh God. I’m going to end up getting sick.”

The reason I say this, and some of you may relate, is that I get sick no matter what. It doesn’t take much for me to acquire somebody’s cold. I guess I’m just one of those fortunate people who likes to pick up every contagion floating around. It may be linked to my blood type. We A Types apparently have less resistance to illnesses than other blood types (oh, lucky us). And, to add to the statistics, I’m prone to inflammation, asthma and a host of other bronchial and respiratory diseases.

Because of this woman’s thoughtless nature I decided to cut my mani-pedi short. I didn’t get a relaxing foot massage. I didn’t even opt for polish. My services were compromised because of her self-centered decision to go out in public when she should have stayed at home.

As I was leaving I thought perhaps I should say something to Infected. Then I thought, “No, Taylor let it go. Just leave the detestable person alone in her misery.”  But then I stopped myself remembering, “I’m a New Yorker what am I doing? I’m calling her out on her sh*t.” So I turned around as I was leaving, while she was stuck with her feet in the bowls and her infected hands were being massaged. I politely uttered, as politely as any New Yorker can, “You know, you have been talking for some time about how sick you are and you may want to get a mask, so you don’t infect anyone else. I have an extra mask in my bag that I could give you.”

She just stared at me blankly.

“I mean,” I continued, “You may want to rethink going out when you’re sick like you are. Some of us have compromised immune systems, and some people get sick easily and—

To which she cut me off, “Are you done? Have you said your peace?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, OK then you can go now. Buh-bye.”

I stood there, not believing what I heard. She dismissed me out of hand and she insulted me.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“You heard me.”

Now it was on.

“How dare you. How dare you go out dripping with influenza, all snot-nosed and infectious. You have some nerve coming in here while you’re sick. Telling everyone who can hear you that you need to go to urgent care because you have a fever, while you’re sitting there coughing germs on everyone not even wearing a mask. How dare you not give a sh*t about infecting others. Who do you think you are? I’ll tell you who you are, you are a selfish, uncaring, self-entitled asshole.”

There was silence in the room.

“These women waiting on you,” I pointed to all the women in the store. “Touching your sick mitts, while you’re coughing on them, and breathing on them, don’t you realize they have to work on your feet and your hands and you’re going to get them all sick and they have to work here six days a week no matter what? They don’t have sick time. Not everybody has it so easy. It’s disgusting what are you doing. You are a bad citizen. You are a menace. You are inconsiderate, you are stupid, and you are a bitch!” And then I stormed out. And I may have given her the finger. I can’t recall. I was so hot under the collar. Why I’m not on a show like Santa Monica housewives, I will never know, but I digress.

Four days later I had a fever and a horrible, horrible cold. It was followed by a dry cough. I forced myself into my doctor’s office. They were overrun with patients and wanted to push me to the following week, but it was a Friday and I knew I had to get in. I waited almost three hours. My regular physician was not working that day so I saw whoever was attending. I left with a prescription for flouroquinolone, an antibiotic with the brand name Levaquin—a medicine used for infections such as anthrax and plague. Looking back—I wonder why such a heavy-duty drug was prescribed to me for a bronchial infection. Did health care workers know about the Coronavirus back in January? Were they already seeing infected people?

When I stumbled into the pharmacy; the pharmacist told me, “You know this drug could cause severe tendon tears and aortic ruptures, you cannot exercise while taking this medicine.” OK, so first, no one who is sick the way I was sick wants to exercise unless they are completely mental. And second, thank God for my pharmacist who I’ve been going to for years and who always tells me the real deal with the medicines that are being prescribed because I was so ill I would not have even read the label. Upon closer inspection we realized a few things about Levaquin:

1. If you have liver problems you cannot take it.

2. If you have low potassium, you cannot take it.

3. It can cause or exacerbate nerve problems.

Directly from the label it states, “May cause damage to the nerves in the arms, hands, legs, or feet. Stop if you have any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.” And the best one yet, “The nerve damage may be permanent.”

I already have liver damage, low potassium, and I have neuropathy (nerve damage) so the chance of acquiring more damage to my nerves, and irreparable damage at that, was simply not an option. And since it was now, close to 6:00 PM, and my doctor’s office was closed, I went home with some Mucinex DM and some cough drops.

Seven hours later, I was up, in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t breathe. And my inhaler was out of puffs. I thought I was going to die. I had never felt quite like this before, like I couldn’t take a breath; like an asthma attack but much, much worse. I didn’t know what to do. My fiancé tried to calm me down. I slept sitting up—but there was no sleeping. I have to say, I credit my sleep apnea machine to helping me immensely. I actually needed it just to be able to breathe.

The next several hours were a blur. I still had a fever and felt like I was barely hanging on. I started crying. I was crying because I thought I was going to die. I don’t recall ever crying during an illness because I thought I wouldn’t come out of it, but there it was—I was sobbing. I finally reached my doctor’s call center and demanded someone cut me a prescription that wouldn’t kill me, and one that would ease my nonstop cough. When my doctor called back she was surprised I had been prescribed Levaquin (which by the way has been discontinued as of 2020 due to pending lawsuits from its life-threatening side effects). Within an hour I had a new inhaler, some Keflex, and a cough suppressant. 

I have never been so sick in my entire life. I honestly did not think I was going to make it. My cough and breathing issues continued and lasted over a month.

So the question remains—did I have Covid-19 on January 7, 2020? I don’t know, and perhaps I never will but if it wasn’t Covid-19, and Covid-19 is much worse, then social distancing and practicing safe protocols are essential now more than ever before.

When we come out of this global pandemic, we will inevitably see new protocols for how we handle the spread of illnesses. During the 1950s there was a “Buck up, Kid,” maxim. My father used to tell me, if he was sick he got up, went to school and toughed it out. This is why I believe many Boomers have trouble following social distancing protocols. I thank God everyday I’m a Gen-Xer and know how to hunker down inside with a remote control. Seriously, if ever there was a protocol that I could follow, this is it.

I’m urging everyone to stay at home as much as possible. Think of how many people Infected spread her germs to and how many spread them from there? Don’t go out when you’re sick. Don’t be selfish. Don’t think that you won’t get it. Don’t think you won’t give it to others. Don’t take the chance. Let’s do our best to keep everyone safe and healthy and let’s keep our distance.

And for God’s sake, if you’re sick, stay the hell out of my nail salon.

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