BAY CITY, MI — Saying she’s the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Bay County, a local woman is sharing her account of how the illness is affecting her.
The Bay County Health Department on Monday, March 23, announced the second case of coronavirus in Bay County. Alexis M. Lopez, 22, says she is that person, having received word from the Health Department on Monday of her diagnosis.
Lopez on Wednesday spoke with The Bay City Times-MLive by phone from her Bay City home, now the site of her quarantine. Speaking frankly of her experience so far, Lopez was frequently interrupted by coughing jags.
Lopez said that she and her extended family went shopping at Walmart in Bangor Township and Sam’s Club in Saginaw County’s Kochville Township on Friday, March 20.
“Throughout the day, it was weird,” she said. “I had diarrhea, which is not common for me at all to have anything like that. Later that night, I became super tired. Like exhausted. It felt like I hadn’t slept in days. Probably around 8 or 9 p.m. I was putting groceries away and I was having a hard time. I just felt weak.
“I was out of breath and I couldn’t catch it,” she continued. “I laid down and felt severely cold. It felt like I was standing outside in a blizzard; that’s how cold I was. The heat was turned up to about 80 degrees and that didn’t help at all.”
Lopez’s body and joints began to ache as well. She took Tylenol, which didn’t help.
She eventually fell asleep under a heating blanket, only to awake early Saturday morning still feeling weird.
“I felt tired, exhausted, very restless,” she said. “My chest became heavy and it was hard to breathe. It felt like my lungs were coated in mucus.”
She also began experiencing a slight cough and an intermittent runny nose, she said. She visited McLaren Bay Region hospital and was attended to by a nurse and a doctor, the latter of whom said it appeared as though she had contracted coronavirus, though no tests could be performed. The doctor sent her home with a packet on how to deal with the virus and recommended she isolate for 14 days.
On getting back home, Lopez’s breathing worsened, so she and her fiancé went to Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw. By this time, her fiancé was experiencing similar symptoms, she said.
Both Lopez and her fiancé had blood samples and nose swabs taken for analysis. They then returned home and went into “isolation mode,” she said.
“You really just wait it out and see what’s gonna happen,” Lopez said of waiting for the results. “Throughout the two-day period I was waiting to hear back, my symptoms were the same. I still had diarrhea. I was fatigued, restless, nauseous. I still didn’t have much of a temperature. My cough began to get worse and the heaviness in my chest felt worse as well.”
Later on Monday, she received a call from a woman at the Health Department, which she said initially scared her.
“They told me I had tested positive for coronavirus,” Lopez said. “I had to inform her of my symptoms, who I was around, where I went. She is going to reach out to everyone that I have been around as well and monitor them.”
Lopez said that aside from her fiancé and medical professionals, she’s not been around anyone since Friday. Her 10-month-old son, who usually lives with her, is currently staying with Lopez’s mother as a result, she said.
“I haven’t left my house at all,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to risk someone else catching it or coming in contact with me. From here on out, they recommended I stay inside and self-isolate until my symptoms are gone. The timeframe can vary.
“I haven’t gotten worse and I haven’t gotten better. I feel exactly the same as I did from the beginning.”
She said her boyfriend’s tests came back as positive, but the woman from the Health Department indicated she thought it was a false positive, due to his similar symptoms.
The Health Department on Tuesday, March 24, confirmed they are awaiting on at least 100 tests for COVID-19, most of which were submitted in the last six days. On Wednesday afternoon, Bay County Health Department Director Joel R. Strasz told MLive a third resident had tested positive for coronavirus.
As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, there are 2,295 confirmed coronavirus cases throughout Michigan, 43 of which have resulted in death.
The first confirmed case in Bay County was Dr. Mark Pankonin, a physician at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw. He identified himself as having coronavirus without experiencing symptoms.
On Tuesday, Lopez recorded and posted a 10-minute video on Google recounting her experience. The video has since gone viral on social media.
“I’m glad I did it,” she said. “I wanted to share what I’m going through, my symptoms, what led up to it. I just wanted to make others well aware in case they have it.”
Though Lopez previously worked as a nurse’s aid at McLaren Bay Region hospital, her employment there ended weeks ago, she said.
“Honestly, I have no idea how I came to encounter it,” Lopez said. “I have no idea. It’s mind-boggling that I caught it. I can’t believe I caught it, but it is what it is.”
While at home, she has been spending most of her time resting.
“The more active I am, the more my breathing is affected,” she said. “The more I cough, the more my body starts to hurt. I prefer to rest rather than trying to make myself busy.”
She said the Health Department is checking with her daily to see how she’s doing.
“I never thought in a million years I’d catch coronavirus,” she continued. “I just thought I had a cold. I just really want the public to be aware it could happen to you.”
Strasz could neither confirm nor deny Lopez’s status as the second confirmed case of coronavirus in Bay County. He did say, however, that everyone exhibiting symptoms consistent with coronavirus — shortness of breath, fever, coughing — should assume they have it and isolate as much as possible. If you live with others, try to confine yourself to one room, preferably one with access to a bathroom only you will use, he said.
If you have a child in the house, one person should be designated as the child’s caregiver. Also, if you’re caring for someone with COVID-19 or its symptoms, both parties should wear a makeshift mask such as handkerchief and gloves, Strasz said.
Asked what she thinks of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Monday executive order requiring most residents to stay in their homes to slow the spread of the virus, Lopez said she agrees with it.
“At this point, anyone can get it, anytime, anywhere,” she said. “I agree you only should go out if it’s necessary, if you absolutely need to. Don’t go out if you don’t have to go out. Save yourself and save others’ health as well.”
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