ASHLAND An admitted germophobe and clean freak, Donella Porter, a respiratory therapist from Olive Hill, is sure she contracted COVID-19 through the air.
“I wiped all surfaces that would be touched with disinfectant. We quit going to church a week before the governor said we needed to. I felt I was at high risk of exposure because of my job and didn’t want to potentially bring anything in on the elderly in my church,” she said, noting she was the first case in Carter County. “We quit eating out, not even going through a drive-thru, even before the governor announced the shutdown of eat-in restaurants.”
Porter shared many details of her illness on social media, hoping it would help others.
She said her family shopped at just two stores once a week, cleaned the debit card and sanitized their hands immediately afterward. They wiped items purchased with sanitizer before coming into the house and left worn clothing and shoes in the garage to shower immediately.
“We were being ‘healthy at home.’ We did every single thing we were asked to do and then some. My point is this: If I, the complete germophobe, can get this virus, anyone can! It is very, very sneaky.”
After nearly two weeks of fever, allergy-like symptoms and cough, body aches, chills, headache, fatigue and loss of her sense of taste and smell, Porter said on Facebook on Monday she had come through her illness.
But some COVID patients continue to test positive even after a two-week quarantine period.
Chris Crum, director of the Greenup County Health Department, said his county has had 10 cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday, with no recoveries yet.
He said a couple of patients have tested positive, even though their symptoms have improved.
“After 14 days, they’re still testing positive,” he said. “People are possibly going to stay self-isolated longer than 14 days.”
He said despite feeling better, a positive test means the patient could get worse again.
“You would have to do an antibody test,” he said. “Some sites around the state will be announced, but we’ll have to get clarification form the state in a day or two.”
Most tests for the coronavirus are given at King’s Daughters Medical Center or Southern Ohio Medical Center, Crum said.
“Testing is limited in our area,” he said. “Most of the local providers are not able to provide those tests.” He said the health department also has received test results from Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington and Lewis Family Care in Ashland.
To protect first responders, he said Greenup County’s 911 system is temporarily flagging residences with occupants testing positive.
Matt Anderson, emergency preparedness coordinator at the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department, said recovery and testing positive are a little different.
“For a patient to be recovered and out of isolation, they need to be seven days out from symptom onset date, have resolution of respiratory symptoms and be without fever for three days with the use of ibuprofen,” Anderson said. “A health care worker is required to have two negative tests separated by 24 hours.”
Porter was tested at a drive-thru site on March 31 and learned on April 2 she had tested positive. Her wide variety of symptoms eased and intensified and sleep was difficult. By April 4, she rested better, but that was on and off, too. She had no fever or cough and other symptoms. “The KDMC provider told me he hoped I stayed symptom-free, as the symptoms come in waves,” she recalled.
By the ninth day, she started feeling a great deal better and had avoided fever for more than a week.
“I actually felt like a human today, so I changed my sheets and might have overdone it,” she said on Facebook. “Feeling better and getting stronger.”
On April 9, she continued to improve but reported a little lung discomfort.
“Lungs feel a little ‘off’ today. Feel like I have a tickle in my chest and I need to cough. Kinda like I can’t get a good deep breath,” she wrote. “Really amped up my breathing exercises today. Oxygen level is good 97-98%. Heart rate has been up today. COVID provider said I need to push more fluids, as this is a sign of dehydration. She also said my description of symptoms today is consistent with what other patients are telling her toward the tail end of this.”
Jeff Barker, director of the Carter County Health Department, said it’s true health care workers must have two negative tests before returning to work, and that a positive test would indicate the patient is still “shedding the virus.”
“I don’t fully understand everything about the virus and, unfortunately, nobody else does, either,” he said. “I don’t know how long someone who is recovering will be shedding the virus after he or she gets to feeling better."
He said no matter how much better a COVID-19 patient feels, the patient could still be contagious and should continue quarantine in light of a positive test.
“We don’t know enough about it to know exactly how it’s going to work,” Barker said.
Carter County had five cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday; one has recovered.
“So far, all of the cases we’ve had have been people sick at home. We haven’t had anyone hospitalized,” Barker said. “There have been a couple who don’t even feel bad. … It’s just affecting everyone differently.”
Boyd County reported 27 cases as of Tuesday, with eight recovered, Anderson said.
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