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Former Sen. Tom Coburn, Fiscal Hawk And 'Dr. No,' Dies At 72
The Republican from Oklahoma died Saturday after a fight with prostate cancer. During his time in Congress, Coburn earned a reputation for fighting spending, no matter whom he crossed in the process.
America Is Already Rationing
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. Two weeks ago, a man came to an emergency room in New York with pain in the lower-right quadrant of his abdomen. A CT scan showed inflammation around a fingerlike projection at the base of his colon. Combined with a fever, this was a classic case of appendicitis. Surgeons took the man to the operating room and removed his appendix.The next day, recovering upstairs, the man still had a fever. Doctors ordered a test for the coronavirus. A day later, his results came back positive.Under usual circumstances, a person with a dangerous, infectious respiratory disease such as COVID-19 requires special precautions in a hospital. Everyone who enters the patient’s room—even to ask how they’re doing or to pick up a lunch tray—is required to don a fresh gown, gloves, and mask. If the worker must get in close contact with the patient, the mask has to be an N95 respirator, and a face shield is required to guard the eyes. Without exception, every piece of this gear must be discarded in a biohazard dispenser upon leaving the room. An errant mask or glove or gown, coated in virus, can become lethal.After the man with appendicitis (a patient of one of the doctors I spoke with for this story) tested positive, the hospital implemented such precautions. And staff members who’d cared for him went into two weeks of isolation. Today, if every hospital employee who had a close encounter with a COVID-19 patient disappeared for two weeks, the medical workforce would quickly become depleted. A safe alternative would be to minimize potential exposures by testing everyone who stepped foot into the hospital: The virus has an average incubation period of five days, which means people can spread it in the absence of symptoms. The U.S. does not have that testing capacity. The next best thing might be to require some form of mask and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff, and possibly even patients, presuming that anyone could be a disease-transmitter. The U.S. also does not have enough medical supplies to do so.[Read: How the pandemic will end]Last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health sent a notice to clinics that only those people “hospitalized with severe acute lower respiratory illness” could be tested for the coronavirus. California and New York, similarly, have restricted testing to health-care workers and patients who plainly seem to have the disease. The lack of widespread screening means the coronavirus may well be present in countless hospital wards without anyone realizing it. Accordingly, many emergency-room workers are now behaving as if they’re already infected and separating from their families. One ER physician told me he had been sleeping in the guest bedroom for weeks. Other doctors have sent their families off to stay at second homes.Meanwhile, the vast majority of workers who keep America’s hospitals running don’t have the salaries to afford extra bedrooms, much less extra properties. For the technicians, respiratory therapists, first responders, cleaning staff, and many others, doing their job is an act of moral complexity. Without adequate PPE, they’re putting their own health at risk every time they report for duty, as well as that of their families. They also may have other urgent reasons for staying home: being sick themselves, for one, or caring for children who are out of school or for family members who’ve fallen ill. Not working, for the minority who could financially manage this, isn’t an easy choice, either, given that it means increasing the burden on colleagues and putting them at greater risk of getting infected. And this isn’t even to mention the obligation workers at all levels of the hospital hierarchy feel to their patients.With the United States now leading the world in COVID-19 diagnoses, the demands on the medical system are rising with each passing day. Nowhere is that more evident than in New York City, the current epicenter of the crisis, where major academic hospitals are being forced to radically restructure how they deliver care. In talking with dozens of hospital workers over the past few weeks (most of whom asked not to be named for fear of professional repercussions), I heard that dermatologists are staffing emergency departments and cardiologists are taking ICU shifts. Medical students at New York University are being invited to graduate early in order to enlist as interns and begin practicing medicine immediately. Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked retired doctors to return to service as the city’s convention center is turned into a field hospital. On Thursday, Avril Benoit, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders—the group known for deploying teams to war zones and other medical deserts—told me she was working on plans to deploy resources to New York City.[Fred Milgrim: A New York doctor’s warning]During World War II, Ford and General Motors rallied to the cause by building tanks and manufacturing ammunition instead of Cadillacs and Chevys. These companies have now begun making ventilators, the devices that push air into the lungs of people who can’t breathe on their own. But without more widespread testing and basic protective equipment, the problem will be less the number of ventilators, and more the number of health-care workers available to operate them. The United States has entered its coronavirus rationing era, and the kind of medical care many people are used to isn’t going to be available all the time. The ubiquitous curve is being flattened by shutdowns and social distancing, but it is not flat enough. Those who might end up in a hospital, which is to say all of us, can do at least one thing to help relieve pressure on the medical system and its overtaxed, dwindling workforce.On a gray Monday in October 2018, a group of biomedical scientists convened in Saranac Lake, New York, to conduct a war game. The enemy was “Disease X,” a hypothetical doomsday pathogen. The scientists weren’t working for the government, but, like that of many experts who’ve gathered to offer guidance to bureaucrats and politicians, their goal was to take an inventory of existing U.S. capabilities, assess “gaps,” and suggest measures to “improve our position,” according to meeting records shared by Stephen Thomas, the chief of the infectious-disease division at the SUNY Upstate Medical University.One team was told to be risk averse, modeling the steps the U.S. would take to be optimally prepared to save as many lives as possible. The other was risk tolerant, modeling what the country would do if it chose to save money and roll the dice, hoping that things wouldn’t get too bad. A risk-averse approach would involve roughly doubling the country’s 170,000 mechanical ventilators; bulking up its strategic national stockpile of masks and medications; and expanding the ability to immediately scale up testing and vaccine development. It would also shore up supply chains of all sorts and create protocols to boost personnel in times of emergency.America rolled the dice. For just one example, the federal government has invested only around $500 million annually in the strategic stockpile, maintaining around 12 million N-95 masks and 16,600 ventilators. This was enough to equip an area hit by a localized disease outbreak, natural disaster, or terrorist attack. But it was nowhere near what could be necessary in a Disease X pandemic.[Read: We were warned]In January of this year, some Chinese scientists warned that a Disease X had arrived, based on genetic sequencing they’d performed. This novel coronavirus, SARSn-CoV-2, was almost identical to others that had been found in bats and is capable of hijacking an enzyme in human cells to cause acute respiratory failure.When I first spoke with Thomas in February, before New York had a single confirmed case, he told me his chief concern: “ICU beds will be limited, and that will mean rationing of expertise in the intensive-care setting. That’s a whole different type of medicine than most of us are used to practicing.” Thomas had spent 20 years in the Army developing “medical countermeasures” against infectious diseases, and, like other military experts who’d planned for disaster scenarios, he sounded cool-headed in talking about the looming catastrophe. He remained so when he told me on March 16 that his hospital had gotten its first case. At 10 p.m. that day, he emailed and said it had gotten its second. By March 20 he had seven. This Tuesday afternoon, he wrote, “We are doing ok. Running out of PPE and trying to build a reliable supply chain.”When we spoke by phone late Tuesday night, as he was driving home from the hospital, he sounded tired. I asked him to think back to the Disease X war game. “[The coronavirus] is much worse than what I had envisioned,” he said. “You never think the planets are going to align. You get used to the near misses. I’m taken aback by the scope, the speed, and how relentless it is. It’s amazing.”Many doctors on the front line are nonetheless being asked to operate as usual. Last week an internal-medicine physician with whom I trained in residency told me she’d been chastised by the head of her department for wearing a surgical mask at work. She feels unsafe without one, given the lack of certainty about who has the virus—not to mention the worry that she herself could be an asymptomatic carrier.[Wajahat Ali: Where are the masks?]Across the world, people are implored to avoid contact with anyone outside a small circle of family members or cohabitants. In clinics and hospitals, doctors aren’t doing their job if they are unwilling to get within inches of people, many of whom are in high-risk groups, and often do so without any protection. “This week we got an order that no masks are allowed for routine care and just walking around inside the hospital,” says John Mandrola, a cardiologist in Kentucky. He says his initial reaction was opposition, but he has now accepted that shortages demand rationing. In fact, taking the standard precautions—using fresh masks and gowns—has become impossible in hospitals in the hardest hit areas, even when treating people with florid cases of COVID-19. One New York doctor told me she keeps her mask in a brown paper bag until it is time to put it on again, though other doctors at her hospital leave theirs lying out on a countertop. Another physician has been taking his mask home and “sterilizing” it in his oven at night.This reuse of equipment is a form of rationing, though it may not usually be considered as such. It began weeks ago, when the surgeon general urged people not to buy face masks. It continued last week when the New York Department of Health implored residents to “only seek health care if you are very sick.” It continues in New York with the cancellation of “elective surgeries,” which now include even cancer treatments that can reasonably be postponed. Many if not most sick people are not getting tested, and not everyone will be treated by the doctor they might expect. Deciding who gets to see the chief of infectious diseases and who is relegated to the retired ophthalmologist will involve rationing via triage.At a small hospital in Sleepy Hollow, New York, James Lindsey works overnight as the sole doctor in the ER, which is standard in all but the biggest medical centers. Lindsey told me that though he hasn’t yet felt unable to manage on his own, he has had to intubate more patients than usual. That involves inserting a tube into a person’s trachea, in order to force air into their lungs (via a ventilator). When a person can’t breathe on their own, intubation is the default action taken by all doctors and paramedics in the U.S., as is attempting to restart the heart with electrical shocks, in between rounds of chest compression that often break ribs. In a typical ER, this process involves a team of people. The question on the minds of Lindsey and others is: What happens when or if there are more patients who need to be kept alive than there is equipment or personnel to help them? [Read: America’s hospitals have never experienced anything like this]Already, ventilators in New York City are in short supply. “Everything is chaotic, and the staff is stretched really thin,” one physician wrote to me on Friday. She has had to pronounce two people dead who’ve been utterly alone, owing to the rule against visitors that hospitals have established for COVID-19 patients. “It’s really eerie and sad to have no family or visitors around to grieve their deaths,” she told me. New York’s major medical centers are poised to face the kind of life-and-death decision-making that industrialized countries typically experience only in times of war and natural disaster. And unlike with a hurricane, when the sudden force of nature makes obvious that not everyone can be saved, the drawn-out advance of the coronavirus will make these decisions more difficult to accept. We have failed to shore up protections for health-care workers. We have set ourselves up to experience the same shortages of vital care that have already happened in Italy. The rationing is already here.“The assumptions in a pandemic scenario are that personal and community good can be expected to fall out of alignment,” Thomas told me in one of his emails.“Difficult decisions will need to be made.” Deciding how to allocate limited resources is a nightmare scenario for any physician, a violation of the oath to do no harm. As Thomas put it, “Doctors should not be put in the position of dispensing of justice.”In an attempt to lift some of the burden from individual providers, Thomas’s hospital and others around the country are convening emergency meetings to develop guidelines for rationing, according to who is least likely to benefit from treatment. The goal is to make the guidelines objective, accurate, and easy to use, as well as to minimize the waste of resources. The instructions could be as strict as age limits for intensive care, or to withhold it from people who have the lowest chance of survival, such as those suffering from heart failure or emphysema. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that Northwestern University’s medical center in Chicago was considering putting every patient with COVID-19 on “do not resuscitate” (DNR) status. This would mean that if their heart stops, no “code blue” is called; instead a time of death is noted.As of Friday afternoon, Thomas’s hospital was up to 110 confirmed cases. “Winter is coming,” as he put it. But Thomas maintains hope that a blanket DNR policy will not be necessary. “Assess, make decisions, reassess, make another decision. Repeat,” is how he described the coronavirus-treatment playbook to me. “We can do this … as long as we have PPE and vents.”[Kerry Kennedy Meltzer: I’m treating too many young people for the coronavirus]Although explicit, widespread rationing by health-care providers is unprecedented in the modern history of the United States, it is constantly happening around the world. “Our doctors face moral dilemmas and impossible choices every day,” said Doctors Without Borders’ Avril Benoit. “Even while COVID-19 is requiring reallocation of resources, we still have women who need emergency C-sections and children with malnutrition. We are converting trauma and burn clinics to care for the disease. You do the best you can with what you have. And many of our locations will not be able to do more than isolate people and provide palliative care.”Patients, too, make rationing decisions. Every time we weigh whether or not to go to the doctor or to take medication, we’re balancing costs and benefits. Many people—an estimated third of U.S. adults—also make decisions about what they want should they become very ill. In the form of advance directives, they give instructions about when medical professionals should extend their lives with so-called extraordinary measures, and when they shouldn’t.The directives can be elaborate or spare, but generally land on a spectrum between prioritizing comfort and prolonging life, should the two become mutually exclusive. The most common designations are “full code” and “DNR,” but directives can also get very specific. The options are not binary, care or none. A person who voluntarily designates as “DNR” won’t be abandoned—he or she would still get IV fluids, oxygen, and medication, especially for pain.[Read: How the coronavirus became an American catastrophe]After determining advance directives, you should share them with family members or friends who might be communicating with medical professionals on your behalf. Have nuanced conversations with people close to you about what you do or don’t want in various dire scenarios. This eases the burden on them.It eases the burden on the medical providers, as well. Too often, Lindsey says, a person is found unconscious by paramedics, is shocked back to life and brought to the hospital, or put on a ventilator, and only hours later a family member shows up with an advance directive that indicates that was not what the patient wanted. “This was a tragic and challenging scenario pre-COVID, particularly if an individual’s directives weren’t followed during that period of resuscitation,” he says. But in the midst of this pandemic, the delay puts “all the providers in the chain of care” at unnecessary risk of exposure. And it takes a ventilator out of use for someone who might have wanted it.As straightforward as it is to establish an advance directive and talk through what kind of care you want with your family, many of us avoid doing precisely that. Who wants to talk about the possibility of getting sick and dying? Thomas does. “I’m still a relatively young person, and my wife and I have that discussion relatively often,” he told me. “It should be had frequently, but especially now.”
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Former Sen. Tom Coburn, known as a political maverick, dies
Known for bluntly speaking his mind, Coburn frequently criticized the growth of the federal deficit.
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NYPD detective becomes first officer to die from coronavirus
An NYPD detective died after contracting coronavirus — the first officer to succumb to the disease, police sources told The Post. The 48-year-old crime fighter, who worked in the 32nd Precinct in Harlem, passed away Saturday morning at North Central Bronx Hospital, the sources said. The detective is the third member of the NYPD to...
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Trump says he won’t comply with key transparency measures in the coronavirus stimulus bill
President Trump at a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on March 26, 2020. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images The administration says it won’t provide documentation for audits into $500 billion in corporate bailout funds. President Donald Trump said on Friday that he will not adhere to a portion of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that would authorize an inspector general to oversee how $500 billion in business loans will be spent. In a statement released early Friday evening, Trump announced that he had signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act, a relief package aimed at mitigating some of the economic fallout caused by efforts to allay the spread of Covid-19. That bill also establishes a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) within the Treasury Department to audit and investigate half a trillion dollars in loans for large businesses. In his signing statement, Trump said that this provision raises “constitutional concerns,” adding that his administration would not comply with such an official’s request for documents. “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause,” part of Article II Section 3 of the Constitution that states a sitting president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This seems to suggest the administration believes it is the president’s duty and not that of an inspector general to ensure the funds are distributed as the law intends. The special inspector general, as authorized within the bill, would be able to request information from government agencies and report on failures to comply with those information requests. In his signing statement, Trump essentially stated that he will not let such reports reach Congress without his approval, which many fear directly undermines the provision’s goal of maintaining transparency in how that fund is handled. The $500 billion loan program was the biggest point of contention between Democratic and Republican lawmakers throughout the relief bill’s negotiation process. Democrats called this a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin broad authority to disburse the funds as he saw fit. The IG provision was intended as an accountability effort to alert Congress if the Trump administration was not complying with auditing measures. It was also meant to help ensure the president and his family did not directly benefit from the emergency funds through their businesses. The addition of this transparency language was what ultimately swayed some Democrat senators to vote for the bill. The bill also establishes a congressional oversight panel to examine the IG’s reports. Trump also said that he would not adhere to a second provision of the bill that would grant some congressional committee consultation for expenditures made by the State Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, and US Agency for International Development (USAID). “These provisions are impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement with respect to the execution of the laws,” Trump’s statement reads. The inspector general was put in place to make sure bailout funds helped the vulnerable The broader coronavirus relief package also guarantees direct cash payments to many adult workers, expands unemployment insurance, and provides $367 billion in loans to small businesses. But it was the inclusion of a $500 billion corporate loan program — which includes a guaranteed $50 billion for the airline industry — that proved a key sticking point in the bill’s negotiation. Earlier this week, Democrats blocked a version of the package that they said did not contain strong enough oversight over that fund. As Vox’s Emily Stewart reported, most Americans also backed some form of “guardrails” on those corporate bailout funds, such as ensuring that companies receiving bailout funds commit to not laying off workers. Last week, more than 3.3 million people filed for unemployment, shattering the previous record of about 700,000 claims in 1982. Without oversight of how the funds would be allocated, “what’s to stop an airline from using its bailout money to give its CEO a bonus instead of paying its workers?” Stewart wrote. “Or to prevent a major hotel chain from laying off workers while engaging in stock buybacks?” In addition to establishing an inspector general, the final bill passed on Friday also prohibits businesses controlled by administration officials, including the president, vice president and members of Congress, as well as their families, from receiving loans from that fund. Earlier last week, Trump declined to commit to exempting his business interests from bailout funds, telling reporters, “Let’s just see what happens.” Now, in his signing statement, Trump has made clear that he will decide what information about how the funds are being used Congress needs. This comes just months after the end of an impeachment inquiry into Trump that was sparked by another attempt by his administration to keep independent reports about its inner workings from reaching Congress. During the lead-up to what became Trump’s impeachment hearing, a whistleblower’s memo about a phone call with Ukrainian leadership should have, according to federal law, been reported to Congress by the director of national intelligence. It was not, but came to light in September nonetheless. Trump’s sharpest critics have already begun to raise the alarm about Trump’s plans to shrug off the new law’s transparency requirements. On Twitter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had earlier denounced the corporate fund, wrote, “This is a frightening amount of public money to have given a corrupt admin w/ 0 accountability.” It is clear that Covid-19 will have devastating effects on the economy. It’s “an economic tsunami,” one economist told Vox’s Ezra Klein, one that will affect businesses of all sizes and their employees. That includes the large companies that will benefit from the corporate fund. But allocating money to industries with little oversight to how it is being spent is not guaranteed to help the everyday workers, customers, and small-business owners expected to be most dramatically affected by the virus’s economic impact — it could, however, help the president and his businesses.
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5 people on what it feels like to have Covid-19
From left: Tina of Buckeye, Arizona; Chuck Armstrong of Brooklyn, and Laura of Philadelphia, have all tested positive for Covid-19 and have varying symptoms. The intensity of the illness can vary wildly depending on the case. Shortness of breath, chest pains, fatigue, aches, coughs, fever — these are all common symptoms that people who have tested positive for Covid-19 are reporting. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed fever, cough, and shortness of breath as the three major indicators of Covid-19, some front-line doctors, including the American Academy of Otolaryngology, suggest that a wider set of symptoms might signal a Covid-19 infection — and that the intensity of the illness can vary wildly depending on the case. Some patients report losing their sense of taste or smell, for instance, and while some report only mild coughs, others say the struggled to breathe. While not necessarily diagnostic for Covid-19, the CDC also designates other experiences — like trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, or bluish lips — as emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention. To understand how people who have received positive Covid-19 diagnoses are experiencing the disease, especially in light of overcrowding hospitals and a testing system that remains inaccessible, I spoke to several Covid-19 patients from across the US. Some had mild symptoms, like coughs and chills; others had to cancel scheduled phone interviews with me because they were feeling too weak to talk. Several reported multiple instances in which they couldn’t breathe. But all had the same message: This disease is serious, and we need to stay home as much as possible to keep it from spreading to more people. These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. “The desperation I felt when I couldn’t breathe was a horrendous feeling” Luis Mancheno, 33, immigration attorney in Brooklyn I stayed at home on a Friday morning two weeks ago because I had a lot of fatigue and body aches. Mid-morning, I started feeling chills and the body aches worsened. I took my temperature and I had a fever of about 101 degrees. For two days, I was unable to do anything. Finally the fever broke and the body aches almost ended. Almost like clockwork, a dry cough started. Having read a lot about Covid-19, I messaged my doctor and let them know I had Covid-19 symptoms. My doctor said that there was not much I could do and that I just needed to stay home because testing was very limited and a positive test wouldn’t make a difference anyway. By that Monday morning [March 16], I woke up not being able to breathe well. I couldn’t think or talk well because I was putting all of my energy toward breathing. There was also a really hard pressure on my chest that would not go away. That night, I went to the ER because my difficulty breathing worsened. The hospital staff immediately took me in and plugged me into an oxygen machine. The ER doctor examined me and gave me the test for Covid-19. She also tested me for the regular flu and other viruses. They all came back negative. I was at the hospital for about four hours, after which the doctor told me I could go home. She let me know that they couldn’t keep me there because they needed the space for patients with more urgent cases. She warned me that I needed to come back to the ER, however, if I had difficulty breathing again. On Wednesday night, right about before going to bed, I felt I could not breathe anymore. This time it was worse; I couldn’t really think clearly. I became extremely dizzy and I had difficulty walking. For the first time since my symptoms started, I became afraid for my life. My husband got me ready, packed me a bag up, and took me to the ER. It took us about 40 minutes, and luckily, by the time I got there, my breathing improved. I saw a doctor at the ER who confirmed that it was likely I had Covid-19 and who told me to go home because there was nothing else they could do for me. On Saturday morning, as I started feeling a bit better finally, I received a call from the hospital to let me know I had tested positive for Covid-19. It has been two weeks since my first symptoms appeared. I am finally feeling better. The breathing difficulty is almost gone, and my body is regaining strength. Covid-19 luckily only caused me temporary injuries, but it gave me a really big scare. The desperation I felt when I couldn’t breathe was a horrendous feeling I don’t wish for anybody. “As a health care provider, I felt this weird moral failure of ‘what did I do wrong to get infected’” Courtesy of Laura Laura, 26, nurse in Philadelphia I first noticed a headache that seemed to originate behind my eyes and through my temples [on March 16]. I had a dry cough and difficulty breathing that I only noticed when I exerted myself, like when I was running up the stairs, when I was playing with my dog, or when I tried to work out from home. I felt achy and had the chills. This only really happened in the morning the first day, and by the late afternoon I felt fine. When I woke up with the symptoms the next day, I decided to get tested. Because I am a nurse and I was set to work in an outpatient clinic one week later, I needed to know if I should tell my boss to take me off the schedule. I ended up texting my friend who is an emergency medicine doctor. As a health care provider, I felt this weird moral failure of “how did this happen to me?” and “what did I do wrong to get infected?” My emergency medicine friend reassured me that it wasn’t my fault and that what is important now is that I take the proper precautions. She let me know of a drive-through Covid testing site at Penn Medicine that opened at 10 am that day. I quickly got in the car with my fiancé and he took me there. I needed a referral from my primary care provider, but since I do not currently have one, I was able to get a referral from the doctor on site and make an appointment on my phone to get a place in line. The whole process took around 45 minutes. I was told I would get a call in three to five days if I was positive and would get a text in up to 10 days if I was negative. My symptoms got progressively worse. I ended up losing my taste and smell with no noticeable congestion, along with additional gastrointestinal symptoms and overall fatigue. These symptoms would come in waves, and there were some afternoons where I would feel completely fine and others where I felt completely exhausted and immobilized. On day five, I got a call saying I tested positive. I have been symptomatic for over a week now. Not much has changed. I am getting virtual check-ins twice a day to monitor my symptoms via Penn Medicine’s automatic texting program. I feel guilty not being able to help, as so many of my fellow nurses are on the front lines, struggling to take care of our loved ones amid a PPE [personal protective equipment] shortage, but I am happy I was able to get tested early to prevent the spread. The most frustrating symptom has been not being able to smell or taste anything on top of having GI symptoms. It makes it really hard to eat. Other than that, I feel lucky for all the people who are doing all they can to keep people like me safe and healthy. “They did X-rays and determined my lungs were filling up with fluid” Mike, 57, IT worker in Seattle I honestly thought I had the flu, a really bad flu. I was feeling very weak and achy. I felt short of breath. I had a fever that came and went. [On Monday, March 16,] I went to urgent care wearing a mask and hunkered in the corner of the waiting room. I continued to have a difficult time breathing. Tests for the flu were administered, and while they were awaiting the results, the doctor decided to do a chest X-ray due to the cough and breathing issues. The flu tests came back negative, so they decided to administer the Covid-19 test. That test is not performed on site so it had to be sent into a lab. Also, the chest X-ray came back showing that I had pneumonia. I received a positive result to the Covid-19 test Thursday afternoon [March 19]. That day was the worst day so far. I went to the ER, but of course the hospital was not equipped to handle patients that were positive for Covid-19. Basically, they were containing me until a bed could be found in another hospital. They did X-rays and determined my lungs were filling up with fluid. You feel like your lungs are going to explode. Fourteen hours of hell later, a bed was found. At 2:30 am on Saturday, I was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital. I was given a big injection of antibiotics, which made me immediately vomit. I was also put on hydroxychloroquine and another antibiotic twice a day. I started feeling better later that day, but still had heavy coughing fits. By the end of the day, the fluid was going down in my lungs. On Sunday the same week, I was able to get the doctor to let me go home to finish recovering because it didn’t look like I needed a ventilator and there were plenty of other patients that could use the room. My oxygen saturation was good. Since then, the coughing fits have been horrible and extremely painful. I was sent home with a rescue inhaler and the meds to finish off. I have gone all day today [Thursday, March 26] without a heavy coughing fit. I have been careful in my movements — climbing stairs and standing up from a chair — to try and not aggravate my lungs. I have heard that there are some out there that feel this is really just like the flu. But it’s not at all. I had the flu pretty bad once that put me down for 10 days. It’s nothing compared to this. “Friends and family leave everything I need on my doorstep” Courtesy of Tina Tina, 52, stay-at-home mom in Buckeye, Arizona I first noticed my symptoms a few days after going to Disneyland. I woke with a sore throat and a little cough. It felt like an annoying tickle. Day two, the fever set in, the cough got worse, the sore throat was worse, and it began to be uncomfortable to take a deep breath. By the time I got back home to Arizona at the end of day two, I thought for sure I had gotten a bad cold or maybe the flu. It gradually got worse every day. I started feeling very weak, having bad headaches. My neck hurt. I was nauseous. I couldn’t take a deep breath. My chest hurt, my ribs were sore, it hurt to breathe. After a few days, I called the nurse line, explained my symptoms, and was told to go to the emergency room right away. She called ahead to tell them I was coming. When I got there, they guided me through an entirely different entrance. They all wore head masks and robes and wore double gloves. I didn’t see one other patient the entire time I was there. I was put in a room and kept isolated. They ran tests and X-rays, and I was told I had the virus and had to be on home quarantine for at least 14 days with no contact with anyone. Since then, my cough has gotten worse; I haven’t been able to control my fever. My body feels weak and tired all the time and is just sore. I still have the sore throat, and it hurts to swallow. I haven’t left my house. Friends and family leave everything I need on my doorstep. I haven’t gone back to the hospital just for the fact that they have no cure and they can’t do much more there except put me on a breathing machine, which I don’t need yet. I pray each day that it will get better and the breathing doesn’t get worse and the fever will finally stay down. It’s a very scary position to be in. There’s no one to ask questions to because nobody knows any answers. Just hoping tomorrow will be better. “Just felt exhausted the whole week” Courtesy of Jessica Mozes Chuck Armstrong, 38, tech worker and theater producer in Brooklyn I woke up on Tuesday, [March 10,] feeling sick. It was very minor — usually once a year I get a cold or a very minor flu. It’s usually just a 36-hour thing. I had some aches and chills but nothing that I thought would hamper my day-to-day at all. Then Thursday, I start to get worse. I have a noticeable fever, I’m very tired, so I locked myself down. That was when I watched Tombstone. Val Kilmer deserved the Oscar. The next day I feel worse. My fever gets up to 102 but I never had a bad cough. My fever always got worse at night and better in the morning, from 99 to a high of 102. I’d been taking Advil PM to kill the fever, and that didn’t help. I still had the fever for another couple of days. When I woke up on Sunday the 15th, the fever was gone. The cough and the aches, chills, fatigue persisted for the next week. I talked to my doctor the following day, but his office had set up a teleconferencing situation. He said, “You should try to get tested.” I live in Brooklyn, so I went to my nearest urgent care on Tuesday, and the urgent care did not have any tests. I went to CityMD, a walk-in clinic, and they were hesitant to give me one because I’m in my 30s and don’t have prior health conditions. I told them how long it had been going, and they gave me the test. They said treat it like you have coronavirus, stay home, socially isolate as much as possible. I no longer had a fever, but I did have the persistent cough and really bad fatigue. I was sleeping 10, 11 hours a night, no problem. No loss of appetite, no nausea or anything, just felt exhausted the whole week. I found out on Friday [the 20th] that the test came back positive.
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