How a Writer’s Family in WNY Has Been Affected by COVID-19

‘The virus spread like wildfire … my husband and I, my son and daughter, four other family members from various households — we all tested positive’

By Catherine Miller

Baby Jack
Baby Jack

My family found out the hard way that the spread of the coronavirus happens quickly, easily and the virus is often spread before symptoms occur.

When my father died Tuesday before Halloween (not related to COVID-19), a few close friends stopped by to offer condolences. Three nights later I joined my siblings and cousins in an informal get-together in memory of my father.

While I was feeling fine that Friday night I awoke Halloween morning feeling sluggish, congested and overall just “under the weather.” My daughter had had a cold two weeks earlier and I attributed my illness to the same.

I was unaware that I had been exposed to the coronavirus the prior Tuesday from a friend who was asymptomatic. As a result, I then exposed others to the virus that Friday evening despite being asymptomatic myself. That Halloween evening my son and his wife stopped by briefly to show off my two grandkids in their costumes. I kept a distance as to not share “my cold.” By then it was too late.

The following Wednesday, eight days after initial exposure, I lost my sense of smell — a tell-tale sign of COVID-19. On the same day, the friend who had visited the prior Tuesday told me that she had tested positive for the virus.

My husband left work and he and I immediately went to get tested, as my husband had just begun to feel ill. My daughter, a recent college graduate living at home, had no symptoms and immediately packed a bag and moved to a friend’s house to avoid further exposure.

Regardless, the virus spread like wildfire. As the next two weeks unfolded, my husband and I both received positive results, my son and daughter contracted the virus, and four other family members from various households from our Friday night event also tested positive.

From that point many of their families were exposed, and more have shown signs and symptoms of the virus and are awaiting test results. In turn, each of the exposed persons working outside the home exposed their co-workers at their places of employment. In my husband’s instance each person working with him from the time of his exposure to the onset of his symptoms was sent home to quarantine. Deep cleaning was conducted at each of the offices he worked at, and two of the offices had to close for several days due to staffing issues. We had set off a domino effect.

As I work from home my exposure was limited to the family. My symptoms consisted of two days of feeling like I was hit by a truck and two weeks of fatigue. I never had a fever or experienced the standard cough that has been noted with the virus. The lack of smell was the oddest symptom, and my appetite was nearly non-existent. Overall, my symptoms were minimal. My sister-in-law was not so fortunate. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, experienced extreme nausea and suffered with her symptoms for over two weeks.

Since the onset of COVID-19 in our family, we have learned that vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc can aid in boosting the immune system and minimizing symptoms. Testing at the first sign of symptoms helps to identify positive cases, but from what our family experienced if you know you were exposed to the virus assume you are positive until you get a negative test result, and quarantine once exposed.

People in the same household with an exposed person should wear a mask and avoid common areas with that person until test results are obtained. It is difficult to look back at the course of events and say what I would do differently to avoid the spreading of the virus. I was exposed and exposed others before symptoms surfaced. Once my exposure was known I immediately informed all those I was in contact with of their possible exposure. As of my first symptom though I should have avoided all contact with those outside of my home.

If you are experiencing symptoms or think you were exposed avoid others and get tested immediately.

The WellNow Urgent Care Clinics and MAC Centers in our area offer COVID-19 testing. The WellNow facility I visited was quick and efficient, and they called me to relay my positive test result.

A member of the county health department contacted each family member after we received a positive test result and asked a myriad of questions regarding our contact with others and if we had notified all others of our test result.

One suggestion from the health department was to download its “COVID Alert NY” app, which can be used on your phone. It is a mobile contact tracing app that is anonymous, voluntary, and can alert you to potential exposure risks of people you have been in the immediate area of, whether at a restaurant, store, or work environment. The system will notify you if you have been in the vicinity of someone that has tested positive, allowing you to take immediate action.

In the words of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Each man’s life touches so many others.” This is true in the good times as well as the bad.

Despite all best efforts to control the coronavirus, exposure will happen. We can limit it and try to avoid it but, this season, it is part of our lives.

Wear your mask, keep a distance between you and others, and avoid crowds. And realize that just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you are. Assume you can pass on the virus and plan events accordingly. And when you do spend time with others — cherish each moment.

Photo: Baby Jack, Catherine Miller’s grandson, not a happy camper after contracting COVID-19 . Many in Miller’s family tested positive after