When Neil Zimmerman and his 8-year-old son felt ill for a couple of days and then discovered they had been in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, they got tested, too. The results came in three days later: positive.
“I kinda hoped I was positive because I knew I was getting better and by testing positive it shows that I pretty much defeated the virus,” he said. “I kind of have mixed feelings because there’s always that chance your symptoms can resurface until you completely beat it out.”
Many medical facilities have reported patients doing well in their homes only to take a turn and show more severe symptoms after it had appeared patients were recovering.
Zimmerman, a 30-year-old Morrison County resident, said his initial symptoms were similar to a regular flu-like illness.
“I had a low grade fever. The highest mine got was like 100.3 and the highest my boy’s got was 100.4, very low grade. Normally it would be lower during the day and it would go up a little bit at night,” he said.
With the fever, Zimmerman also noted having a slight headache, muscle aches and after a few days of symptoms, he lost his sense of smell. In the early days of their symptoms, Zimmerman said he and his son were very fatigued and slept a lot. His son also mentioned having a headache, but was impacted by symptoms less than himself.
The symptoms went on for a couple of days, he said, and by the time they were tested, the pair already started to feel better. Zimmerman opted for the drive-thru testing clinic in St. Cloud and the testing process, he said, was relatively easy.
“I just called them. I told them our symptoms and the big thing is that I was in contact with someone who also tested positive,” he said.
When he and his son arrived, they were given a ticket number and reported to the appropriate drive-thru line where they met a medical provider and “they did a throat swab and then sent you on your way,” he said.
The person who tested positive that Zimmerman and his son had contact with was also tested in St. Cloud and is recovering well, he said.
That person is unsure of where they picked it up, Zimmerman said. Then added that people continue to grocery shop, go to gas stations and live their lives, so it could be from anywhere.
“We weren’t fearful, but we were being cautious. We were practicing all the social distancing guidelines, limiting public shopping and all that, of course. But I still had to go to work, so we were doing what was suggested, we were staying at home with very limited public exposure,” he said.
A few days after being tested, they received the positive result and were advised to quarantine for 10 days while doing their best to separate from family members. Zimmerman got the results one day after the birth of his fifth child.
“Of course the main concern was for my kids, my wife and baby,” he said.
The couple had their fourth home birth, Monday, Zimmerman said, and he has taken all precautions to keep his wife and newborn from getting ill. He was glad to have a home birth during a time when hospitals are ravaged with the virus, although they planned too regardless, and mentioned that the midwife took all necessary precautions to prevent any COVID-19 infection during the delivery.
Zimmerman said he did notice a few days after he was feeling ill, that his other children experienced similar, but more mild, symptoms to him around the time he was ill.
“I didn’t test them, but I’m assuming they went through it, too,” Zimmerman said.
His choice not to test fell on his knowledge of supply shortages and wanting to preserve tests for others, he said. Also he observed his children’s mild symptoms and was confident they would recover without needing to use valuable resources.
“I don’t want someone to read our article and think, ‘Oh it’s not bad, it’s the common cold’ and then they contract it and get hit a lot harder,” Zimmerman said. “We are also following all CDC guidelines to the best of our ability.”
His family has been taking precautions to wash their hands, cover their faces and distance themselves until they know they are recovered, Zimmerman said. His wife and newborn have been doing well, he said and working to keep their immune systems strong.
“If she’s doing well then the baby will be fine because the mother’s milk provides antibodies for the baby’s protection,” Zimmerman said.
About a week after his initial symptoms, and two days after receiving the positive test results, Zimmerman said he felt good and just had a slight cough.
“Nothing that really concerns me. I have been fever free for quite a while too,” he said.
After experiencing symptoms himself, Zimmerman thinks that many people have probably had the virus, aligning with suggestions from researchers that people can be asymptomatic or experience such mild symptoms they aren’t aware they’re ill. Most cases of the virus are mild, so Zimmerman thinks that people could experience those mild symptoms and without an indication they’ve come in contact with someone who had the virus, they might not see the need to be tested.
“Each person is going to be affected by the virus differently so people shouldn’t expect to only have the symptoms I had. I’m not saying it can’t be bad if you have underlying conditions and stuff like that,” he said.
Although he hopes his family has built up antibodies against the virus, Zimmerman said that they will still continue to follow cautionary guidelines from the state and focus on staying healthy. However, he does not want his family to live in fear.
“It needs to be respected, but it’s best if it’s not feared because fear basically affects the way you live,” he said. “You still live cautiously, but me and my family don’t want to live in fear.”