Over the weekend, Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh came out publicly on Facebook that he and his wife may have been infected with the coronavirus and have been self-quarantining.
Walsh and his wife were told through a telemedicine appointment that their symptoms were consistent with COVID-19 and to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Though they were not confirmed cases, their healthcare provider told them that testing wasn’t necessary right now because the clinic’s testing focus is on those people at the highest risk of developing significant complications of the disease.
The most likely candidate to be tested would be those demonstrating signs of the disease, over the age of 60, have hypertension, diabetes, heart conditions such as heart failure or a previous heart attack, end renal disease, chronic liver conditions, COPD or emphysema, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cancer, transplant recipients, HIV, or individuals on chemotherapy or on immunosuppressive medications.
The Walsh’s healthcare provider also stated individuals tested would be over 60, have hypertension, diabetes, heart conditions such as heart failure or a previous heart attack, end renal disease, chronic liver conditions, COPD or emphysema, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cancer, transplant recipients, HIV, or be individuals who were on chemotherapy or on immunosuppressive medications.
Mille Lacs Health System reiterated to the public that if people think they may have symptoms of COVID-19, they should call the MLHS COVID-19 Nurse Hotline instead of going to the facility.
The nurse hotline number is (320) 532-2989. A nurse can screen the individual and then will direct them to the next steps.
Not everybody will be tested because there are criteria for testing. “Do not come in; call first unless it is an emergency situation,” a nursing hotline representative stressed.
Mille Lacs County Administrator Pat Oman said that no one in the county attorney’s office has indicated that they are suffering with symptoms of COVID-19; however, the employees in that department have chosen to work remotely as the courthouse doors are closed to the public.
“The courthouse is being cleaned on a daily basis,” Oman added. “Everything touched by a human hand is being cleaned throughout the day. Employees are having their temperature taken when they come in, and if there is an elevated temperature, they are sent home.
Oman said that Mille Lacs County has about 50 people working from home now and is attempting to be “very accommodating” to its employees. “If someone doesn’t feel good, they go home and stay home for 14 days,” he added.
Walsh shared a social media timetable of his symptoms. He began it by stating: “As I write this, I can still feel the lingering burning effect at the top of my lungs. It is Saturday, March 21, and my wife Brooke and I have had COVID-19 for at least a week now. I am 38 and Brooke is 35." Here are Walsh's follow-up posts:
March 8-13: Brooke and I have matching very minor colds that mimicked seasonal allergies. We had minor drainage in the back of our throats, very slight throat irritation. There was almost no coughing. We had intermittent chills, but no fever. It felt like we were fighting off something minor.
March 14-15: Brooke gets a low-grade fever below 100 and feels flu-ish. We quarantined for the entire weekend. Brooke rests.
March 16: Brooke feels better and believes she is over it. I feel fine and go to work. Near the end of the day, I start getting chills again. I come home and have a fever under 100. I feel like I just want to lay in bed and do nothing. That’s what I did. I start to have some mild nausea. We start to think this may really be COVID-19. I did a telemedicine appointment through OnCare to seek a test. We were informed that they were no longer testing young, healthy people, but that we should assume we have COVID-19 and self-isolate for 14 days.
March 17: The low-grade fever continued for both of us. I did not feel well but did some work from home. We are suspicious of whether we really have COVID-19 due to the low-grade fever, lack of coughing, and minor symptoms, but we don’t feel well. The mild nausea continues.
March 18: Overnight, we start to feel chest tightness. I felt some pangs of pain in my upper lungs. The low-grade fever continues. Brooke’s is more consistent. My fever peaked at 100. Brooke’s was always below that. I worked from home a good part of the day. As the day goes on, we continue to feel some greater chest tightness. The real problem that starts on Tuesday is the body aches. They are real, and all over. We do not want to move around or do anything. So we don’t.
March 19: This is the day that I become convinced that I have COVID-19. It feels like there are hands gripping my lungs, or a medium-sized dog is sitting on my chest. Brooke tells me that this is what it’s like breathing while super pregnant and laying on your back. We can walk up and down the stairs, but we feel out of breath when we have to do so. The body aches continued.
March 20: We slept very poorly overnight. We had a lot of lung discomfort. I had some moderate nausea during the night. The body aches have subsided somewhat by this point. I felt like my lungs were on fire or perhaps just partially filled with glass. We start taking high-dose Vitamin C after reading a current trial occurring in China (we are not medical professionals and not telling you what to do). It seems to help take away the burning sensation.
March 21: Much better night of sleeping. We continue to make small improvements. I feel like I can take a deep breath again and start doing some normal activities. Brooke continues to have a burning sensation in her lungs that dissipates throughout the day.
March 22: We will be quarantined until AT LEAST seven days after all symptoms stop. That hasn’t happened yet. The kids were almost entirely unaffected. Our nine-year-old has had a cough. Our five-year-old had some sore throat and some headaches. Our 18-month-old was hot at times and had some diarrhea. Our 11-year-old had no symptoms. None of them ever had a fever or appeared outwardly sick. This illness is almost as much of a psychological challenge as it is a physical challenge. As your symptoms get better and then worse, we know the only treatments are respiratory support. There is currently no medication and no cure. However, if you get it, try to stay positive and remember 80% of people don’t require hospitalization. Some of those people, like us, have symptoms that are more than a cold, but less than hospitalization.
The specific instructions provided by Walsh’s healthcare provider stated that the couple should call if they find increasing shortness of breath, wheezing or a sustained fever above 101.5.
The healthcare provider also stated that if Walsh or his wife were significantly short of breath or experience chest pain to call 911 or report to the nearest emergency department.
T.A. LeBrun is the editor of the Mille Lacs Messenger and covers county government for the Union-Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.