My experience contracting COVID-19

I sat at home with my mom from March until May. By the time summer rolled around, I was kind of “done” with the whole quarantine thing. I spent the spring months sitting at home watching so many of my friends continue to hang out and post on social media like there wasn’t a global pandemic going on. I can’t say I never passed judgment, but I think a lot of this was due in part to the fact that many of my friends don’t live with their families, but with their friends.

I’ll admit- if I was with all my friends, I probably would have had a very different experience with the spring lock down. Imagine living with your friends and also being down the street from another entire house of friends- constant party! At least, that’s how I perceived things sitting at home with my mom and my pets for three months while watching people “live their best lives.”

My mom and I took the lockdown very seriously. We didn’t leave the house to do anything besides go to the grocery store or walk my dog. Amazon became our closest friend. My friend Kiya came over a few times, and we sat in my driveway six feet apart to “hang out.” It was weird, to say the least. I think that my dog and my cat are the ones who benefited the most from the lockdown. They SO enjoyed the constant attention from my mom and I since we barely left the house.

Back in December of 2019, I signed a lease for a beach house with a bunch of friends for the summer of 2020. At the time, I was so excited. This is something that I have done for the past few summers. It allows me to live closer to work, closer to the beach and closer to all my friends during the most fun season in my small beach town. But, in March when the world changed, this whole beach house situation was one of the first things I thought about. By this time, my friends and I had probably already paid for half of the full price of the summer rental.

Honestly, I did not want to move into the beach house once the pandemic, lockdown, quarantining and infection began. But after months of trying to find someone to fill my spot in the house and trying to get the realtors to terminate the lease without penalty, I ended up moving into the beach house. All of my friends and I had no way out. If we didn’t move into this house, we were going to be out thousands of dollars. So we all decided that we needed to move in- even though we were all coming from different parts of the East Coast.

My room mates and I when we first moved into the beach house at the end of May/beginning of June. Photos by Lauren Kelley.

I knew that my soon-to-be roommates and I lived life differently than each other once the pandemic started. One of my roommates was a nurse, which kind of scared me, COVID-19 wise. One of my roommates was coming to move in from Texas. Three others were coming from Florida. And the rest were coming from upstate Delaware or Pennsylvania. All of these people moving into one small house directly went against every guideline and mandate put in place by public officials. But, because of the financial loss we would have burdened, we all decided we had to move in.

My other roommates didn’t seem to be as bothered as I was by this entire situation. As someone who stayed home for nearly three months and only really saw my mom, it felt weird to submerge myself back into a social life. So many of my roommates lived with friends instead of family prior to the pandemic, so they got to experience their lockdown with their closest pals instead of their mom or siblings. I think that people who locked down and quarantined with friends had a very different experience than that of people who locked down and quarantined with family. As I stated earlier, lock down with friends seems like a constant party.

Upon moving in, I was now in that constant party. Even though we really shouldn’t have all come together like we did in the middle of the pandemic, we didn’t feel like we had a choice. Hundreds of other people were in the same exact position as we were, as my small beach town highly relies on income from summer rentals. Rumors of a likely coronavirus outbreak quickly swirled when people found out that so many would be gathering and moving into beach houses.

Bars and restaurants closed at 8 p.m. in May and June, so everyone was home by 8 or 9. Our town was house-parties galore. What else was there to do? Everyone felt stuck. It was a very weird time. It wasn’t until the end of June that someone finally tested positive for coronavirus.

I remember my mom texting me the news that cases were rising in my town. I was definitely freaked out to say the least, but I had to go about my day as normal as possible. It’s important to note that masks were very prominent any time anyone went to an establishment or out in public. However, wearing a mask at a house party just didn’t happen. I admit, my friends and I were not very smart. But, in our defense, we just felt like we needed to move on with as much normalcy as possible.

Two of my roommates left the beach house for a few weeks and went back home or to a family member’s house. The rest of us stayed at the house for the most part. One of my friends in the house started to feel sick one day, but she attributed it to partying too much so we all brushed it off. Two days later, two roommates tested positive for the coronavirus. During this time, it was very easy to get tested locally, and it was free most of the time. Because of this, no one had an excuse not to get tested. Once I knew I came in contact with “positive people,” I decided to go back home. I didn’t feel comfortable at the beach house anymore, and my mom’s house is big enough that it is easy for me to stay away from her.

Even though I didn’t have any symptoms, I stayed in my bedroom, out of my mom’s way, and scheduled a coronavirus test. One of the most popular local bars, The Starboard, was converted into a testing site. This was another reason that no one had an excuse not to get tested- everyone knows and loves the Starboard, and it’s right down the street from so many people!

A sign that still remains posted at The Starboard. Photo by Lauren Kelley.

Getting tested was quick and easy. Everyone was wearing masks, and some were even wearing gloves. I was handed a plastic biohazard bag with a test tube and a q tip inside. I was directed to cough five times and swab my entire mouth for 30 seconds. After I did that, I put the q tip in the test tube, sealed it up and threw it back in the biohazard bag. The volunteers sent me home with an informative packet on “what to do next” and tossed my biohazard bag into a larger bag with all of the other tests.

I received my results within four days, and I tested positive for COVID-19. This shocked me because, at the time, I was asymptomatic. It was mind blowing to know that I had THE coronavirus- the virus that changed the entire world. The first thing I did was tell anyone I had been in contact with, because I felt it was the right thing to do. That night, I binge watched Netflix, drank a bunch of water and housed down my favorite snacks. I was ready for a two-week vacation.

I woke up the following day feeling like I had been hit by a bus. Seriously- my entire body hurt so badly. Getting up to brush my teeth and go to the bathroom, before returning right back to bed, took so much energy out of me. I started to understand all of the symptoms about extreme fatigue I had heard about. I also had a pretty sore throat, cough and fever. If I didn’t get tested and diagnosed with COVID-19, I probably would have thought I just had a bad cold or the flu.

During my 14-day quarantine, I just laid in bed. I was so tired all of the time and could barely find the energy to move. Looking back, I so wish that I kept a diary or journal of my experience. That would be so interesting to look back on!

As the days progressed, I started to feel better. I even started to feel better before my 14 days were up, which was hard, because I felt ready to return to normal life even though I wasn’t allowed to yet. Inevitably, a bunch of my friends and all of my roommates ended up getting the coronavirus, too. I only know one person in my circle who never got the virus, despite spending time with me at my beach house. It’s also interesting to note that even though I quarantined at home, my mom and my brother were also in the house the entire time and never got the virus.

The fact that I felt like I was hit hard by the virus was hard to comprehend. I realized that if it was this bad for me, a young and healthy person, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for the immunocompromised or older people who also tested positive.