March 9, 2020

What it's like to have the coronavirus, according to a patient from the Diamond Princess

Daily Briefing

    Carl Goldman contracted the new coronavirus while on a cruise with his wife. In an interview with Vox's Sean Rameswaram, Goldman, speaking from a quarantine facility at Nebraska Medicine, details what happened when people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship started testing positive for the virus—and what having COVID-19 has felt like for him.

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    'The captain announced that we were not going to be able to leave'

    Goldman told Rameswaram he had purchased the cruise on the Diamond Princess as a gift for his wife, and they boarded the ship on Jan. 20 in Japan. However, Goldman said that on the final day of the cruise, the captain announced that a passenger who left the ship four days earlier in Hong Kong had tested positive for COVID-19, which is the name of the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    Goldman said the ship returned to Yokohama Harbor in Japan, where officials boarded the ship and took all of the passengers' temperatures. "That was about an 18-hour process," Goldman said.

    The next day, "the captain announced that we were not going to be able to leave the ship," Goldman said, as the Japanese Ministry of Health placed the ship under a two-week quarantine.

    According to Goldman, when the ship initially docked at Yokohama, all of the passengers "kind of resigned ourselves and said, okay, it's one day," but they later found out that 10 people on the ship tested positive for COVID-19, which prompted the quarantine.

    "[W]e were now quarantined in our cabins for 14 days," Goldman said, adding that while he was on the ship, "the captain [came] on … the speaker every day and announc[ed] more and more had the virus."

    Eventually, Goldman and his wife were among the 328 Americans from the ship who were able to board two cargo planes that took them to either Travis Air Force Base in California or Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, which were serving as quarantine bases for evacuees who had potentially been exposed to the virus.

    A positive test

    On the flight to Travis Air Force Base, Goldman developed a 103-degree fever and tested positive for COVID-19. Officials moved Goldman to a quarantined area within the plane and, after most passengers disembarked at Travis Air Force Base, Goldman continued on with five other passengers to Omaha, Nebraska.

    Once there, Goldman said, "I was taken off the plane, put in an ambulance," and taken "to a biocontainment area at [Nebraska Medicine]." Goldman said providers then moved him to "a room that was sealed off," where he remained for 12 days.

    Providers told Goldman there were no antibiotics they could give him to treat COVID-19. "I was given a little bit of ibuprofen to make sure the fever stayed down. And I was given a lot of Gatorade," he said.

    Goldman said that, after his 12th day in the sealed-off room, he was healthy enough to be released into an area with a small group of other patients. He and 13 others in the area still are testing positive for the virus.

    What it's like to have COVID-19

    Goldman said the "weird" thing about having COVID-19 is that "a lot of the symptoms are like a mild cold …, without any of the drippy nose, no sneezing, no body aches." He said, "It was simply a very, very high fever that spiked for about 10 hours, disappeared, came back as a low-grade fever about two days later."

    Aside from the fever and related dehydration, Goldman said, "I do not have any symptoms of the virus, even though I am still testing positive. So those germs are still in there, and I'm still contagious."

    Goldman said he won't be released from Nebraska Medicine until he tests negative for the virus for three days and "authorities are sure [he's] not going to be contagious."

    However, Goldman said he's remaining optimistic, "making lemonade out of lemons, and realizing a lot of this is out of [his] control."

    Goldman said he's been writing a daily blog for the news website of Hometown Station, Goldman's local radio station, trying "to show the humorous side to this as well as the serious side." He said, "I believe if you keep a positive attitude, that in itself is a giant healing process" (Katz, Vox, 3/5).

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