Locals on life during the COVID-19 pandemic: ‘wear a mask’

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Life during the COVID-19 pandemic can be difficult and has certainly looked a lot different than normal for some.

News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais spoke with several Tri-Cities residents whose lives have changed completely since the start of the pandemic.

Travis Acree visited a friend in Denver, Colorado for a few days on a camping trip. When he came back to the Tri-Cities, he said he felt it was only right to get a COVID-19 test “just to be sure” and two days later, he tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“I had went to Colorado to go camping and I’d flown there and flown back and even with wearing a mask the entire time, there’s still a risk of infection so, I believe I picked it up somewhere in Colorado while I was camping or on the flight, and then when I got back I noticed that I had a little bit of a fever, little bit of a headache, so naturally, I just went and got tested just to make sure and I quarantined myself for a little bit of time until I got the results,” Acree told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais in a virtual interview.

He said he got tested on July 18, and has been in quarantine ever since.

“I got tested in Carter County. Washington County had ran out of tests that day, I don’t really know, so if you go if you go later in the day to Washington County’s health department they’ll probably turn you away but Carter County usually seems to have enough tests, I don’t know,” Acree said. “The actual test was pretty agonizing. They’ll tell you right away that it’s not going to be pleasant and it definitely is not. They’ll stick a little – pretty big – Q-tip up your nose and wipe it around there and you’re just struggling the entire time.”

Officials at the health department told Acree that the results would take five to seven days to return. He had them back within two days.

“I’m mainly doing a lot of watching Netflix, and playing chess online, doing some streaming, nothing too fun. I am trying to keep healthy and do some at-home exercises while I’m here just so I can stay fit,” he said. “I’m just trying to maybe keep myself occupied, keep busy, play some chess, stream some, watch YouTube, and talk to friends on the phone like just trying to stay sane, keep myself occupied, not do anything that will put anybody else at risk.”

Acree said he and his roommate have had to adapt to living apart, together.

“He tested negative, so we’ve been staying away from each other. He lives with me but he has a place two doors down that he can go to, he has a girlfriend in the same building, so we’re pretty good at staying away from each other,” he said.

“I definitely think it’s important to wear a mask and if you’re going on trips and when you get back and if you’re feeling symptoms or even if you’re not feeling symptoms probably just go get tested anyways, just to make sure that you’re not spreading it to other people,” he explained. “Since I am not having any symptoms I am probably going to go to the Red Cross and give some plasma, they’re doing that right now with coronavirus patients to hopefully come up with a vaccine for the coronavirus, so I’m hoping to help out with that but I definitely recommend just keeping safe, keeping a distance from people, probably not getting on a plane, that was a big one for me, that’s probably where it all went wrong, but if you have to go places, definitely keep safe, wear a mask.”

Tracy Lynn said her uncle, a native of Virginia, recently died of the novel coronavirus.

“It has definitely been hard losing my uncle,” Lynn wrote to News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “He was 59 years old and I wish more people would actually do their part by wearing a mask, social distancing and staying home if they really don’t have to be out as I have seen people taking the coronavirus as a joke when in truly it’s not a joke and it’s real. I also had a friend of mine who battled with coronavirus and he also tells others that it’s not a joke before he got sick he was one of those who never wore a mask out in public and now he wears his mask and takes the virus very serious.”

Dedra Felts lost her brother on May 30 and was unable to say goodbye to him before he died because of COVID-19 visitor restrictions.

Her brother, Marvin Silvers, died during the COVID-19 pandemic and that meant he died alone, hooked to a ventilator without his family.

“Because of COVID-19, we didn’t get to see him at all,” Felts told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “He might as well have died of the COVID because he was in the hospital from March 7th until May 30th and he had no visitors because of the COVID, we weren’t allowed in to see him, and you know, that’s why I try to tell people, I know there’s a lot of people against mask-wearing, they say it don’t help, if I can prevent any family from going through the loss that we have and there’s no closure.”

Felts said her brother was a pastor, who loved to work with children. One day in March, he had an accident on his 4-wheeler resulting in a punctured lung. He went to the hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where he was eventually transferred to a specialty facility in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he died.

She said she was permitted to see him for ten minutes before he was placed in the ambulance to be transferred the specialty facility, but at the time she did not think he was going to die, so it wasn’t a goodbye.

“It was just a miracle of God they let us in for 10 minutes,” Felts explained. “We held his hand, we kissed him and he actually, he was telling us not to cry, he was doing this like he was wiping tears, I told my sister, I said ‘when we get in, we cannot be emotional, we’ve got to be strong,’ even though we just wanted to just break down.”

Felts said COVID-19 took her brother, even if it wasn’t his cause of death.

“Even if you don’t get COVID, there’s other ways it’s affecting people, you know? It effects people not being able to be with their families,” she said.

She said she sympothises with people in nursing homes unable to see their loved ones.

“I know how bad it is because we wanted to see him so bad, you know? I mean, and them for them to call you at 6:19 in the morning and say ‘he’s not doing good,’ and they were taking him to ICU and they said ‘the nurse will call you,'” she said.

The doctors were administering CPR to Silvers before he died, nurses constantly calling Felts with updates as she and her family were unable to be there in-person.

“I told that lady, I said ‘please, please, go in.’ I said, ‘don’t let him quit,’ I said, ‘Just let them keep working on him’ and I said, ‘please, whisper in his ear and tell him we love him and to hang on.’ And then finally they called us back and I knew from the way they sounded they said he didn’t make it.”

She said as a former nurse, she urges everyone to wear a mask to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus so nobody else has to go through the pain she and her family endured.

“Even if it does not affect you, in as you get COVID, think about how it’s just effecting families like, you know everybody else might be able to go on with their life and I think maybe some medical personnel think ‘well, I have to work in it, so when I’m out, I’m not going to worry about it,’ I’m telling you, you need to wear a mask. I don’t know if it’s political, I don’t know if it was planned, it don’t matter to me, all I know, is I don’t want any of my family to get it and I don’t want anybody else’s family to get it or be effected like this. It has caused a loss in our family that we will never, in a sense, heal from. I know what they say, as long as I live, I will never forget,” she said.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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