Sara Caroline Bridgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning, making her one of the first UM students to report contracting the virus.
This week, her symptoms have caused her and her family to put their lives on hold as they try to alleviate her symptoms and keep the virus away from everyone else in the community. Her entire family has been quarantined for 14 days, meaning they cannot go in public at all — friends have dropped essentials like groceries off at their home in Oxford.
“I wake up almost every morning just, like, so hot and sweaty just because of my fever,” Bridgers, a junior studying integrated marketing communications, said, adding that she could not sleep well for several days.
Wednesday was the worst day so far, she said, and she has body aches and is very fatigued, saying she gets winded just from walking up the stairs.
“Usually the body aches are much worse in the morning because the medicine’s worn off,” she said. “My back has been the worst pain to me. It’s like radiating pain from like the top of my neck to the bottom of my back, so waking up in the morning is usually not fun because until I take my medicine, I usually don’t feel very well.”
Bridgers said that her symptoms were not typical to other COVID-19 cases. She began losing her sense of taste and smell on Saturday, but she thought it may have been congestion from allergies.
“I can taste when things are salty or sweet, like that kind of thing, but there’s no like flavor to anything,” she said. “I was like, if you just gave me something random to eat and I closed my eyes I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you what it was.”
She saw an article on Snapchat on Saturday that said a loss of taste and smell may be a symptom, but after asking her dad — who is a doctor — about it, he said that he had not heard about that.
On Saturday night, she noticed that she felt her body temperature increasing, but she thought she was just worrying herself about the risk of getting the virus. On Sunday morning, she took her temperature for the first time, reading 100.4 degrees.
Bridgers said she began having body aches shortly after, but she thought it may have just been soreness from exercise.
Sunday night, she read an Instagram post that described the symptoms of COVID-19, which matched her symptoms almost exactly.
“I was just so sure I didn’t have it,” she said. “I was just like, it’s just allergies. I’m just sore from working out. It’s nothing.”
Monday morning, her fever persisted, and she decided to get tested.
“Because my dad is a doctor here, he had to pretty much get me tested, just to be safe, but still, none of us thought that I had it even when I got tested,” she said.
She went to a local doctor’s office, where someone in heavy protective gear came out to test her by putting a cotton swab up her nose.
“They all walked out in these, like hazmat suits, with the goggles and the masks, and I was just like, ‘Oh boy, this is pretty serious,’” she said.
The sample was first tested for strep throat and the flu, but it was almost not tested for COVID-19 because Bridgers had no respiratory symptoms. When they heard that she flew to Miami for spring break, they decided to test her for coronavirus.
“I’ve gotten some (direct messages) that have been like these horror stories about people not being able to get tested until they can’t breathe on their own. Like, it’s just crazy,” she said. “People (are) waiting like four or five hours to get tested. I’m lucky that I did not have to do that. It was really quick and easy.”
The sample came back positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, much faster than many others around the country get their results.
Bridgers said that over the break, she and her friends started to recognize that this was more serious than they first thought, but many students still weren’t taking it seriously after the break.
“I just think it’s kind of crazy that it took someone having to get it and say they have it for people to start taking things seriously,” she said. “But I was glad that I was able to share that because, I mean, it’s kind of the only way that we will be able to flatten the curve is people taking it seriously.”
Bridgers said she felt better on Thursday — she even slept well on Wednesday night.
“If I wouldn’t have had a fever that would not go away, I probably wouldn’t have even gone to get tested,” she said in a text after the interview. “In younger people, sometimes the symptoms can be so mild that people won’t even realize that they have them. That’s why it’s so important to follow the social distancing/quarantine rules because even though you might not think you have it, or just have mild symptoms, there’s such a high chance you can pass it on to someone older or with preexisting health conditions! That’s why everyone needs to take social distancing seriously because you can save lives by just staying at home.”