BY ANNISTON WEBER
A week ago, Becky, a resident of Hays who is recently retired, woke up with a dry cough and a sore throat. At first, she didn’t think anything of it. But the next morning, she noticed she had a growing fever and it was getting difficult for her to breathe.
“I thought it was probably nothing,” Becky said. “But with everything going on I made the choice to go to the Convenient Care Center to be tested.”
Becky was given a nasal swab test July 16. Two days later, she received her results. Negative for strep, but positive for COVID-19.
Brittany Espinosa, a 20-year-old Hays resident, was also tested and received her results Saturday – another positive COVID-19 case.
“The test was interesting,” Espinosa said. “First, they swab your throat for strep, and then they insert a swab in your nose and leave it there for about 30 seconds. It was slightly painful but not as bad as I’ve heard people describe it.”
As of July 20, Ellis County has 34 active cases of COVID-19 according to the Ellis County Health Department. That number includes Becky and Espinosa.
Both Becky and Espinosa are less than a week into their diagnosis. However, since being tested, Becky said her symptoms have become more dramatic.
“I have overwhelming tiredness and body aches,” she said. “My fever climbs if I don’t take Tylenol. I have chills, shortness of breath, and I’ve been having really bad dizzy spells.”
Espinosa said her first symptom was a migraine that has still not gone away.
“I lost my sense of taste and smell, and I felt very fatigued,” she said. “Then I started having awful pain in my legs, which started surging through my whole body.”
Becky is currently quarantined alone in her home. Normally, she lives with her husband and son. When she started experiencing symptoms, her husband and son were in Kansas City for her son’s surgery. After her positive diagnosis, they chose to stay in motels to protect her son from additional exposure.
“I’m glad we found out before they came back,” she said. “They came by here earlier and talked to me through the window.”
Being alone has already begun to take a toll on Becky. She fears one of her dizzy spells will cause her to faint.
“I’m afraid I am going to pass out when no one is around,” she said. “The county health nurse will call me every day to check in on me. Yesterday I had the worst headache of my life; I felt like I’d been beat up.”
Espinosa has an 11-month-old daughter who she fears could get sick.
“I’m not around my daughter much now, but when I am I must wear a mask,” she said. “I feel like my illness has been a whirlwind with how fast it came on and developed. I’ve found myself worrying about my friends and family more than I ever have.”
Her worst fear, Espinosa said, is giving the virus to someone she knows or loves.
“I’ve been in close contact with my grandparents,” she said. “The same day I was tested, I went out to eat and visited Walmart. I’ve been wearing my mask since the beginning in public, but I know others aren’t doing the same.”
Espinosa and Becky said they strongly believe wearing masks is key to keeping COVID cases from continuing to spike in Ellis County.
“This isn’t about infringing on your rights or your freedoms,” Espinosa said. “This is about working together as people to prevent this from spreading further and protecting everyone.”
Becky said “mutual respect” is why she hopes residents of Hays wear masks.
“I most likely caught this from someone not following protective guidelines,” she said. “I wear my mask to protect you, and you wear yours to protect me.”
Becky said she has been in the medical field for more than 30 years, noting the virus is much different from any flu virus she has personally had or seen.
“This is much worse than the flu,” she said. “For those people who still think this is a hoax, I assure you it is not. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
Espinosa said she hopes the community wakes up to the threat of the virus.
“There are plenty of things I could say to try to convince people this is real,” Espinosa said. “But as much as I dislike their opinions, I hope their families don’t get sick. I hope they realize that this isn’t just some made up thing meant to scare us. This is very real and very scary. Please, wear a mask.”