‘I was never sick enough to be tested’

Two women tell their stories of having presumed cases of coronavirus.

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Testing is limited to patients with the most severe cases of COVID-19.

Two women say they are recovering from the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. They had the telltale symptoms of a cough and fever. One of them had a more severe case that included shortness of breath associated with the virus and a “raging headache.”

Both women spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity. They wanted to tell their stories because, they say, Islanders should know there are more cases out there than the eight confirmed cases as of Monday that qualified for testing at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

“I didn’t know for sure if I had it,” said the 56-year-old Vineyard Haven woman who is now feeling much better — good enough to have a glass of wine. Her symptoms never reached a severe state, but she was lethargic and achy for about a week to 10 days. “I was never sick enough to be tested,” she said.

Her Edgartown friend, who is 48, is also recovering from a slightly more severe case, but one that never got acute. She had a fever as high as 102 degrees. “I had my first symptom on the 17th [of March]. It was a pounding, raging headache,” she said. Then two days of fever and aches that landed her in the emergency department. The hospital wouldn’t test her.

“I was non-tested, presumed positive,” she was told by the hospital. “They told me to go home and quarantine.”

Both women have been in touch with Maura Valley, the Tisbury health agent who is the point person for the Island’s boards of health. In an email to The Times, Valley confirmed she has been in touch with people who likely have symptoms, but aren’t sick enough to be tested.

“I have spoken with three individuals who have symptoms but were not tested. Two of them were referred to other health agents for follow-up as they were not Tisbury residents,” she wrote. “At this point the individuals are treated the same as those testing positive and asked to isolate with close contacts asked to quarantine for 14 days. I believe that individuals presenting with symptoms but not meeting testing guidelines are being advised by their doctors to self-isolate. We are working with the hospital to establish a reporting protocol to better capture the number of people who might have the illness without having a positive test result.”

While the two women say there’s no doubt in their minds they had the coronavirus, the lack of a test has raised doubt in others and left them frustrated.

“At work, they said, since you weren’t tested you really don’t know,” the Edgartown woman said. “Well, I didn’t need a pregnancy test to know I was pregnant twice. It shocked me. They were unsupportive.”

Lack of available tests in the United States has been an issue since the outbreak arrived in February. According to the Washington Post, a combination of resistance to using tests produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and delays in getting private companies in the U.S. involved in producing the tests were to blame.
“I was told they need the tests for first responders, medical staff, and people coming in on ambulances,” the Edgartown woman said. “This is our community they’re holding out for, so the sting wasn’t so bad. They were saving the tests for people who are literally on the frontlines.”

Both women say they are convinced they had COVID-19 because they both had what has emerged as a symptom. They both lost their senses of smell and taste, which is scientifically known as anosmia.

“A loss of smell or a loss of taste is something that we’re looking into,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonoses unit, said on a briefing call with reporters on Monday, March 23, according to STAT,  a healthcare website affiliated with the Boston Globe. “We are reaching out to a number of countries and looking at the cases that have already been reported to see if this is a common feature. We don’t have the answer to that yet.”

Though widely reported since that call, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control still lists only fever, cough, and shortness of breath as the symptoms of the disease.

When the woman from Vineyard Haven finally called her doctor’s office, she spoke with a nurse. She told the nurse the symptoms and when she mentioned anosmia, the nurse said, “Yup that sounds like it.” She was told she was not sick enough to “waste a test” and treated her symptoms the way she would treat a bad cold — Tylenol, rest, hydration. “I think there’s a lot of people like that,” she said. “It’s really dangerous for some people. I’ve been scared at some points.” She has stayed home, self-isolating, and only ventured into the woods to walk her dogs when she felt able. “I hope that’s what other people are doing who feel like they have symptoms.” 

Both the Vineyard Haven woman and Edgartown woman say the senses of taste and smell have not returned. Other symptoms have gone away as they move beyond the 14 days when they initially felt sick.

So where did they get it? Neither is 100 percent sure. 

One of them has a daughter who lives in New Orleans and attended Mardi Gras. The day after she attended Mardi Gras, the daughter traveled with her mom to California to see another daughter. The daughter who was at the popular and congested Mardi Gras, which has since made New Orleans a hotbed of the disease, never showed symptoms. On a flight back to Boston, the woman says a man who sat next to her coughed incessantly during the trip.

“Nobody knows. It’s hard to know where you pick these things up,” she said. It just as easily could have been one of the dozens of college students who returned to the Island in early March or the families that traveled during winter break the last week of February, she said. That’s why it bothers her that year-round residents are pointing the finger at seasonal residents coming to the Vineyard.

“We want to think we’re safe,” she said of the Island. “It’s here. We need to contain it and take it seriously. Don’t blame other people.”

The Edgartown woman travels for her job. She thinks she was exposed to the virus during an event where others have later reported getting sick. Any more details would reveal her identity, but suffice it to say, that’s only a hunch. “I’m back and forth on airplanes all the time for my job,” she said.

The Vineyard Haven woman said she knows three other people, including her Edgartown friend, who are symptomatic, but not sick enough to be tested. “Knock on wood. I feel like I’m fine. It’s a weird illness,” she said.

The Edgartown woman feels like she’s out of the woods, too. “It was a triple-headed monster,” she said of her battle with coronavirus. “I was not able to get out of bed for a while … This just knocked me right out. It was brutal.”

57 COMMENTS

  1. Do we have tests? Or is there a threshold that has been set so that they ration there supplies? Godbless our Doctors & nurses!!!

  2. Trump was never competent to understand that testing and PPEs were essential, way before this hit the fan. This is the worst intelligence failure in US history. The only finger pointing should be at the idiot who dismissed this when our intelligence warned Trump months ago. Moving forward, everyone needs to be tested. That is the only way to stop this. Since the tests and the protective gear to administer the tests are not available to everyone, contrary to what the liar in the WH says about tests and masks, everyone needs to stay home. Food shopping should be limited to 1x a week. Medical or essential workers only should be out. And Trump continues to lie about test kits and continues to gaslight anyone who KNOWS he denied and minimized the threat. Can’t fight what we can’t see and don’t know. Glad these women are recovering. It’s as ridiculous to question their obvious diagnosis or place blame on these island women, as it is to point the angry mob’s fingers at people who’ve come to their island properties to quarantine. Important story, MV Times. Thank you.

  3. Why in God’s name would one woman travel with a daughter who attended Mardi Gras? And, why would that daughter even go? The other travels for work? Really? This boils down to personal responsibility. And, I’m not blaming or pointing a finger. It’s a legitimate question.

    • Mardi Gras was on Feb. 25. The CDC first recommended social distancing on March 12. Plus you’re drawing a huge assumption that’s where this woman got the virus. The point of the story is they don’t know where they were exposed and more people have it than you know.

    • yuma– perhaps these people are trump supporters and actually believed what he said–
      During the time frame you are referencing here, trump was calling it a hoax,, said it was all under control, and said the 15 cases we had here will go away. Miraculously ,by the way.
      George’s reply to you is spot on.

  4. Jackie, Bla,Bla, Bla!
    What are you going to do when your president wins by a totally historic landslide this November?
    Also, from your arm chair, if you are so smart and know it all have you ever, I mean ever run for any kind of office to try to help your fellowman, citizens of our country or our I island.
    BTW I certainly have and I can tell when somebody never has.
    I am very excited to hear your answer!

    • tis–I have been watching your posts for a while here. it seems you have a real problem with smart people who back up their arguments with actual facts, anecdotal evidence, and the opinions of people who are knowledgeable in their fields.
      Could you please explain why you have this apparent hostility towards reliable, accurate and honest information ?
      I am very excited to hear your answer !

    • Tiz: Here is your answer, in your own words:

      Tisbury Native February 29, 2020 at 8:39 am
      The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Nuclear Threat Init iat ive says that
      we the USA ranks #1 of 195 countries in the world for preparedness of pandemics.
      In war games type virus scenarios and using the corona virus as a example the GHS
      Index finds that no country is fully prepared for naturally occurring, intentional, or
      accidental infectious disease outbreaks, but when they used the corona virus and others
      as a example we aced it !So there all you Trump Haters & Fake News !

      Do you still beleive the current death toll is a hoax, or that this will all miraculosuly end in April (say, that’s tomorrow) or that the virus will go from 15 cases to none, as has articulated Delusional Donald?

      • Hahaha. Love it! Trumps followers drank the cool aid. It literally doesn’t matter what he does. They will follow. Lemmings, all of them. Fake news. If the narrative doesn’t go their or his way…Fake News! Try coming up with an original thought. If they weren’t so blind to FACTS they would see how backwards he really is. Can’t wait for him to be gone maybe in 2020 or 2024. Either way it will be the best day for our country and certainly the world.

  5. Why does being a “native” give you the right to be uncivil and lacking in respect for other peoples opinions ?
    In these challenging times, we all need to be kind and understanding. Please dial it back…. and by the way
    Jackie is, I believe correct , Trump is a day late and a dollar short on the testing and on his response and as this pandemic makes its way across the country and into the redder states, as his supporters start to get sick, I hope and pray he will step up his response and institute a national “shelter in place order” and open up a federal supply chain. Please stop with the petty comments, this is deadly serious….

  6. I also know of two different people who suspect they’ve had it. They were unable to get a test and have been staying home. Thank you for the reminder that we have to be extra careful and behave as though we all have it and could pass it along or catch it.

  7. It’s unfortunate that our president, even though he clearly only represents some Americans, looked at this pandemic as a political assault on him from the beginning. He never wanted to have tests available as it would make him look bad. And dismantling or cutting our infectious disease/pandemic response organizations for budgetary reasons while giving huge tax breaks is treasonous. He has failed us as our leader, again and again. It’s too bad that there is not a Democrat (or independent or whatever) to run against him.

  8. WHY isn’t there any Democrat (or independent or whatever) to run against him.
    Seems you all have the Answers and sarcastic comments!

  9. WHY is it that all the usual suspects have to start with the political rants. Are you that narrow-minded that you can’t see anything beyond the political environment that you are obviously not happy with.
    Get a grip, stop blaming the government. Do your part and everything will work out.
    It is ridiculous how this current president bashing can always get past your moderation, George.
    I understand freedom of speech, but this is getting very monotonous.

    • You’re confused about the definition of politics. Facts and reality are facts and reality, not politics. It is fact that there are not enough tests, PPEs, and ventilators. After lying to the public and losing precious time to prepare for what we need, we now have to expect 100,000-240,000 deaths, and that’s if we all basically live in lockdown. Over one million dead if we don’t. How is it not reality that (healthy) we were told not to wear masks when other countries with lower spread, wear masks? Why did Trump contradict every single scientist, epidemiologist, and doctor for over 6 weeks, six precious weeks when we could have been social distancing and wearing masks and staying home— and not leaving our heroic medical community in such a hopeless, helpless scramble? I believe it’s true that when the devastation hits the families of Trump supporters, medically, emotionally and financially, you may be changing your tune. But maybe for some, Trump is a Jim Jones. You’ve been duped. A man who bankrupts casinos is not a good businessman, yet Trump supporters insist he is. That’s not politics, that’s stupid. Trump will go down in history as the worst, most damaging and dangerous president in our history. By not being an effective, competent leader when the intelligence community warned him of the threat of a pandemic, he is responsible for the death and financial ruin and unemployment of so many of us. If Trump says the sky isn’t blue, then you follow right along. You’re in for a rude awakening.

    • view– as one of the “usual suspects”, I would like to point out to you that regardless of which political party the president belongs to, a complete denial of the scientific evidence , a willingness to leave thousands of people on an infected ship in order to keep the numbers down, and being very slow in nationalizing a co-ordinated and effective response is not politics. It is observing what is really happening. These are what we call “facts”.
      What is political, is people defending the indefensible actions of a leader that has lied to them for so long, they actually believe him rather than truth.
      I will use Andrew as an example of politicizing this. His complete denial of the scientific evidence that was being presented by knowledgeable people so infuriated him that he made an arrogant and reckless wager based solely on his political point of view.
      I sincerely hope he is all right, as we haven’t heard from him in a while.

  10. It seems to be a common theme from people who have symptoms here that the hospital on MV is prioritizing tests for healthcare workers and not testing others with symptoms. I believe a lack of testing nationwide has allowed this to become much worse than it could have been, but now we are where we are.

    I was listening to coverage of the coronavirus yesterday, and one question that came up was, in a shortage of ventilators, how do you decide who gets one? There were three answers floated; random selection, most likely to recover, and prioritizing healthcare workers. Since the hospital here has already shown a preference towards healthcare workers, should one infer that preference will continue in the event of a ventilator shortage on Martha’s Vineyard?

    • I can’t speak for MVH, but in general, testing “preference” towards medical staff is actually done to keep the public safe. They can’t have infected doctors and nurses interacting with large groups of people, especially the vulnerable, and spreading the disease. A hospital should test its own and send them home when necessary. That isn’t always the case. I have read reports from nurses (not on MV) who felt ill and still could not get a test.

      As for ventilators… The best thing we can do to avoid putting anyone in that impossible position is to stay home and follow all the rules. That’s why it can’t be stressed enough that we can’t handle any increase in population at this time. And that Islanders have to hunker down and avoid socializing or going on day trips. We have to work together.

      • To be clear, testing preferences must be practiced because we do not have enough tests for everyone who needs them: EVERYONE. And everyone will not be tested because we have had no competent leadership to do the right thing, providing testing, to ensure that we could flatten the curve before it became a mountain. President Death said, just the other day, that he didn’t know there were not enough tests.

          • hanley– you seem to be the one who is suffering from tds– it works both ways you know..Jackie is correct on every point. Perhaps she doesn’t have to call him “President death” but she has a point.. It would help if you looked at reality. I understand RAD- reality assimilation disorder. I’m worried about you !

  11. NEVER FORGET THE DEMOCRAT ELITE RULING CLASS NEARLY KILLED A BILL THAT WOULD GIVE RELIEF TO OUR NEIGHBORS AND HOSPITALS BECAUSE THEY HATE TRUMP MORE THAN THEY LOVE THEIR FELLOW COUNTRYMEN.

    • kag– haven’t you posted a number of times about how the “dems” are politicizing this ?
      And how disgraceful that is ?
      Got a mirror ?
      Take a look at it sometime..
      And the ALL CAPS comments don’t help get your idea across. And really, a comment like that needs all the help it can get to have anyone do anything but shake their heads and think thoughts that George will not let me post.

  12. I never voted for Obama. But hard as it was, I stood behind him. This is America and he was our president. I am different than most who post in this arena. I held back on my dislike of him and his ideas.
    This is America.

    “During his presidency, even as he enjoyed reelection and strong approval ratings toward the end of this term, the Democratic Party suffered greatly. . . . Democrats lost more than one thousand seats in state legislatures, governors’ mansions, and Congress during his time in office.”

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/04/06/the-fragile-legacy-of-barack-obama/amp/

    It is no one’s fault but Obama’s that Democrats lost more legislative seats in the Senate than ever before, in the modern history of our country. If people are insistent upon spewing hate here in this forum, why not spew it in the right direction?!!
    Or do what I did, grin and bear it. You have another four years coming, in my opinion. Buckle up and lighten up

    • What an irrelevant comment. Are you grinning and bearing it that this administration didn’t act to ensure that our hospitals have enough tests and equipment to deal with this pandemic that President Death said was a Democratic hoax being exaggerated to make him look bad? Maybe you can grin and bear that 100,000-240,000 will die, but decent Americans find nothing to grin about.

    • Hey sunshine,what does this comment have to do with anything about two women who can’t get tested. Please explain. Thank you

      • Fielding– sunshine’s comment has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s a classic distraction, and an effort to politicize this.

          • hanley– what is your definition of “politicize” ?
            is quoting the president of the united states “we have it under control, it’s a hoax, it will miraculously go away, New York doesn’t need that many etc etc “politicizing” the matter ?
            How about when the president refuses to give ppe’s to michigan because the governor criticized his obvious incompetency on dealing with the virus?
            Yeah, to make this short– nI will politicize it, because the decisions the federal government are political in nature…
            And you ??? how about you, hanley– nothing political from you, right?
            Just the facts, right ?

  13. How about some honesty. We don’t have face mask or testing not because it is not needed, it’s because there are none. Who to blame, our government for not watching how China dealt with this same issue in December.

  14. Here are three more facts that shock normal people, but that the cult followers of Trump ignore, choosing instead to talk about Obama:

    1. The Pentagon offered HHS 2,000 ventilators but haven’t been told where to send them
    2. The DOD offered 16 labs for processing tests two weeks ago, still not in use
    3. Trump told states to buy their own equipment, but when they tried, they were outbid… by the federal government.

    The pandemic grows and Trump holds “news” rallies everyday, brags about the high ratings of these rallies, gets hissy when a reporter QUOTES his earlier denials and minimizing, and today got his most disgusting sycophant (Pence) to say, “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus”. There are more than a dozen videoed incidents of President Death belittling the threat.

  15. I’m just curious about the testing mentioned in the article. Were these women tested for Flu A or B? These tests should be readily available and Influenza B was extremely bad this year and resembled symptoms of Covid 19 very strongly. Without this testing, presumed CoVid cases are inaccurate.

  16. Hilarious!

    “Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.“
    -Erica Jong

  17. Would one of the long winded people define islander for me. Let’s waste some time getting to a good definition please. It gets thrown around so much my head spins. There must be a definition out there that unites the left and the right.

  18. There are 2 lives led on Martha’s Vineyard. The first, is led by the majority; working two jobs just to eat and live somewhere dry. This resident can’t even spare the time to get on the boat for mainland chores, let alone get on a flight. Then there is the other life led by Vineyard residents. This life involves flying all over the country, little or no actual obligations on the Vineyard.
    Now it seems unlikely to me, that the resident working 2 jobs (with no opportunity to socialize) brought the virus here. It seems more likely that flying to massive social engagements through out the country would be more likely to get it.
    Better yet, once it’s here, TAKING YOUR CORONA TO THE PARK for a walk might spread it. I mean seriously??? How can people really be so stupid?

    • If you look at the world wide corona virus map the poor, backward, provincial, benighted countries seem to have the lower number of cases whereas the sophisticated, industrial, western, “advanced” junketing nations have the highest.

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