‘It’s a waking nightmare’: Readers share tales of testing, layoffs and other challenges

Post readers across the nation and around the world describe how covid-19 has changed their lives. Here are some of their stories.
(Chloe Cushman for The Washington Post)

Read more collections of reader stories here and here — and submit yours.

Patricia Massey, 67, South Miami: I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer. My surgery has been scheduled for Monday. Now I am hearing that my surgery may be canceled or delayed. It is pretty scary to be told that you may not have a surgery to try to eradicate cancer. I am sure there are thousands like me out there. How many others will die now even if they don’t actually become infected with covid-19?

Getting cancer is scary enough, adding this to my fears is almost unbearable.

Erika Walker, 54, Fort Wayne, Ind.: I was self-quarantining before it was cool. It’s almost business as usual at my house. I have a genetic immune deficiency and severe asthma, and I’ve been self-quarantined since Christmas. Every little cold and flu is dangerous. If I catch the coronavirus, I will hopefully not start out already run-down and still recovering from the last round of serious illness. But it’s been tough not being able to leave my house. I kept telling myself it was only for the winter, but now I don’t know how long it will last.

Kelsey Tucker, 26, Cleveland: My brother died last week. I never thought I’d find myself praying that my state doesn’t institute a total lockdown or a curfew before we’re able to bury my brother in a few days’ time. I am a registered nurse, living with both of my over-65 parents in the midst of a pandemic. My (grieving) father had planned to retire this year, and now faces enormous losses in his retirement fund as the stock market bottoms out and we barrel toward a recession. Any of these things on their own would be hard enough, but all of them happening at the same time has been absolutely unbearable. I never thought I’d be facing this overwhelming guilt for taking off a few shifts to spend time with my family before my brother’s funeral. It’s a waking nightmare.

“They still won’t test me”

Claire Hofbauer, 36, San Francisco: I have been sick and self-quarantining and social-distancing since Feb. 12. After two weeks, I thought I was better, but my cough has lingered. I have throughout this time asked to be tested and have been told that there are no tests (at first), or that because I am not hospitalized, I cannot be tested because there aren’t enough tests. The problem is, after my 1.5 weeks of acting normally, I am again very weak, fatigued and definitely not well. They still won’t test me, and there is no information about how long I am supposed to continue practicing isolation. It’s been over a month. I remain an “unconfirmed case.”

Jan Galkowski, 67, Westwood, Mass.: My doctor would have tested me for covid-19 since I already had pneumonia and Influenza A, and just returned from London. But, here in Massachusetts, despite what the White House and some federal health officials say, even doctors cannot get them. And there was no health screening by federal officials at Logan Airport when I returned on March 3.

C.C. Del Buono, 50, New York: My 60-year-old sister-in-law got a fever of 102 degrees just over a week ago and called her doctor. She recently traveled and wanted to be tested for covid-19, only to be told there were no tests. She thought she would just get better, but she kept getting worse. She did not get much help from her doctor, who didn’t quite know how to handle this.

We tried to help her by calling the local emergency room. They said they would not let her inside the building so don’t send her there. We were then told to call the Department of Public Health, who then told us to call an office in Boston, who then told us to call Epidemiology, who then told us to call another department, and it kept going until it circled back to a number we had already called. So we still had no answers.

They all kept passing the buck, and we didn’t know what to do. She went to the hospital that initially wouldn’t admit her. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, and they finally agreed to test her for covid-19. They then moved her to a hospital in Boston, and they confirmed she had covid-19. We have no idea if she’s going to be okay.

Holly Zoba, 56, Chandler, Ariz.: I got really sick about three weeks ago — coughing, fever. I live in Arizona and went to urgent care and suggested to the doctor that I should be tested for covid-19 because I had just been to a conference in Northern California where some cases had been reported. The urgent-care doctor actually yelled at me, telling me how much more likely it was that I just had the flu, which he didn’t even test me for. He sent me home with Tamiflu.

A week later, I called my doctor because I was not getting any better. A few days later, I called again. My doctor suggested I get tested for covid-19. I went in on a Tuesday, and they told me to use a side entrance and call them. I did, and they made me wait in the rain. I was tested for the flu (finally) and strep (even though I didn’t have a sore throat). Both were negative, so they gave me the covid-19 test. They called me the next day because they had processed it wrong — they hadn’t refrigerated it. So I had to go back in on Wednesday. This time they came out to my car to test me.

At this point, it had been over two weeks since my symptoms appeared, which was the required self-quarantine time. The test results came back on Friday — negative.

“We don’t want to lay anyone off”

Courtney de Kanter, 41, Miami: My husband and I are franchisees for four Buffalo Wild Wings locations. Overnight, everything took a turn. Suggestions of social distancing turned to shorter operating hours with half-capacity rules. Then that turned into takeout only. Our doors are closed to seated customers, but that doesn’t stop rent, utilities and payroll from knocking on our door. We don’t want to lay anyone off. We want to get through this. But this is looking insurmountable. And it’s heartbreaking. Our children, 11 and 9, have grown up in our stores. They watched us give back to the community — sponsoring events for charity, giving back to local schools and youth sports. We’ve employed hundreds. And just like that, 12 years of work and sacrifice could be wiped out. We’re watching it slip away. And I’m angry because it didn’t have to be this way. Our leaders were negligent, and now our family is paying the price. Our life as we knew it is forever changed.

Duane Wong, 50, Somerset, Pa.: After more than 14 years working at Ruby Tuesday, I was laid off for two weeks or more because of economic fears stemming from coronavirus. I had worked there as a dishwasher for that entire time, without fail. Something should be done for front-line workers who have had their jobs eliminated because of the virus. I am sure I am not the only one.

“No one checked us”

Laura Stevens, 71, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.: I just came back Thursday night, March 12, from Livorno, Italy, where I was helping my sister after she had major surgery. Contrary to what our president said — that everyone arriving here is totally checked — here is what happened: In Rome, before boarding our flight, everyone was examined and asked detailed personal questions about our health and where we had traveled. Each of us stood at a special spot while a person seated five meters away took our pictures. Most passengers had masks, and we sat at a good distance from each other. We arrived at JFK airport in New York — and no one checked us at all! We just walked quickly through passport control and to baggage claim — and out to the streets of New York. I was shocked.

Read more:

Read a letter in response to this piece: How leaders are responding (or not) to the pandemic

Cathy Merrill: This is more than a ‘hiatus’ for my small business

Kevin Brennan: Some people worry we’re overreacting to coronavirus. I worry about dying on a ventilator.

Anthony R. Palumbi: What gamers can teach everyone about how to survive social distancing

Rachel Figueroa: Home-schooling tips for all you millions of suddenly home-schooling newbies

Amanda Ripley: Combating loneliness in an age of self-quarantine

Ann Telnaes: Working from home now? Here’s some advice from a seasoned freelance cartoonist.

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