To answer your immediate questions: I’m OK; my symptoms were relatively mild; I’m out of isolation; and I know how I caught COVID-19.

I was hanging out with three friends for a few hours indoors on a Sunday afternoon. The next Thursday, I had chills, muscle aches, congestion and a sore throat — no fever or any of the more dramatic symptoms.

I thought it was a cold, and I decided not to get tested. Bad decision. Then, I remembered the advice from health officials to not go anywhere if you’re experiencing any symptoms. So, I canceled all my weekend plans and stayed home.

Fortunately, my friends were smarter and got tested the same day they came down with symptoms. Three days later, they notified me that they’d tested positive.

This was the first I’d heard that they were sick. I told my roommate, who’d recently returned from a trip, and we started isolating. We got tested the next day, and, thankfully, she tested negative.

I’m hoping that by sharing my story it will cause you to rethink your decisions in the coming weeks, so we can save lives and livelihoods. The last thing anyone wants right now is another stay-at-home order.

Tim Ryan, Clear Creek’s public & environmental health director, said the best thing we can do right now is get our number of close contacts as close to zero as possible. Close contacts are based on physical proximity and frequency of interaction — people you live with, work with, hang out with, etc.

Social gatherings, even small ones, are probably the biggest problem right now. Remember, I was in a room with three other people for a few hours, and three of us caught the virus. The fourth didn’t have symptoms and so didn’t get tested, which I think was a bad decision.

What haunts me is that I was invited to hang out with four other friends the night before my symptoms presented themselves. Remembering Ryan’s advice to minimize social interactions, I decided I’d already been social enough for the week and decided to just Zoom in.

Thank God I didn’t go because — according to Ryan — I was at my most contagious then, and I would’ve infected my friends, who were socializing inside. And, because I wasn’t symptomatic yet, I would’ve been none the wiser until the next day.

I feel that Clear Creek has generally done a good job of wearing masks, social distancing, etc. But it’s time to be smarter about how we’re gathering with family and friends.

Ryan said even though we’re not under stay-at-home orders right now, we need to act like we are to minimize the spread.

Now, limiting your social interactions doesn’t mean staying home 24/7. It’s still important to go outside, get some exercise and vitamin D, and safely spend time with loved ones.

Ryan recommended downloading the exposure notification on your smartphone because it will help with contact-tracing and limiting the spread.

“Everybody can do something,” he said. “… Everybody needs to step up to the plate and do what they can to influence others.”

That’s why I implore you: Please minimize your social activities as much as possible for the next few weeks. I know we all need our support systems, especially now, but it’s better to video chat with your friends or see them in a backyard 6 feet apart wearing masks than for everyone to get sick.

To my fellow COVID-19 survivors, remember that we’re not immune. We might have antibodies, but those won’t last very long. We can be reinfected.

Long-term impacts are still being researched and will vary from person to person. I feel like I’ve been experiencing post-COVID brain fog, while others have seen a major decrease in their cardiac output.

No one knows how they’re going to react to this if they get it, as Ryan said. Maybe you’ll be asymptomatic or maybe you’ll be hospitalized. But do you want to take the risk, especially given that you don’t know how much it could damage your body long-term?

Yes, I thought I had a cold. But I didn’t.

I made a lot of mistakes when I got COVID-19, and I hope you learn from them. I hope you learn from the one good decision I made and, instead of hanging out with loved ones, you stay home. 

Corinne Westeman is a reporter for Evergreen Newspapers. She can be reached at 303-567-4491 or Follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.

A survival guide for COVID-19

If you get any symptoms, even so much as a runny nose, get tested immediately and start isolating from others in your home. Clear Creek’s Public & Environmental Health Director Tim Ryan said that, given how high COVID-19 transmission rates are, it’s probably not a cold.

“Half of (the county’s) cases could’ve been avoided if people had stayed home when they were symptomatic,” Ryan said.

If you do have COVID-19:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, hot tea and juice. Stay away from caffeine, though, as Ryan explained: “The last thing you need when you’re cooped up in your room is a stimulant.”
  • Keep eating. If you lose your appetite, eat several small meals. And, if you live with others, have them bring food to your room so you’re not contaminating the kitchen.
  • If you share a bathroom, make sure to wear a mask and use sanitizing spray on all the surfaces when you’re done.
  • If you need anything — food, fever-reducing medicine, etc. — have someone bring it to you. Don’t leave your isolation. If you don’t have anyone who can, call the county health line.
  • Ensure you’ll be comfortable in isolation.
  • Keep yourself occupied somehow, whether it’s watching a new TV show, reading a book and/or calling loved ones.
  • If your symptoms are mild and you have good energy levels, do some stretches and walk in place. Don’t exhaust yourself, though.
  • If you need medical attention, call 911. Don’t have a loved one drive you to the hospital because you’ll likely infect them. EMS has all the protective gear needed to transport people safely.