Wyoming Notebook

COVID-19 a silent, sneaky slapdown

Posted 12/11/20

First, there was the hunting misfire some 30 years ago. Now, the setback from the coronavirus.

And what is the connection to Wyoming Cowboy football?

Let me be clear: There was none in the …

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Wyoming Notebook

COVID-19 a silent, sneaky slapdown


First, there was the hunting misfire some 30 years ago. Now, the setback from the coronavirus.

And what is the connection to Wyoming Cowboy football?

Let me be clear: There was none in the missed opportunities on an antelope hunt in the Hanna area those many years ago. I had great shots. I blew them, plain and simple. It was as if I were firing blanks.

As a convenient shift of responsibility, I jokingly came up with the excuse that I had not had time to sight in my rifle because I had spent most of that fall driving to and from Laramie following a conference co-champion Cowboy football team. I managed to make it the Pokes’ fault that I hadn’t done what a hunter should do: sight in his rifle before going afield.

It was pure bunk. A bad joke and a lame excuse then and now.


Football game only a maybe

Fast forward to 2020, the year of the coronavirus. It’s true that I started showing symptoms of the virus after returning from the Friday, Oct. 30 UW Cowboy football home opener in Laramie.

But I’m not ready to conclude with certainty that I picked up the virus at the UW football game, and I don’t think others can, either. The disease is that insidious. We could be passing it to each other and not even know it; hence the need for social distancing.

Let me take you through some of the events and establish the timeline leading up to my positive test for COVID-19 on Monday morning, Nov. 2. The Cowboys beat Hawaii 31-7 on Oct. 30, and that’s cause enough for feeling good as we returned from the football game to the motel and retired for the night about 11:30 p.m. Friday.

It was an easy drive home on dry roads Halloween Saturday, all clear on the health front. After church Sunday, Nov. 1, I walked a mile, and that should have been a bit of a warning sign. I was leg weary, and in my mind, I attributed it to the past two days of sitting behind the wheel of the car. I managed to make it to the office Sunday afternoon to do a sugar beet story for the next edition of the Tribune, then went home and joined Sue on another 1-mile walk right as the sky was fading into evening.

This time my legs were more than weary; they were weak. And I was developing a sore throat and cough. The show of the symptoms came on sometime Sunday afternoon.


Positive test was confirmation

I called my primary care physician on Monday morning, Nov. 2, to report my symptoms, and a COVID test was immediately administered. By mid-afternoon I received the positive test result, and I was in quarantine.

There’s not enough in my mind to assign my COVID exposure to the football game experience.  We were not oblivious to the virus or casual about what we did in the roughly 15 hours we were in Laramie — arriving late afternoon Friday and back in the car on the return trip Saturday morning. We stayed at the motel where we have had rooms for years, confident in the facility’s cleanliness and pandemic protocols.

We never went to any establishment in Laramie other than the motel and the football stadium. Our only purchases in Laramie were a newspaper at the grocery store and a gasoline fill-up as we drove out of town. On the drive to and from Laramie, we never entered any businesses.

Thanks, by the way, to the Bureau of Land Management rest stop at the Split Rock pull-out on the Sweetwater River between Muddy Gap and Jeffrey City. These are good things to learn for driving across Wyoming.

Our seats at the football game are in the Wildcatter Club and suites.  I want to emphasize that the university and Cowboy Joe Club did everything possible to control the environment. A pre-game meal is served in the Wildcatter. Masks are mandatory, except to dine, and attendance in this pandemic year is restricted to about 30% of capacity.


UW protocols in place

At the pre-game buffet, only gloved and masked servers handled plates for diners. We visited briefly with friends from Blue Cross Blue Shield and the UW Athletic Department who are Wildcatter regulars. Checking with them since my positive COVID test, no one else has reported infections.

A masked Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon stopped at our table and sat down a respectable distance from us to chat for a few minutes. The governor, as we know, developed his own positive test and mild case of the virus three weeks later on Nov. 22.

Seating in the club area is taped off to achieve spacing.  We did not have anyone sitting in our row or in the row in front of us.

The number of people riding the elevator at any one time from the Wildcatter to the parking lot is also limited to six at a time.

We visited with good friends and loyal Cowboy fans Bob and Barb Fiero of Layton, Utah, in masks and seated at spaced tables in the motel breakfast room Saturday morning over coffee before hitting the road for home. The masked motel attendant added hot water to powdered oatmeal for you, but there was no help-yourself breakfasting. All very controlled, as it should be.

We were with the Fieros for a good half-hour and probably even shared a handshake. After my positive test on Monday, I contacted Bob to advise him. In the next week we checked back and forth several times — even after they relocated to Arizona for a warm stay — and they have had no COVID symptoms.


Father-son in this together

My wife Sue and I did get together with my son, Toby, and his wife Tanya in our motel room for about half an hour before the football game. Was that an exposure setting? Toby tested positive for the virus two days after I did. The amazing thing, and reason to celebrate, is that neither Sue nor Tanya has expressed any COVID symptoms. Fully exposed as they were, they did, of course, observe 14-day quarantines.

Both Toby and I were contacted by Park County Public Health contact tracing nurses who have been inundated by the mounting cases. By the time they got to me, eight days after a positive test, an isolation order was issued on Nov. 10. I was notified on Nov. 12 that my isolation had ended and I was no longer considered contagious. “Please continue to wear a mask out in the community, and if symptoms persist, take as long as you need to recover. Otherwise, you may resume normal activities,” Public Health wrote.

Both Toby and I are recovered, but never off guard. One thing I’ve learned is this disease is a silent phantom which lurks among us.


Mild cases a blessing

We were fortunate that our cases were mild, without respiratory distress. I was never feverish. My only medication was Tylenol.

It’s a positive that Toby is young and strong. Let’s just say that doesn’t describe me.

At 80 years old, a member of the at-risk group by age, I am simply fortunate to have had a mild case of the virus. I am cognizant that so many have had far more severe cases.

Aching and weak knee joints have been my most significant symptom. If I was down on the floor to tie my shoes, I needed some kind of assistance to get back on my feet. It has persisted even beyond declared recovery, but is lessening I’m happy to say.

I can also admit I pushed myself too soon to resume a regular work routine. My first day back at the office was Monday, Nov. 16, and I didn’t quite make a full day. That evening I suffered a serious bout with sneezing and runny nose. My primary care doctor said it was likely a residual of COVID, and I stayed home the next day to gain strength. The good news is that rest is starting to bring me back.

More importantly, the good news we are all looking for is the imminent public availability and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. Two drugmaker companies are waiting final approval of vaccines that have achieved effective rates of up to 95% in exhaustive clinical trials.

That’s a momentous development for a COVID-weary nation and world, starting perhaps as early as this month and playing out in coming months as supplies allow.

Difficult, sensitive decisions on who gets the vaccine first are still being determined. High on the priority list should be frontline medical workers and vulnerable at-risk populations — the elderly and those with compromised health status — as well as essential emergency service providers and protectors.

Wyoming Notebook


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