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Utah Rep. Ben McAdams: What I learned from contracting COVID-19

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Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah speaks during a press conference in the Murray City Council chambers on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. “I’m one of thousands of Americans who contracted the coronavirus,” he writes in the Deseret News.

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

I’m one of thousands of Americans who contracted the coronavirus. I also became a patient in a Utah hospital’s special COVID-19 unit. I’ve learned how the virus can suddenly turn your life from active and normal, to struggling to breathe.

In the early morning hours of March 14, I voted for legislation to provide help for individuals, states and businesses in Utah battling the coronavirus epidemic. A few hours later, I got on a flight to return to Utah. When I landed, I drove home with the thought of catching up on sleep. Later that afternoon and evening, I began to experience mild symptoms of what I thought was a cold.  

I didn’t leave home the rest of the weekend, but continued Monday to hold virtual meetings by phone, since my office had implemented work-from-home rules to comply with CDC guidelines to lessen public exposure. Monday evening, I held a telephone town hall together with two Utah health experts who took questions and provided answers about the coronavirus for more than 4,000 Utahns on the phone line. Later that night, I felt worse.

I called my doctor and told him my symptoms. He said I should continue monitoring my condition, but he did not think I was necessarily a candidate for the COVID-19 test. I continued my work for Utah the next day, holding phone calls with numerous stakeholders, small business owners and health care professionals. Soon, a high fever and labored breathing changed the equation. My doctor referred me to a local clinic to receive the test and 24 hours later I got the results. I had the coronavirus and although I probably won’t ever know how I became infected, I had to focus on not infecting anyone else.

My wife and kids began their quarantine in our home. Suddenly, we all had firsthand experience about how life changes in the time of a contagious disease outbreak. Even before my diagnosis, I knew it was important to vote for free COVID-19 testing, expanded unemployment insurance, loans for small business and more resources for state and local public health agencies, but I’m now learning first hand how stress and anxiety about the future affects people. I’ll be fine, but many Utah families may face great hardships and economic impacts.

Utah has always been a place where we work together to solve problems. That collaboration helps our communities shine during a crisis.  From the medical providers who treated me to the public health agencies sending out health updates to the local, county and state government agencies efficiently fulfilling their roles, I feel pride and gratitude for the Utah response. Add to that the outstanding preparedness and response to the 5.7 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Wasatch valley last week, with Utahns caring for themselves and their communities on two fronts.

U.S. Rep Ben McAdams represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District.