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Inside the newsroom: Introducing COVID-19 The Game, and notes on getting sick

SHARE Inside the newsroom: Introducing COVID-19 The Game, and notes on getting sick
Former Rep. Ben McAdams

Then Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, holds an interview in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for the Deseret News

As the clock inches toward the 11:40 bell for lunch recess, the third graders at Hidden Hollow Elementary in Eagle Mountain, Utah, ready for their newly created recess game: COVID-19.

“Someone is COVID-19 and goes around trying to tag people and they then are also COVID,” said my 8-year-old grandson Jackson, explaining the rules as if he were a health officer outlining the latest COVID-19 report.

“Someone’s also the doctor. The doctor races around trying to give the vaccine (by tagging). And you can be safe by going to a special area,” he said.

“And what’s that area,” I asked.”

“Quarantine,” he said, without skipping a beat.

“Who created this game?” I asked.

“We did. On the playground.”

A year into the pandemic, it seems COVID-19 has found its way into every aspect of the culture, from schools to churches to business and certainly into the family home.

I caught up with former Congressman Ben McAdams this week to see how he is doing and to get his thoughts on the pandemic. He made national news when he became one of the first sitting members of Congress to contract COVID-19. It happened during the first week of the shutdown in Utah.

“I was at home and got up to go to the restroom and almost passed out. The doctor told me to go to the emergency room. My oxygen level was 81. And that’s the kind of thing in the middle of the night you could die from without monitoring,” he recalled. Monitoring oxygen levels, which should be in the 90s, and ease of breathing are key to managing COVID-19.

He said he was in the hospital for eight days and lost 15 pounds. Back in the early days not too much was known about fighting the disease. He said he was given hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that became a political lightning rod. He said his wife thought remdesivir might be a better option as it, too, was being used in some instances to fight the virus.

The key was to deal with breathing and the oxygen levels.

McAdams has gained perspective in the months that followed. He said the effects of COVID-19 stayed with him for about six months, noting a tightness in the chest. But he’s 100% now and doing well.

“We clearly have to take it seriously,” he said of the pandemic. “It’s taken a lot of lives and taken a toll on so many families and people. ... Much of the pain of COVID was because of the virus, and part of (the pain) was because of the division that it caused,” he said.

So what’s the path moving forward?

“It’s about minimizing risk, not avoiding risk,” he said.

In the early days it made sense to shut things down. But we learned more about social distancing and mask wearing. We understood the risk was in airborne virus transmission. So now we can balance keeping an economy open and take the steps necessary to avoid the virus.

It’s not risk free, of course.

I tested positive for COVID-19 in January. A friend told me they had tested positive so I got tested on a Saturday morning. It was negative. But later that night I had a fever. I was warned that my initial test was likely too early and that proved to be the case. A second test a few days later confirmed COVID-19.

Except for the fever, I was good for about five days. Then there were four days of nausea and fatigue. But I never faced the breathing issues or low oxygen levels that McAdams faced, and am very grateful for that. Fatigue comes and goes, but I can’t really identify whether I’m just tired from working, or if there is any COVID-19 hangover.

I wear a mask, social distance, and look forward to the day when I can be vaccinated.

I spread the virus to my daughter’s family of six after that first negative test. Three children tested positive and so did both parents. One child never got it: Jackson, who ended up having to stay home from school quarantining while the virus, thankfully, ran its course. All are OK.

I suspect Jackson had been tagged by one of his classmates — the doctor on the playground.

Things are back to the new normal for the third graders at Hidden Hollow. They wear masks and if a classmate is exposed, he or she stays home. But school, and recess, carry on. Jackson said they’ve created another new game: Fluff Ball. It’s like tag with a ball. If they can’t find a ball, they use a sweatshirt. Whatever happens, kids adapt.