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‘It was pretty rough,’ Rep. McAdams tells ‘Today’ show about COVID-19 hospitalization

Congressman says nation must ‘take this seriously’

Congressman-elect and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams discusses his victory in the 4th District race against Rep. Mia Love during an interview at his campaign headquarters in Millcreek on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018.
Utah Rep. Ben McAdams discusses his victory at his campaign headquarters in Millcreek on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Ben McAdams said on national TV Thursday he never expected to be hospitalized for eight days with the new coronavirus — so weak at times he couldn’t hold a telephone to talk to his family — and urged all Americans to avoid going out in public, even if they aren’t under a stay-at-home order.

His called for every state to look at a mandatory shutdown and told the “Today” show audience in an early morning appearance from his Utah home that they need to take the deadly virus seriously and stay home to protect themselves and others.

“I knew it was going to be a rough one,” said McAdams, who had spoken to “Today” after testing positive for COVID-19 on March 18 but before his doctor sent him to the hospital two days later. “But I was young, I’m healthy, I have no underlying health conditions. I exercise every day. So I thought it wouldn’t be a problem.”

The 4th Congressional District representative said he checked into the hospital because “my breathing just got worse. It got to the point I couldn’t get out of bed and walk across the room without being out of breath, without panting. I just needed to sit down and try to catch my breath.”

He said what was supposed to be an overnight hospital stay to monitor falling oxygen levels turned into eight days at University of Utah Hospital where at times he “really didn’t have the energy to lift up a telephone and I was just lying there, waiting for the minutes to pass and hoping my body would have a chance to catch up.”

McAdams, a former Salt Lake County mayor and Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, has praised both Gov. Gary Herbert and local leaders for their handling of the pandemic. Herbert has told Utahns to stay home to stay safe, but has not gone as far as many other governors or even several Utah counties.

“I would say we’re 80% of the way there,” McAdams said of Utah on the TV show, acknowledging that Herbert’s order doesn’t have the force of law. But he said every state should be considering making it mandatory that residents stay at home.

Still, he said, Americans don’t need to wait to be told to stay at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“I think every state should look at it and every individual should, whether or not it’s required or not, take these guidelines, these requirements, from the state, take them seriously and probably take it a step or two further,” the congressman said.

“If you can, stay at home,” McAdams said.

He added a warning about the virus’ unpredictability.

“You don’t know how it’s going to hit you, how it’s going to affect you and what the consequences might be,” McAdams said. “Even if you are healthy and it is just a bad flu, if you don’t take the precautions who might you infect and what impact might it have on them?”

His story was picked up Thursday by multiple media outlets, including People magazine, which posted a story online titled, “Congressman, 45, Says Coronavirus Symptoms Left Him So Tired He Couldn’t ‘Hold Up’ a Telephone.”