Town of Dunn resident Bev Fergus woke up on March 13 with chills, a fever and could barely take a full breath.
Three days and two state of Utah clinics later, she was approved for a COVID-19 test. On Monday, March 16, Fergus received the test results back – she tested positive.
As doctors and nurses in hazmat suits and breathing masks gave Fergus her mouth and nose swab, she became case number 2,800 in the U.S. to test positive for the disease. Today, the U.S has more cases than anywhere else in the world, surpassing China and Italy with more than 163,000 people infected with COVID-19.
Fergus, who is spending the winter in Park City, Utah, said the process of getting diagnosed with COVID-19 was painful for her and the people around her. She spent the previous week with 12 people on a ski trip – five of them are doctors. After Fergus was later diagnosed, none of the people she spent the week with prior qualified for testing.
In Wisconsin, the Department of Health Services has recommended a four tiered testing system because of a “shortage of ingredients needed to run the tests.”
The 12 others, friends of her son and nephews, arrived in Utah at the beginning of March. They flew in from Europe, around the United States and Australia for their annual family ski trip. Five of them are doctors, with three of them working in the emergency room, she said.
“At the beginning we were kind of joking around about it, but honestly, back then when they got here (President Donald) Trump is kind of still dismissing it, downsized everything. So we went about our business,” Fergus said.
During that week the group went skiing down mountains in Park City, stayed out late at the bars and had dinner with neighbors and friends.
During the trip, Fergus had a sore throat and running nose, but nothing that couldn’t be dismissed as common cold, she said.
By March 13, however, after the group of 12 left, Fergus had an episode in the middle of the night. She was feverish, she had chills and could barely make it to the bathroom she was so exhausted. What tipped her off that these symptoms could be coronavirus was that she couldn’t take a full breath, she said.
Fergus said she had heard from two of the other people who had left they were also starting to feel sick.
“The next morning I was like oh god — this seems like this was it,” Fergus said.
Drive thru results
From that point it took 48 hours to get tested. Fergus was exposed to a bouncer at a bar the previous week who had tested positive, she said.
She called an emergency COVID hotline number in Park City and after telling the nurse her symptoms and her potential exposure, Fergus was told she did not qualify for testing. She would be put on a list and a doctor would call her back.
She never received that call.
Fergus’ friend recommended she contact the University of Utah – which was able to hold a video conference with her and approve her for a COVID test of which she would be administered in her car.
Back in Wisconsin, starting March 26, six drive through testing centers opened in northern Wisconsin through Ascension – a nonprofit healthcare provider with 23 hospitals and more than 110 physician clinics in the state.
At that same time, Aurora Healthcare Centers, which has 15 hospitals and more than 150 clinics in Wisconsin, suspended its plans for drive through testing sites because of a national shortage of testing supplies, according to a March 24, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.
That Sunday, Fergus drove 40 minutes to Salt Lake City and sat in her car while doctors swabbed her mouth and nose.
On Tuesday, the day before she turned 58 years old, she got her results.
Not only was Fergus positive, but most of the people who she was in contact with during that week long vacation were now positive too.
Even a friend she spent a single dinner with was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, she said.
For Fergus, it was a relief once she was finally diagnosed.
The doctors told her to monitor her breathing and if it becomes more strained to go to the hospital. She was also told to alternate between Advil and Tylenol to control her fever and drink lots of fluids.
Ferguson’s fear is now more about the medical system she said,than her own physical health. She said she knows she will be fine and recover from this, but she worries that people who unknowingly have COVID are walking around the community.
“It is difficult to keep people at home when they don’t have symptoms and want to go to the grocery store,” she said. “But I wish people would really take this seriously.”
Ferguson has been in self isolation for nearly three weeks. She said the fatigue is crippling and she sits on the couch or lays in bed most of the day. When she talks over the phone, her voice is strained and she coughs every few sentences.
“I haven’t been on my computer and my eyes are still too tired to really read,” Fergus said.
This is unlike Fergus, who was an active volunteer with the Stoughton Area School District. She was on the school board from 2012-2017 and teaches classes at LevelUp Fitness when home. Ferguson said she is a very healthy person, and will enjoy hiking and being outside once she recovers.
The self isolation doesn’t bug her, though.
“As an introvert, I’ve been practicing for this my whole life,” she said with a laugh.
She has asked her family to stay put and not travel to visit her, as she doesn’t want anyone else to take the risk. She has neighbors and friends who are dropping food off at her doorstep and she is able to connect with people via Facebook and text message, when she has the energy.
At the end of the hour long interview Fergus said she hopes by sharing her story and creating personal connections with people who are infected it will encourage people to stay at home.
“So yeah call me whenever, I mean – I have a really busy schedule,” she joked with a laugh.