Eleven days ago, Corianne Goldstein broke out in chills and fever, sitting on her couch in Matawan, N.J.

By last weekend, she was coughing.

And on Tuesday night, struggling to breathe, she went to the emergency room at Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel.

“I’m just terrified,” she said during a phone interview earlier this week.

By Saturday, the 32-year-old Rowan University graduate and marketing professional was hospitalized with double pneumonia and had tested positive for the coronavirus, despite no underlying preexisting conditions that might have made her more vulnerable. She couldn’t even breathe well enough to talk, she said by text.

She doesn’t know what will come next, but she is going public with her illness because she wants younger people still getting together and going out to know that despite early indications that the illness doesn’t hit them as hard, it can be dangerous to them, too.

“I feel like if I sacrifice my name out there, it would give them some perspective,” she said. “It’s well worth it. I’m 32 and healthy. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.”

Her concerns have been buttressed by data coming out of Italy and France that show younger people have been hospitalized after getting the virus.

Deborah Birx, the response coordinator of the nation’s coronavirus task force, talked at a White House news conference on Wednesday about the data from those countries, noting “young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICU,” according to the Washington Post. Her warning came as young people on spring break continued to gather on beaches and in restaurants.

A report this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 20% of the people hospitalized for the virus in the United States as of March 16 were ages 20 to 44.

Elena Blanc, 31, a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, began to get a sore throat and general congestion a little over a week ago. She thought it was just allergies, but then started to develop heaviness in her lungs and a dry cough. By last weekend, she had a low-grade fever.

Elena Blanc celebrating her 31st birthday last June with a self-made cake.
Paul Socolar
Elena Blanc celebrating her 31st birthday last June with a self-made cake.

She knew that three students at a private school in her Brooklyn neighborhood had tested positive and that the virus was likely around.

“It was pretty obvious I had the virus at that point,” Blanc said by email Thursday.

Her primary care doctor told her the illness was likely COVID-19, but because of test shortages and the fact that she doesn’t have underlying conditions that would make her more susceptible to bad outcomes, she would not be tested unless her symptoms worsened. Her partner also is sick; he developed similar symptoms shortly after Blanc did, she said.

She didn’t mind not being tested, Blanc said, given that it really wouldn’t change her course of action. But Blanc, a full-time graduate student in the economics department at the New School for Social Research, said she is disturbed at how “slow and inadequate” the country’s response to the virus had been as of the middle of this past week.

“In the last couple of days, there seem to be some more measures being taken both to slow the spread of the virus and to increase capacity for the health-care system to handle the coming surge," she said, “but the delay between the first cases being reported and substantial action being taken has been alarming.”

She knew about the school in her area having cases only because of seeing a release on its website. There should have been more information earlier about potential community spread, she said.

Goldstein, a former newspaper reporter, said she doesn’t know how she got the virus. She had been trying to get tested for several days, which she said was frustrating. She had tested negative for the flu and strep, she said.

“It was really hard to get someone to listen to me,” she said.

Her primary care doctor wouldn’t see her. Some health-care professionals were skeptical that she had the virus, she said, including one doctor who told her it was unlikely she had contracted it.

“They still don’t think it’s going to come back positive,” she said Wednesday.

Then on Friday, it did.

She is being treated with Plaquenil, a drug used in the treatment of malaria and chronic rheumatoid arthritis, she said. There is no cure for the virus. Her doctor, she said, told her “I’m handling it well and to stay positive.”

The hospital nurses have been treating her wonderfully, she said. Her husband also has gotten sick but is on medications at home.

She worries about the coming days and how many more people will get sick.

“I think the numbers are skewed really low,” she said on Wednesday, “because for seven days I sat home, with all these symptoms, with a 102 fever, just trying to ride it out, so I didn’t overwhelm the emergency room. There’s got to be hundreds of people like me, doing that.”