If you’re self isolating and taking other precautions to protect yourself from the coronavirus, this column isn’t for you.
You can go back to sanitizing your doorknobs and wiping down surfaces.
This is for the naysayers. You know, the conspiracy theorists and hardheaded young people who still don’t think the dire reports about the coronavirus apply to them.
It’s also for certain black folks who have worn me out with their theories about how melanin in darker skin somehow protects against contracting COVID-19.
Lose me with the crazy already.
This threat is real. And it’s happening to everyday people all around us.
Take Nicole Walden-Hooks, the owner of a hair salon in New Jersey, whom doctors diagnosed with the coronavirus last week.
“I need people to see that this is real and that it’s touching us,” the 49-year-old Blackwood resident told me on Tuesday by telephone. “Many of us have had it and don’t know that that’s what we had.”
Her symptoms began last week with a scratchy throat. Suspecting seasonal allergies, she took over-the-counter medicine and went to work. But the next morning when she woke up, she knew something was wrong.
“My back was hurting really bad. I had the chills. The scratchy throat was more of a sore throat. I checked my temperature and I had a fever of 99.2,” Walden-Hooks said.
She got tested for the flu, a sinus infection, and strep throat, but the results came back negative. A physician she reached by phone suggested she be tested for the coronavirus, which has been spreading across the United States with a vengeance. Walden-Hooks notified her family and clients that she was being tested and quarantined herself in her bedroom.
“As the day went on, I started to feel worse and worse. By the time I went to bed that night my entire body was aching. My fever had gone up to 99.7. I had this excruciating headache. My neck started to get stiff. Even my skin hurt,” she said. “The next day, I felt I had been hit by a car. … Everything was hurting.”
“I started to feel a feeling of dread,” Walden-Hooks added. “I had to go through it alone. My family, the only contact they had with me was through my bedroom door to hand me soup and food and just to look at me."
A client left some elderberry syrup on her front porch that she took with cold medicine before going to sleep. She woke up the next morning drenched in sweat.
“I started feeling bad again, so I called my sisters and started talking about it. They said you really need to get this out there … because people are not taking this seriously,” Walden-Hooks told me. “I watched the news that day and saw people on the beach and people still standing close together in lines at grocery stores and at liquor stores and exercising in groups at the park, and I’m thinking: ‘No, this has to stop. I’m going to get this out there.' "
On Saturday, doctors confirmed that she had COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
She made a Facebook post that quickly went viral. Walden-Hooks isn’t a celebrity like actor Idris Elba, who announced last week that he had contracted the coronavirus. She’s a regular person. She seems like someone you might know. Someone you can relate to. That’s why her post resonated so much.
“I just thank God that the word is out there now and people are seeing that this is real and that it’s happening," Walden-Hooks told me. "I just pray that they do what they’re supposed to do now and stay inside. And listen to our government officials and isolate yourself if you’re having symptoms. Just don’t be ignorant about it.”
Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of that still going around.