Erin Eddy didn’t feel that bad, really, at first. And he didn’t have the symptoms qualifying him for a coronavirus test when he first checked in with the doctor’s office. But knows he has it now.
Eddy, 51, has the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Ouray County, and he wants people to know he didn’t have the classic signs of the virus everyone's been hearing about. Though he had a fever, it felt much more like a flu to him at first, and he felt better for a little bit before feeling absolutely, positively worse. He shared his experience in the interest of providing an accurate account for people who want to know more about symptoms and the progression of the virus.
“A lot of the information out there, in my opinion, is not covering all the bases,” he said, noting he never felt like he couldn’t breathe and didn’t experience respiratory distress, which has been a hallmark of the virus’ warning signs in announcements from federal and state health authorities.
Eddy, who owns Ouray Brewery, received confirmation of his positive test this morning from Mountain Medical Center, where he had the test performed on Tuesday. He spoke with the Plaindealer on Tuesday afternoon.
Eddy suspects his infection happened the weekend of March 14, when crowds of tourists flooded Ouray after Telluride Ski Resort closed, but before the governor shut down restaurants to dining. The restaurant had already instituted strict cleaning protocols, including wiping down surfaces with disinfectant early in the morning and at shift changes.
The brewery, like other Ouray businesses, had a busy day with visitors looking for something to do in lieu of skiing, who had come down into town to eat, shop and go to the pool.
“I bet we did 400 or 500 customers that day,” Eddy said.
Some of those customers were in a family that had a sick kid, who promptly barfed in the dining area.
“This kid just threw up everywhere,” Eddy said, noting he cleaned up the mess and gently asked the family to pay their bill and leave, which they did.
The brewery was packed with visitors from everywhere, including a group of eight Italians.
About five days after the busy day at the brewery, Eddy started feeling off. It wasn’t that bad, though. In fact, he even went for a run and felt a little better, but later felt worse and said it felt like he was coming down with the flu. But the next day he felt worse, and asked the doctor's office if he should be tested. At the time, he didn’t really meet the tiered criteria used to determine candidates for testing, and tests were scarce.
But symptoms emerged, including headache, a fever bouncing from 99.5 to 100.7. On some nights, he awoke to his shirt soaked with sweat and changed it a few times. He was always thirsty and couldn’t get enough water. Later on, he got a horrible heat rash across his torso. He developed a cough that seemed to worsen about 12 days into the sickness, but he never had trouble breathing.
One of the symptoms that hasn’t shown up on the lists qualifying patients for testing is diarrhea –which Eddy said he experienced over the course of days. He kept detailed notes of his symptoms in a timeline for medical professionals and documented changes. He took Tylenol and ibuprofen for pain, and NyQuil and Alka Seltzer Cold Plus at night to help him sleep.
He wrote in his notes he lost at least 10 lbs. and couldn’t taste or smell food, and had a weird metallic taste in his mouth. Even walking a quarter-mile to the brewery from his house left him feeling spent. He’s normally active and runs 15 miles a week in the summer, so this was unusual.
There were points since he first felt sick when Eddy felt better enough to go to work – he brewed beer, he did payroll. He didn’t prepare food or go into the kitchen.
Earlier today, Eddy announced he is the first case of confirmed coronavirus in Ouray County, on the Ouray Brewery’s social media, after health department officials announced the first positive case earlier in the day. A second confirmed case – with a man in his 80s – was announced after Eddy received his results. He told customers he’ll keep the restaurant closed until at least April 17. He's going to quarantine himself for two weeks and the same goes for the four other people who live in his house who may also be exposed.
When asked why he decided to make the announcement, he said, “It was the responsible thing to do.” Eddy had a meeting with his staff when the COVID-19 concerns came to light, and had told them if anyone tested positive, they would need to close the brewery, so he wanted to keep his word.
He also said he wanted to be honest and get ahead of any rumors that might spread around town. So far, the community has been supportive and people have expressed wishes for him to recuperate quickly on the business’ social media pages.
The brewery has about 25 full-time employees year-round. Eddy said employees have received two weeks extra pay and can apply for unemployment, and he plans on filing for payroll protection funding in the meantime.
“The goal is to keep everyone employed and with us,” he said. “We love our people. We just hope everyone can emerge from this unscathed.”