Woman awaits COVID-19 test results, urges caution

Doreen Dwyer is waiting. The Montrose resident, who had already been diagnosed with pneumonia, on Monday received a phone call, inviting her to receive one of the 100 COVID-19 tests being conducted here, as part of a state outreach effort.

Now, she’s hopeful pneumonia is all it is. Dwyer could learn her results as soon as today, although there is a backlog in the state lab, which is handling hundreds of samples a day.

“I literally hadn’t left the house and I get a phone call yesterday from the health department,” Dwyer said Tuesday.

She said she was surprised to receive the call, because she thought she had already been tested for the coronavirus, which is sweeping the globe and growing in Colorado.

Dwyer is among those who are at high risk from COVID-19, because she suffers underlying chronic conditions: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. About a week ago, she experienced high fever, with other symptoms, and at her husband’s urging, went to the emergency room. A hallmark of COVID-19 symptoms is difficulty breathing.

“I couldn’t breathe. I still can’t breathe,” she said. “I thought I was tested there. … I have pneumonia, is what they told me.”

Dwyer said tests conducted on her at the hospital included a chest X-ray and nasal swabbing, but, as she learned, these were not tests for COVID-19.

She said the health department called her to confirm she had been in the hospital and, within seconds of that call ending, she was contacted again and told to appear for testing at the Montrose County Event Center within the hour.

The Colorado National Guard and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment were in Montrose Monday to conduct testing of pre-selected individuals whose symptoms and other individual factors met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for testing.

“It was quite the experience,” Dwyer said, adding it was to take at least 72 hours to get an answer as to whether she has COVID-19. She was still awaiting word as of Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s one of those things hanging in the back of your mind,” she said. “I had not been feeling well for a while. It finally came to a head.”

Dwyer is drawing perspective from the situation. She remembered her mother, who died of lung cancer, and is also thinking about other people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting business restrictions.

“I had no idea pneumonia was painful. I thought, my poor mom. I had no clue how much pain she must have been in. It gave me quite an eye-opener,” Dwyer said.

“Nobody has seen anything like this in our lives. I feel bad for the people who have minimum wage jobs, because they’re just gone, because everything is closed. I don’t know what you do if you’ve got rent to pay and kids’ mouths to feed and, suddenly, no money.”

As have public officials, Dwyer urged others to take precautions through hygiene practices and keeping a good distance from others, to the extent possible.

“I don’t think people take germs to heart unless they have an underlying immune thing where you can get sick at the drop of a hat. You watch people and they’re just lackadaisical,” she said, referring to what she saw people do before the pandemic.

“Hopefully, some of these (hygiene) habits from COVID-19 will stick around,” Dwyer said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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