With so many stories — and news sources — about COVID-19, “06880” is trying to limit coverage to stories with a direct connection to Westport. So why am I reprinting this Los Angeles Times story?
Because the subject of the story — a man in his 50s — is a former Westporter. The ominous headline is “How One Man’s Coronavirus Infection Created a Web of Potential Infection Around the World.” Here’s Noah Bierman’s report:
Contracting the new strain of coronavirus was stressful enough for one Washington, D.C., aerospace consultant. But tracking down and calling the people he came into contact with may have been just as bad.
“Are you sitting down? I got bad news,” he told people at least a dozen times.
The consultant was diagnosed Friday (March 13) with the illness, one among the early waves of known cases in the United States. And his efforts to call people around the country and around the world — including some within the highest reaches of government — illustrate how far a single individual can potentially spread the virus.
His calls caused factories to shut down, airlines and a ski van service to contact everyone on their manifests, a hotel to draft a letter sent to their guests, and congressional advisors and officials in the Israeli government to consider who they might need to call.
In a phone interview Sunday (March 15), he said he was suffering from painful coughing and shortness of breath. His wife has been feverish.
The consultant asked that his name not be used to protect the privacy of his clients. But he agreed to tell his story as a warning for others to listen to government admonitions and follow social distancing guidelines.
The story talks about his attendance at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, then going to a pro hockey game followed by a 5-day ski vacation in Vail. Then he got on a plane, and started coughing….
When he got the news, he had to tell people: Israeli officials, congressional offices, his hotel and van service in Vail …
The hotel sent a letter to their guests. The van service said it had expected a call like his and was prepared to make calls to the 10 people or so from around the country who rode through the mountains with the contagious consultant. The company that gave him the hockey tickets had to shut down their factory to test employees, as did other businesses he interacted with.
When he reached people, after an initial silence, they were understanding, much to his relief.
“Politics didn’t matter when I spoke with these people,” he said. “We get it. We’re going to try to do the right thing.”
The hospital told him to call ahead if he needed to return, so they could set up an isolation room with respiratory equipment.
“I think a lot of people have it and don’t know it, people who have been turned away,” he said. “The symptoms are flu-like, and you don’t have to be that sick.
“They only tested me because of the fact that I went to a big conference and I pushed the issue with them,” he added.
Like many Americans, he is already weary of the isolation.
“I feel like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining.’ I’m about to snap with this cabin fever.”
(Click here to read the story on the Los Angeles Times website.)