Five local residents who came down with covid-19 agree: Keep wearing those masks! 

When Jo Wolfe started feeling bad in March, she attributed it to her allergies. Ten days later, the director of the Skagit County Historical Museum found herself at Providence Everett Hospital, on oxygen, participating in a clinical trial of the anti-viral drug remdesivir. 

“I never felt super sick,” she says. “I was just out of it brain-wise.” 

In the hospital she learned that an observer at the Northwest Regional History Day Contest at Anacortes Middle School had tested positive for the virus. She had served as a judge at the event about a week before her symptoms appeared. 

After six days in the hospital, an ambulance took her to Snohomish, where she spent 14 days isolated in a motorhome on her brother’s property. While she reported her temperature and oxygen level three times a day to staff at Providence, family members took turns bringing her meals. Still not up to taking care of herself, she moved in with another friend for a few more weeks. Because they all helped, Jo didn’t have to recover in the regional isolation and quarantine site at the Angel of the Winds Arena just south of the Skagit County line. 

All told, her “light case” of COVID-19 has consumed three and half months. Now back home at Big Lake, “I’m still weak, and don’t have a lot of stamina,” she says. “I have to choose my projects. If I do too much I can tell.” 

Former La Conner Town Administrator John Doyle came down with “something different than anything else I ever had” in February. One day he had coffee with a friend who had visited his brother in a hospital in Kirkland,  then the epicenter of the virus. The next day he was ill. 

“It went immediately to my lungs and sinuses, and I stayed sick for about 10 days,” he says. COVID-19 was suspected, but testing was not yet available, so it was never confirmed. 

When his wife Peggy began to have dizziness, headaches, a slightly elevated temperature, balance problems, painful joints, and other body aches in March, she knew it wasn’t her allergies. 

The registered nurse works at a long-term care facility in Burlington where the virus was already present. She reported her symptoms to her boss and was tested on a Friday. The results were positive. 

About to become grandparents, the Doyles scrupulously followed virus protocols, disinfecting surfaces, washing hands, and isolating themselves. “I stayed in the master bathroom with the door closed and John slept in our office,” says Peggy. “He brought me fluids and meals and if I needed something else I texted him.” 

After Peggy finished her 14-day quarantine, John isolated himself for two more weeks. When their granddaughter was born two months later, Peggy was cleared by the midwife to attend. 

“Recovery takes a long time,” says John. “Only this week did I feel like I could get through the day without a couple of naps.” 

Emotional recovery was a challenge for the Doyle’s neighbors, Coizie and Dicken Bettinger. Coizie is a soprano in the Skagit Valley Chorale. Fifty four out of 60 singers who attended its March 10 rehearsal contracted COVID-19. Of the three who were hospitalized, two died. One sat next to Coizie. 

Coizie rarely gets sick, but when both her head and her teeth started hurting three days after the rehearsal, she knew something was wrong. 

Everyone in the choir was realizing the same thing. “It was such a sad time,” she says. 

Chorale members were literally thrust under the microscope. The county Public Health Department interviewed each one three times and traced all their contacts. The Los Angeles Times and other media covered their story. The Centers for Disease Control explored what made the rehearsal so deadly. One scientist who studies aerosols looked for patterns using the seating chart and a schematic of the heating and air conditioning system. 

As the Chorale’s Facebook page administrator, she spent her illness and recuperation responding to supportive messages and deleting the “horrible” ones. “We didn’t need to have fingers pointed at us,” she says. 

Although she moved into their guest room, used a different bathroom, and prepared her own food, her husband Dicken still contracted a headache, fever, cough and devastating fatigue. “I was in a brain fog,” he says. “I couldn’t think, I couldn’t read, and I had to take a nap after I walked back from the bathroom.” 

On day 18, his symptoms disappeared, “but at 8 p.m. we are yawning and by nine we’re fighting to keep our eyes open.” 

“You don’t want to go through this and you don’t want your loved ones, family or friends to go through it,” says Wolfe. “Stay home, stay safe, and wear a mask if you have to be in public.

At least 10 residents in the La Conner zip code, 98257, have or had the coronavirus. The Skagit County Department of Public Health county zip code map is light blue, for 10-19 accumulated cases, through June 22. Through Monday there are 512 cases confirmed in Skagit County. Fifteen people have died, 56 have been hospitalized and 432 have recovered. Last weekend, Friday-Monday, 21 new cases were confirmed.