Month-Long Fever in Isolation: What a ‘Mild’ Case of COVID-19 Can Look Like

May 1, 2020

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Every day, state, county and city leaders report an excess of people who test positive for COVID-19, people who die from it, and people who are hospitalized from it. 

But one statistic that remains fuzzy — and probably always will — is how many people are symptomatic but not hospitalized, and are bound to suffer at home in isolation?

Without direct, round-the-clock care, people with mild cases are left with little information about what’s really making them sick.

Jessica Waber is one of them.

The 36-year-old, who teaches at Masterman, is generally a healthy person overall.

“I'm a runner. I run with Students Run Philly Style. I've run a marathon before,” she said.

She was meticulous about adhering to the CDC's social distancing guidelines, and only ventured out for essentials like groceries.

But in early April, she started to feel ill. Stomach issues followed, then a sore throat, chills and aches a few days later.

“By that night, I had a high fever,” she said.

Her symptoms worsened when she tried to lay down.

“I didn't sleep for a few nights,” she recalled. “I was just up moving and I was in so much pain I instinctively got on all fours.”

Another two weeks of fever and other symptoms consistent with COVID-19 passed; then, serious difficulty breathing landed her in the hospital.

Ever cautious, she walked herself to the ER.

“I walked myself because I didn't want to get in a car with anyone,” she said. “I'm not a very religious person, but I packed my little prayer book that I got from Hebrew school.”

She was tested for coronavirus, but it came back negative. Her doctor suggested it could be a false negative, and based on her symptoms, she should consider herself presumptive positive.

She’s been self-isolating at home ever since with the same symptoms, languidly on the mend.

“I'm not doing great, to be honest,” she admitted tearfully. “It's really hard. I don't get to get a hug from anyone. I don't get to give anyone a hug. Just having this alone and being sick alone is one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in my life.”

She’s doing better, though she’s still enduring the now month-long fever.

Waber advises other probable patients to keep track of your symptoms in detail, “because the days just blend together.”

“I have a mild case of probable COVID, but what I think isn't being said enough is we have a bunch of us that are having these mild cases,” she noted. “They're calling these mild but there's a vast range within the mild.”

With all the precautions she took, Waber isn’t sure how she contracted the virus.

“Just being out, runners running by and breathing — anyone, it could've been anywhere.”

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