In the middle of March, a St. Croix family left the island for a ski vacation in Vail, Colorado. They returned a week later without having skied a day, and they brought home with them two cases of coronavirus.
“If the trip had been planned for 24 hours later, we probably wouldn’t have gone,” said the female victim – wife and mother of two children – who asked not to be identified.
When the family left St. Croix, the world was just starting to lock down due to COVID-19. A day later, as they drove from Denver to Vail, the ski area was closed when they were just 20 miles from Vail Village. The parking lots and resorts were already empty – vacationers cancelled their trips or left early, the victim said.
The family decided to make the most of it and spent several days building snow forts and sledding. At that time, Colorado had reported only one case of COVID-19. They thought they might have been somewhat protected by flu shots. They wiped and sprayed everything with alcohol, washed their hands frequently and practiced social distancing as advised. The only times the victim remembers touching an unknown surface was when her grocery cart was moved by another shopper and when a wait person handed them restaurant menus.
They decided to return to St. Croix a day early. After they arrived home, unpacked and put away their luggage, her husband said, “I feel funny.”
He had a fever of 101 degrees.
The husband’s symptoms included fever, cough and difficulty breathing. He was tested for the virus. Two days later, after she also felt exhausted, congested with a sore throat and losing the senses of smell and taste, the wife was also tested.
Both tested positive.
“We went on a ski vacation and all we got was coronavirus,” she told the Source in a phone interview.
The next two weeks were “just like having mono,” she said – the couple slept 10 to 12 hours a day. They ordered food to be delivered and friends dropped off meals for the family. They tried to keep their distance from the children, ages 10 and 12, except to feed them.
There were two periods of time that the victim described as fearful. She said she panicked the day their son had a fever of 99 degrees and complained he was tired. Both children were tested and were declared negative after nasal swabs, but antibodies testing found them positive for the virus. Fortunately, neither has developed symptoms and the fever went away after one day.
The second time she and her husband were apprehensive was during the first week of the virus. They had heard the second week is the worst and imagined their symptoms intensifying so that they would have high fevers, pain, hallucinate and need hospital care.
Fortunately, her taste and smell returned after six days. Their symptoms never worsened but as of Sunday, mild symptoms remain. He still has a lingering cough and trouble breathing and she is a little short of breath, she said.
The couple have taken two antibodies tests. The first, with a pin prick of blood, reported they have virus antibodies, which could indicate they have immunity. Results for the second tests – vials of blood send to the CDC – have not been received as of Monday. She said she wasn’t sure what those tests reveal definitely, but they were not assured they would be immune.
“I don’t think anyone knows yet,” she said.
The antibodies tests involve taking a finger prick of blood that is sent to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta for analysis.
The victim said the CDC staff and the V.I. Health Department were “outstanding” and called them every day. They asked questions about their symptoms each day and offered telemedicine conferences and free psychiatric care if they needed it.
“The most important thing we can learn from this experience is something many of us in the USVI already understand. Resilience and our strong community spirit will get us through it. Everyone is just trying to get through this uncertainty the best they can,” the victim said.