My name is Cristina and I am 20 years old.
When my professors announced to my classes back in February that they were adjusting their syllabi to adapt to online schooling for the rest of the semester, I laughed. I didn't know what COVID-19 was. I didn't know the impact it would have on the world, my family, or my life. I certainly didn't think that I would contract it. My story is one you'll hear many times throughout the course this pandemic will take us. It is a story you don't hear as much about on the news. It is a story that will scare you more than what you've seen on TV.
I decided to hole up in my apartment in Athens, OH, for the month of June.
There were less than 30 confirmed cases in the county, while the cases in my home county were pushing 500. I thought I would be safer there. But, I didn't do a good job of social distancing.
I saw friends. We shared drinks and games. We sat close to one another. That first taste of normalcy after the world had been changing so drastically around us is addictive. I'm sure you've felt it, too. We're not perfect.
I took a trip to meet some of my boyfriend's family near Columbus. We were outside for a long time. We ate a wonderful buffet-style dinner. We had a giant card game tournament, to which I came in dead-last place. I bit my nails the entire night. That same weekend I was supposed to visit a 1-year-old baby and go back home to visit my dad, my Nonno, and my family for Father's Day.
There aren't words in the English language that can convey how thankful I am that I didn't.
Tuesday rolls around. My chest hurts like nothing I'd ever felt before. Not bad, just different. Wednesday I feel completely fine. Then I take my temperature, it read 99.5. Higher than normal, but not concerning. My boyfriend, however, had a high fever and a terrible cough.
He and his immediate family get tested. I stay at home. I felt perfectly fine. My friends were hanging out that night. Why wouldn't I go? I had stopped taking my allergy pills. Maybe I just had a cold.
Not every sickness could be coronavirus.
Although, I stayed home just to be safe.
It's Friday. His family tests positive. I get myself tested. I'm terrified, hours from home, in a CVS drive-thru self-administering a COVID-19 test.
I packed up and went home that night. That was the last thing I wanted to do, put the four people I cared about the most in the entire world at risk. My mom, my dad, and my two little brothers. My roommate has Crohn's disease. I had no choice.
Day three of isolation. My results come back positive.
I'm writing this on my tenth day in isolation. I don't leave my room. I get my meals on trays. I report my symptoms twice a day to the Ohio Department of Health. I haven't seen my family since I've been home. I am alone.
Ten people that attended my boyfriend's family gathering tested positive. Including his grandparents.
One member of the family has been to the hospital. My roommate tested negative. None of my friends tested positive. No one in my family is currently exhibiting any symptoms since I've come home and started isolating.
The majority of the people that carry this virus are asymptomatic. A small get-together with your friends and then your family could infect your mom, your dad, your grandparents. Your friend's mom, dad, siblings, partners, grandparents, friends. And then more. And then more.
Ask yourself before you deliberately ignore social distancing guidelines: was that gathering worth all this? Was it worth infecting everyone I love and everyone they love?
It's weird. It's hard to conceptualize. But it's what's happening all over the world.
I've been lucky. There are stories much worse than this one. But more common are under-the-radar ones like mine.
COVID-19 is silent. COVID-19 is sneaky. COVID-19 is deadly.
Please, wear a mask. Stay home when you can. Try your best to social distance. The pandemic is worse now than it was when we all stayed home in March and April. Your state may have opened up, but not because it was or is safe to do so.
My name is Cristina, I'm 20 years old, and I'm telling you that young people can and are being affected by COVID-19.
Be smart. Be considerate of others, your loved ones, and yourselves.