COVID-19 isn’t sparing anyone—that includes Black women. Few people are as aware of that reality as Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson in Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta.
On Tuesday, March 10, the military veteran, who previously had no symptoms, attended the opera Porgy & Bess at the Cobb Energy Centre. She woke up the next morning with a fever, too sick to attend her council meeting. After going to the emergency room and testing negative for other viruses, her primary care physician tested her for COVID-19 and the results came back positive.
Richardson, who grew up a military brat, is unsure how she came into contact with the virus wreaking global havoc, but suspects she contracted it while flying back and forth between Atlanta and Boston and then taking a bus to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to visit her ailing father, who ultimately passed away. COVID-19 prevented her from attending his services.
ESSENCE caught up with her on Friday to discuss her diagnosis and treatment.
ESSENCE: How are you doing?
Cheryl Richardson: I’m doing okay. I haven’t gotten that far from my bed today, but I’m doing okay.
ESSENCE: What has fighting COVID-19 been like for you?
C.R.: Well, in the beginning, it felt like a really, really, super-bad flu because I just hurt everywhere. And I mean, not just, you know, my chest, but my legs were hurting. I hurt everywhere like somebody beat me up. And then once I got past that, the coughing was bad. Now, I’m really, really tired. My doctor was going to come do a home visit to check on me. And so I was like, Oh, let me straighten up before she gets here. I went to the living room, picked up a few things and had to lie down on a couch. I’m just waste right now. So I’m taking it slowly.
ESSENCE: How do they treat this?
C.R.: They don’t. They just treat the symptoms. I had some trouble breathing, so they put me on steroids. I had a fever in the beginning, so I was taking Tylenol. And for the body aches, I was taking Aleve. I tell my doctor, I talk to her almost every day, and I tell her what’s going on and if she needs to call something in, and she does. There’s no treatment for it. So all you can do is kind of just stay home and not make yourself worse.
ESSENCE: Some have suggested that hot liquids help. Have you been consuming any?
C.R.: I have some soups, but it doesn’t really help. But my stomach really doesn’t have a desire for anything else. And so, the hot liquids, the soup, is just something to consume and I don’t think it’s mattering at all that it’s hot.
ESSENCE: How are you getting groceries?
C.R.: My house is pretty well-stocked generally. I have everything that my house needs. The only thing I didn’t have in the house was dog food. But I called Amazon and they delivered it the next day.
ESSENCE: You’re just focusing on yourself, right? You aren’t doing any work, are you?
CR: I am doing some work because everything comes here. I reached out to some people, mostly to see how they’re doing because I have quite a few elderly constituents. So I’m doing that and, Tuesday, we have a committee meeting, so I will call in for the committee meeting. I’m doing what I can do from here.
ESSENCE: Sadly, your father passed away recently and you could not attend his funeral.
C.R.: Yes, my sister also passed on January 5. And that was totally unexpected. I mean she just didn’t show up to church one day, so they called looking for her and went by her apartment and she had passed in her bed. Yes, I lost my sister on January 5, and my father on February 25. And then this. So it’s just been kind of a bad year.
[Editor’s Note: Neither Councilwoman Richardson’s sister nor her father were diagnosed with COVID-19.]
ESSENCE: So far it’s not been a good 2020.
C.R.: But, you know, every day I wake up, and every day I can breathe easier. So this, too, shall pass.
ESSENCE: Before you were diagnosed with COVID-19, what were your thoughts? Were you aware of it?
C.R.: Oh yeah, I was very aware of it. So I was doing everything that I could to protect against getting it: washing my hands, carrying around the hand sanitizer, and cleaning places where I went with Lysol wipes. But I was traveling a lot. I mean I was on a bus back and forth, my dad lived down on the Cape, so it’s a couple hours bus ride back and forth from the Logan Airport [in Boston]. So that’s flying, [walking] in airports and riding on buses. They said that there was a group of people who were up in Boston at that Biogen conference. I don’t know how I got it. I obviously ran across somebody or breathed the same air as someone. It just is what it is. I managed to get it. I wish I would have known before I went to the opera, but the opera has been wonderful. They’ve informed everyone that I have it and, if anybody feels like they need to get checked, they should go get checked. I’ve been very open about it because I don’t want anyone to go around thinking that I’ve not come into contact with anyone.
ESSENCE: What is the test like?
C.R.: The one that I had, because I understand that there are a couple, it’s this very thin Q-tip that gets shoved way up your nose and rooted around to get secretions and then gets tested. And it doesn’t hurt as much as it’s extremely uncomfortable. My doctor let me do my own so I kind of went very slowly. I can’t imagine letting someone else do it, because it’s unpleasant.
ESSENCE: What is your reaction to actions that are being taken now to prevent the spread?
C.R.: I wish more people would just simply stay home. I know how hard it is. It’s hard not to go to work, especially when you have things that you have to do. But you just got to worry about either yourself or other people and the fact that you could spread it to someone who can spread it to someone in one of the risk areas. You just have to stay home. And I just wish that people were better at that. We’ve become a society where we work through sickness. This isn’t the time.
ESSENCE: Do you have a time frame on when you will feel better?
CR: Public Health is telling me 72 hours with no medication and no symptoms. So I’m not coughing and I don’t have a fever anymore. But the big thing that’s going to happen for me, which I get will not happen for everyone, [is] my doctor, [who] is a very good friend as well, she’s going to come by the house and check on me and listen to my chest. So when she tells me I’m clear to go out, I’ll go out. But, until then, I’m just gonna stay home. So it may be the 14 days, which [will] be this Tuesday. It may be longer, but it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be.
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