A growing number of Tennesseans are learning they’ve been exposed in varying degrees to one of the dozens of patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state. They’re not sick. But they may still be spreading the illness without knowing it.
Haley Davidson of Green Hills says she feels stuck in limbo after discovering she’d been exposed to friends with mild cases of COVID-19. She’s envisioning what the next few weeks might look like trying to keep distance — even from her three kids.
“They can pour their own cereal. They can do some of their own things. But they still need their mom,” she said as her children — ages 4, 6 and 8 — played foursquare in the garage of their home.
When she learned of her own run-in with the coronavirus, she called one of the hotlines set up to assist patients. Without a fever or cough, she was told to just wash her hands and limit contact with others, including her kids.
She decided to take the suggestion seriously.
“I felt like that was one thing I could control was my exposure to others, but there are so many unknowns with this virus,” she says. “There’s no clear path for what to do if you’re exposed.”
The recommendation from public health officials isn’t much more helpful.
Pandemic specialist Dr. Kelly Moore, previously of the Tennessee Department of Health, says extreme isolation is just the best recommendation at this point, even for those without symptoms.
“We’re not quite sure how important transmission is from people who don’t yet realize they have the coronavirus to other people,” she says. “Until we get those questions answered, we’d rather you just stay home.”
It’s a terrible inconvenience, Moore says, but it may also be the way the country keeps severely ill coronavirus patients from overwhelming the health care system. And increasingly, everyone is being asked to stay home to stop the rapid spread.