Athens has served as a “vacation spot” this summer for many Ohio University students, who visited for a weekend to escape their parents’ houses where many have holed up since March when the university abruptly sent them away from campus following spring break.
But for some, those weekend vacations turned into extended stays where they were asked by the Athens City-County Health Department to quarantine in their leased apartments or houses after testing positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
College-aged people between 20-29 have accounted for the vast majority of reported COVID-19 cases in Athens County, but many who became ill have recovered with few complications after experiencing a wide variety of symptoms.
What Junior Sarah Kernig thought would be a weekend stay was elongated for a few weeks after contracting the virus in either an Uptown bar or at a party held in her apartment. Kernig, who quarantined alone in that apartment, said she only experienced mild symptoms.
The first three days were the worst, she said, having experienced a small cough and body aches that felt like the aftermath of an intense workout.
Though Kernig suspected she had the virus, it wasn’t until a week into having symptoms that she received her CVS test results back. And by that time most had subsided, except for a lost sense of taste and smell, which took nearly two weeks to return. And unlike many COVID-19 patients she never popped a fever.
Junior Mya Contillo began experiencing symptoms while visiting Athens. Her time with the illness was defined by a fever that lasted nearly two weeks. She also experienced chills, night sweats, and a cough for about a week and body aches for a few days. But her time out with COVID-19 wasn’t nearly as bad as illnesses she suffered from in the past.
“I have felt way worse with a sinus infection that I ever did when I had COVID,” said Contillo, 21, who has a long history of sinus issues.
Contillo, like others who have had to quarantine in Athens, relied on friends or family to grocery shop and ordered from on-demand services that deliver food and snacks right to the doorstep with no physical contact.
She was never afraid while sick with a disease that has killed more than 150,000 mostly older Americans. Nor did she feel the need to admit herself into the emergency room. Contillo, who has no idea where she contracted the virus, was far more concerned about her potential to spread it to others such as her parents.
But to Contillo’s knowledge nobody in her social circle ended up getting sick. Her friend, George Short, who quarantined in Athens with her, tested positive but was asymptomatic. It’s unclear where Short became exposed to the virus.
Junior Tony Geraci, 21, who had lived in Athens since March but recently tested positive for the virus, said he was always anxious and regularly felt the compulsion to go to the hospital for any symptoms he experienced. Geraci only had a fever and cough for a few days, but he also lost his sense of taste and smell for several weeks.
Geraci and Kernig both have friends who also tested positive, but none of them became severely ill. And although there have been very few COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Athens County, 5 people in the 20-29 age bracket have been hospitalized — the most of any age group in the county, according to The Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 database.