As cases spike among young adults, couple encourages everyone to get tested. ‘We would have continued to unknowingly spread it.’
Dan and Leah Roe were symptom-free when they decided to get tested for COVID-19 on Monday.
Their results were split. He tested positive. She tested negative.
Now, the couple wants to share their story in an attempt to get others who are symptom-free to get tested to contain the spread of the virus.
“Go get tested even if you don’t have symptoms,” said Leah, 32, during a Zoom interview Wednesday from her Madison home. “It is the Fourth of July weekend. We were planning on going to see Dan’s parents. We were planning on going golfing and going back to the pool. We would have continued to unknowingly spread it.”
Despite the fact they were not experiencing the normal symptoms – fever, shortness of breath, or a sore throat – the couple went to the free testing site at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison because they believed what health official have been saying since the COVID-19 pandemic first began: People can be asymptomatic and still spread the virus.
“I feel fine. I honestly have no symptoms,” said Dan, 33, who joined the interview from another room in the couple’s home. “I feel 100 percent healthy. At times, I’ll have a pain in my stomach or I’ll cough because I swallowed something wrong and I’ll think ‘oh is that the beginning of the end? But really, I feel just like I did a week ago, and the week before that … just fine.”
Dan’s positive test result comes as the number of cases among young adults is on the rise not only in Dane County but across Wisconsin.
For the two weeks starting June 13, Dane County saw 614 new cases of COVID-19 and about half were seen in people between ages 18 and 25. The average age of those testing positive dropped to 23, according to Dane County public health officials.
While county health officials are attributing the rise to younger adults congregating at bars and restaurants, Dan and Leah said they have not been engaging in those activities.
However, on Wednesday when announcing the county would reinstate 25 percent capacity limits to indoor dining and again close bars carry-out orders only as of 8 a.m. Thursday, Dane County health officials said the level of community spread has jumped from 24 percent to 37 percent.
Leah said they decided to get tested because of the Forward Dane plan. That plan calls for a certain percentage of the county’s population to be tested to better detect and understand the transmission of the virus. It also lays out metrics for reopening the county in phases based on data-driven results.
“We love our community. We love being active participants in our community,” Leah said. “We wanted to do our part. Honestly, we did not think we would get a positive result from it.”
The couple said their habits since the beginning of March, even prior to when Wisconsin residents were asked to stay home under Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order, are what also led them to believe they would not test positive.
From the beginning of March until three weeks ago, the couple and their daughter Betty, who turns 2-years-old on July 28, seldom left their home. They wore masks when they went to the grocery store, which they only did every two weeks. Even when Dane County started reopening bars and restaurants, they did not go.
The only things that changed in the past three weeks in conjunction with the county reopening businesses and allowing more activities is Dan went golfing, they went to a swimming pool and Betty went back to daycare.
“If there is anything we could do differently … the 10-second walk from the locker room to the pool deck … I would have worn a mask,” said Leah. “Or like Dan, anytime he would have gone to the bathroom while golfing, he would have worn a mask. Even though Dan would go in and out in two minutes, that is literally the only thing I can think of to do differently.”
Since finding out Dan was positive for the coronavirus, the couple took Betty back out of daycare. Their household is essentially split as Dan quarantines in a separate bedroom and uses a separate bathroom from Leah and Betty. The couple is constantly sanitizing handles, door knobs and the shared space in the kitchen, they said.
The need for Dan to self-quarantine also means Leah is the primary caregiver for Betty. When asked how the experience of essentially being quarantined since March, getting their life back a little with Betty’s return to daycare three weeks ago only to learn Dan is now positive is impacting her, Leah expressed a range of emotions from hopeful, confident, sad, anger, and guilt.
“We’ve been really cautious and we’ve had so many conversations in which people thought we were taking things too seriously or more seriously than we needed to,” Leah said. “I just felt like we had two weeks where we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, a new normalcy. Betty can go to daycare, and we can do work that is meaningful to us and that is really all we need. We don’t need to take trips. We don’t need to go to restaurants. We just need to have child care so we can do the work that we love.”
The couple also saw Leah’s parents last weekend. They have been tested and are awaiting their results.
“ I will feel a lot better when I hear back on their results,” Leah said. “But I’m also feeling really guilty.”
Dan and Leah are small business owners. Dan is an accountant, and Leah owns a life-coaching business, The Perk. As such, Dan said he feels for others who are struggling to get their businesses back up and running.
“Now that I am part of the statistics (of those who have COVID-19), it doesn’t feel good,” he said.
Leah is also aware of the systemic issues that prevent others from being able to access transportation to get to the free testing site at Alliant, as well as the inability of many to take time off of work to even get tested. She said she and Dan arrived at the testing site at 8 a.m. and waited two hours to get tested.
She said the couple had the “luxury and the privilege” to take the time necessary to do that.
“Not everyone has the ability to tell their employer I’ll be 10 minutes late or I’ll be three hours late to work,” Leah said. “I really want businesses to allow time off for their employees to get tested. If we are going to stop the spread, we need to think about the equity of the system.”