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Another potential symptom of coronavirus: shame

Another potential symptom of coronavirus: shame
Posted at 3:04 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 15:04:45-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Coronavirus has been on everyone's mind this year, and it can be difficult to avoid the topic. However, there is also shame associated with a positive test result.

KOAA spoke with Jessica Rodriguez when she was with her children at a local park on Tuesday. She explained how she would feel if diagnosed with coronavirus. "I think it's a little bit of a shame thing... I'd hope I didn't get anybody sick. It'd almost be embarrassing," said Rodriguez, who has lived in Colorado Springs for almost two decades.

Another person at the park, Sheila Martin, told KOAA she would not feel ashamed if she got the virus, and encouraged people to tell their close contacts if they experience symptoms. "Try to stop the spread, and then eventually, we'll get there," said Martin.

Jonathan Baer was also at the park on Tuesday, and said he would not be afraid to talk about test results, and told people to stop their irrational fear of the virus. "I understand that it's real, it has the potential to be very serious, but that doesn't change my thoughts on it... There's been a tremendous fear campaign for the American public," said Baer, who said the media has helped spread that fear.

The Clinical Program Manager of Child and Family Services for AspenPointe, Heather Lea, said fear related to the virus and confusion on best practices for safety protocols both contribute to increased anxiety about a positive test. "If I tell somebody that I had COVID, or that I have COVID, automatically, you know, the judgment pieces can come into play. There are embarrassment factors that can come into play for people too, about feeling like maybe there was something I could have done that I didn't, although that's often not really the case for most people," said Lea.

Lea discussed how the virus has different layers of guilt associated with it, and said telling close contacts can help relieve some of it. "Regardless of how anxiety-provoking this is, how nervous you are, you are doing the right thing... I would rather get it over and done with, almost like ripping off the band-aid, instead of carrying that around with me forever," said Lea.

Lea described it like walking a tightrope when trying to decide who to tell when symptoms first surface, but before a positive test result has actually been received. "It's hard to say. I personally carry that responsibility and would want people to know, as quickly as possible, if I'm waiting days to receive a test," said Lea.

She also said any feelings the person who is learning of potential exposure is experiencing are valid, but it's important to move through stages of anger and decide upon the next steps. "This is how stigmas get attached to things, and when we stigmatize things, people don't get help. And they only spend time suffering and hurting when they don't need to be... This is not something you should have to do alone," said Lea.

KOAA also reached out to El Paso County Public Health, which provided us with these responses to certain questions:

What should I do if I am notified that I tested positive for COVID-19?

Public Health is here as a resource to help guide you through this process. As soon as Public Health receives the notification of a positive case (typically these are received through lab reports), we will reach out to let the individual know, and answer any questions. Public Health can work with you to talk about the next steps and to help identify who you might have been in contact with. You can also call (719) 578-3220 to speak to a communicable disease epidemiologist. It’s important to follow the guidance of Public Health. If you test positive, you should isolate at home for at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared AND until no fever for at least 24 hours without medication AND symptoms are improving.

Should I notify my friends and family?

With COVID-19, we are looking for anyone who may have had prolonged exposure to you – anyone who may have been within six feet or less, for a period of 10-15 minutes or longer. Any household contacts should quarantine for a period of 14 days, and seek testing if they begin experiencing symptoms. Again, when Public Health reaches out, our trained experts will talk through this process with you and help identify who you may have been in prolonged contact with.

Here are examples of some of the things we may talk through: Did you go to work while you were ill? Did you attend a social gathering recently? Were you in your prolonged contact with anyone? Did you have long conversations with anyone while standing less than six feet apart? Were you and other people wearing masks? If you may have had prolonged contact with other friends or social contacts, you may want to let them know out of an abundance of caution. Public Health can also work with you throughout this process to identify whether or not additional contacts need to be notified.

What if I get a test and am awaiting my results – should I notify the people I’ve been in contact with?

One of the things you can do while you’re awaiting test results is to make sure you’re staying home, to prevent spreading illness. Again, it can be helpful to think through who you may have had prolonged contact with; you may want to let close contacts know that you are experiencing symptoms and awaiting test results. Those individuals can also monitor for symptoms, and seek testing if they begin experiencing symptoms.

This story was first published by Colette Bordelon at KOAA in Colorado Springs, Colorado.