A man in self-isolation looks out the window

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Juan Perez, Amy Bobchek, Marcus Ferreira were all diagnosed with COVID-19 in March.

“I really wanted to work during my sickness,” Perez told Insider. “But the most I could do was catch up on ‘Better Call Saul’ and take naps.”

Ferreira, a 20-year-old sophomore at Vanderbilt University, is already back to his normal schedule, studying and taking exams, from home.

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In mid-January, Juan Perez read a CNN article about the emerging novel coronavirus in China. Stunned, he posted a prediction on Twitter: “Remember when I tell you, this will be the next global outbreak.”

Perez was right. And within two months, he learned he had contracted COVID-19.

Three Americans told Insider what it feels like to be diagnosed with the virus and recover. Here’s what we can learn from them.

Something wasn’t right
Juan Perez initially attributed his coronavirus symptoms to seasonal allergies.

Juan Perez

None of them felt serious symptoms at first, but all knew something was “off.”

On the night of March 15, Perez experienced intermittent wheezing. But the 40-year-old Brooklynite thought it could be just seasonal allergies.

Amy Bobchek, 52, first felt run down on March 15, a few days after returning from a business trip in New York City to her home in Leesburg, Virginia.

Marcus Ferreira, 20, began feeling lethargic and achy on March 11, while still living on campus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University.

Within a day or two of their initial symptoms, all experienced some of the typical markers of the coronavirus: fever, body aches, chills, headache, cough, and shortness of breath. When those symptoms worsened, they each decided to get tested and, with two to five days, all received a positive result for COVID-19.

Getting tested

While all recall medical personnel wearing masks and other protective gear, Bobchek described her experience getting tested as “almost dystopian.”

At a makeshift drive-thru area at her local hospital, she recalled, “There were people in beekeeper suits, and signs with all kinds of instructions — including ‘Don’t roll your window down’ and ‘Hold your ID up to the window.'” Bobchek’s doctor indicated she needed to open her window halfway, though, so he could perform a swab test.

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“He said not to look at him, just to look straight ahead, and that he was going to stick a Q-tip up my nose.”

Worsening symptoms
Marcus Ferreira was still on campus at Vanderbilt University when he began experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

Marcus Ferreira

The same day Ferreira felt achy and tired, Vanderbilt announced all students had to leave campus. Three days later, his father picked him up and drove them back to their family home in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

“The drive home was my worst day,” Ferreira said. “I had a fever, I was shaking, I had body aches and a bad cough.”

For Perez, a distance runner, the worst symptoms were extreme fatigue and an inability to focus. “I really wanted to work during my sickness,” he said. “But the most I could do was catch up on ‘Better Call Saul’ and take naps.”

For several days, Bobchek had body aches, no energy, and a headache. She spent most of her time in bed, and took only Tylenol to feel better, per instructions from her doctor and the World Health Organization.

The most upsetting symptom, Bobchek said, was a total loss of smell: At the time that wasn’t linked to COVID-19, but rhinologists now believe someone experiencing a sudden loss of smell could be a “hidden carrier” of the coronavirus, even with no other symptoms.

Keeping family members at a distance

Perez lives with his wife in a small apartment. After getting tested on March 17, he was told to go home and stay quarantined for 14 days.

“So I went home and divided the house in two,” he said. “I slept on the couch for two weeks — I wanted to do everything I could to keep my wife safe.”

The day before Bobchek began feeling sick, her father died of natural causes. Instead of going to comfort her loved ones, she decided to follow “advice from professionals” and behave as if she had the virus: She maintained a six-foot distance from everyone, had her husband sleep in another room, and put her mother in the guest house. When she felt up to it, Bobchek spent time “sanitizing, handwashing, and cleaning door knobs.”

Those precautions were important: Bobchek’s mother is 88 and her husband has asthma, so both were at higher risk for the virus.

Getting better
Coronavirus survivor Amy Bobchek has yet to fully recover her sense of smell.

Amy Bobchek

Ferreira started feeling better a few days after the worst of it, with only a cough remaining. His official recovery day was March 25, two weeks after his initial symptoms appeared. A sophomore engineering major, Ferreira is now back to his normal schedule, studying and taking exams, from home.

Bobchek, chief revenue officer for advertising platform Advocado, has been mostly symptom-free since March 26. But her sense of smell and taste still have not fully returned.

“I can cut onions, and my eyes will water, but I can’t smell onions,” she said. “My hand lotion has a strong citrus smell, but I can’t smell it, either.” Sour tastes are also muted, and she has no interest in drinking the occasional glass of wine she previously enjoyed.

Perez was officially finished with his quarantine on March 31. His wife has been coughing frequently for several days, though, so his days of self-isolation may continue.

Moving forward

Thankful that their experiences with COVID-19 weren’t too severe, Ferreira, Bobchek and Perez all offered words of advice to those worried about the virus.

“Stay home,” Perez said, echoing the group’s sentiment. “I think people don’t realize how easily it’s transmitted.”

Ferreira agreed: “You can get the virus anywhere, any time.”

And while Bobchek urged caution about where to get novel coronavirus information from, she still advised acting “as conservatively as possible.”

“It’s hard to stay home and keep your distance from others, but we all have a responsibility to be part of the solution.”

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