The first woman in the state of Florida to test positive for COVID-19 is sharing her experience. Kaelyn Sheedy lives with her sister in Tampa. She was exposed to the virus during a vacation in Europe.
Sheedy talked with 10Investigates’ Courtney Robinson via Skype.
Kaelyn is 29 years old and a sports therapist. She has since tested negative for COVID-19 and has been cleared by the Florida Department of Health. She is no longer under quarantine.
THE COVID-19 INFECTION
Kaelyn went with friends to Spain, Italy and France for two weeks in February. She says she was aware of coronavirus but took precautions. She had a mask, cleaning wipes and other items that health officials had encouraged at the time.
Kaelyn noticed on her flight back from France to JFK that she was getting ill.
“A fever set in. I wasn’t feeling well. I got to JFK, got to my hotel because I had a layover, and I actually called the CDC that evening,” she said.
She says she explained her travel history to the CDC; but because the timing of Italy’s outbreak was so close to her traveling to France, they were not overly concerned, and she says they cleared her to fly home.
“Once I got to Tampa I immediately self-isolated. I reached out to the Florida Health Department..."
As a sports therapist, Kaelyn specializes in soft tissue. She says she knew to self-isolate and called the health department.
“I was symptomatic, so I wore a mask during my travel. My younger sister lives with me; and the second I got home, I was like, until we figure out what this is, if it is COVID-19 or if it is the flu, I need you to wear a mask, I’m going to wear a mask to protect both of us while we’re in the house and she tested negative,” she said.
“It is possible to be around other people if you’re taking the right precautions. I know everyone’s situation, they’re not going to be able to quarantine by themselves.”
Her younger sister ultimately left their home and spent 14 days in isolation.
Officials have said that Kaelyn was tested on Feb. 28, and it came back positive. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced her case on the evening of March 1 when he declared a public health emergency in the state.
WHAT COVID-19 FELT LIKE
Kaelyn says COVID-19 felt like really bad flu with a thick green mucus clogging her lungs. She says it lasted for about 14 days from start to finish.
“There was a time when I had some difficulty breathing. It just kind of felt like someone was, you know, sitting on your chest or you couldn’t really take a strong deep breath of fresh air. The fever was high. That was my first indication that something wasn’t right and the green mucus in my respiratory, the congestion in my respiratory system,” she said.
She acknowledges that there is a range of symptoms from asymptomatic to critical.
“You can’t just say because you’re young you’re not going to be affected or because you’re older you’re not going to survive. We have to take precautions now,” she said.
10Investigates’ Courtney Robinson asked Kaelyn if she felt like the local health department was prepared and how she views the response from the state.
“When I was going through the procedures, even the CDC honestly, I think it happened so fast, it was such a quick snowball effect that as I was living through the protocols and the procedures, they were creating them,” she said.
She doesn’t think anyone could have truly prepared for the pandemic that is hitting the world.
“I think now, hearing from other individuals and being able to talk to a lot of people that are dealing with this in and around the Tampa Bay area, I think Florida’s handling it very well and I think that’s going to eliminate the spread and the spike in those cases,” she said.
HER ADVICE: BE CONSIDERATE, COMPASSIONATE AND SELF-ISOLATE
She says social distancing is important.
“It’s one of those things where until you go through it, you don’t really realize the impact you could have on others,” she said.
She often worried about the people who were on her flight from JFK to TPA or others who sat near her before she tested positive. She says, to the best of her knowledge, based on information from the CDC, she did not spread this to anyone.
“If you’re asymptomatic, you could carry the virus and have no idea; and so although you’re living your life and you’re happy, you could be exposing someone else that’s going to be less fortunate,” she said.
She says we need to focus on self-isolation and quarantine to do everything we can to protect ourselves and others.
She says she used food delivery services during quarantine and relied on friends and family members. They would drop food and other supplies at her door.
She says she didn’t need more supplies or food than she would at any other time and says now is the time to be compassionate and kind.
“There [are] times like this where we need to think of others and really have compassion for other people’s situations and if that means staying away from friends or maybe not going out...It’s just really important for people to be considerate of others right now.”
Kaelyn answered questions about coronavirus on her Instagram @KaelynSheedy.