I live in New York City and have coronavirus symptoms, including the loss of smell. But I'm still working — and I'm afraid I'll be furloughed soon.

pio3/ShutterstockNew York has become an epicentre for the coronavirus. (Author not pictured.)
  • Ron (not his real name) is a 29-year-old man who works in real-estate development.
  • After experiencing a dry cough, congestion, and loss of sense of smell, he called his doctor, who said he most likely has the coronavirus. A coworker he spent time with has tested positive.
  • His doctor warned not to come in for testing unless his symptoms got more severe, so he is self-isolating in his apartment, but still working remotely.
  • His biggest worry is that his company will put him on furlough, which he thinks would be worse than being laid off.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As told to Jimmy Im, a freelance writer. The subject of this article preferred not to use his real name.

Ron (not his real name) is a 29-year-old manager in real-estate development who lives in Harlem, New York. He woke up one morning with sinus congestion and a dry cough. He lives alone, and he has self-quarantined at home every day since March 13. He’s still working, and his office is closed.

At the onset of symptoms, Ron called his doctor

“He told me to quarantine for two weeks, so I’ve been at home. He said, due to my symptoms, I pretty much have it. I shouldn’t go to the hospital or ER to get tested because, with the slim chance I don’t have it, I could definitely get it – and if I do have it, I’d put people at risk. I just have to assume I have it.

“Every day, I have the same symptoms in terms of congestion, and I have a dry cough. I had a fever yesterday but it was like an hour. Out of nowhere I started sweating but then it was gone. I was literally on a video call. By the time the call was done, the fever was gone. I guess maybe I should buy a thermometer, but I’m sure everyone’s trying to buy thermometers right now.

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“My symptoms haven’t gotten better or worse. I’m pretty sure I got it from a colleague. She was one of those stupid New Yorkers who went out, posting Instagram stories of her going to bars in Brooklyn last weekend. She actually got really sick and got tested and was positive. I’ve texted with her every day. She said she couldn’t smell or taste anything. I also couldn’t smell anything for three days. I would spray cologne twice and couldn’t smell it. It was so, so weird. That was only three days. I can smell again.

“I’m drinking a lot of water and tea and taking all my vitamins and drinking smoothies and soup.”

Though Ron’s been sick for 2 weeks, he’s still working

“I’m still working. I’m working today. I’ve been on calls all morning for development that has to be done within a year. Everything is moving forward like nothing happened. We’re a publicly traded company. We can’t do anything without running it through 75 people.

“I’ve been really lucky financially. I’m still employed; I haven’t gotten cut. Everyone I know in New York City is on furlough, and I know people whose salary has been cut in half. They are basically working just to live. They are doing it because they need some sort of income. They’re not happy about it. I’m not the only person I know in New York City who still has a job. My brother works in real estate management, so it’s not like they’re going to lay off the people running their buildings. It would be total chaos.

“People I know whose salary has been cut in half are in restaurant groups that have literally laid off everyone but a few people they kept on board, but those people are getting paid half of what they were making, which already isn’t a lot.

“Some of the people I talked to literally yesterday just started crying; they were a mess. I felt so bad. I don’t blame them. I would be the same. They are just a mess from all this pressure. Losing your job is one thing, but now you have all this financial pressure too.”

New york city streetsMary Altaffer/AP

‘I hope it will get all figured out for New York City’

“I don’t know about other places, but if the city or state or federal government doesn’t do something for restaurants, especially standalone restaurants, they will definitely close permanently. Restaurants can’t pay rent, they don’t make a lot of money anyway and they lost their staff. It’s going to be a mega problem for restaurants and workers, but I’m sure there will be a bailout at some point. There has to be. It’s the government that’s forcing them to shut down.

“But I know it will happen soon, that I’ll get on furlough. That’s my biggest worry. My employer could put me on furlough at any time without warning. It’s scary. I wish they would lay me off so I get on unemployment, then they could eventually hire me back if they wanted. But I don’t think that will happen. Even still, the day you’re supposed to come back, they could fire you. If you get put on furlough, and you’re like, ‘No, I don’t want to do it’ and resign, you can’t do unemployment. Even still, in New York City for unemployment, it’s a fraction of your salary. I calculated it, and it wouldn’t even cover my rent.”

‘I’m really lucky that I have some savings’

“All my money from a house I sold I put in investment accounts that I can’t touch so I technically can’t take that money. I’ll get a huge penalty if I take it out before I retire.

“I have, for sure, lost money from the decline in the stock market. They are mutual funds, basically. You know how the stock market dropped 50%? I haven’t lost 50% of my investments – maybe 10%, which is a lot of money, but not as much as a lot of people are losing. By the time I retire, I’m sure I’ll get those stocks back.”

What his doctor says

Jason Kindt, a doctor at Mount Sinai in New York, who ordered Ron to self-quarantine for 14 days, said: “Anyone sick should stay home for two weeks. I’m recommending good rest, good nutrition, and to stay hydrated. The most concerning symptom is fever with shortness of breath – those people should seek medical advice or go to the ER depending on the severity of their breathing.

“Remember, with limited testing we don’t know who has COVID-19 and who has other respiratory viruses. Testing has been limited to people who are at highest risk and people with fever, shortness of breath, and cough. We now know that sinus congestion, diarrhoea, and headache may be symptoms for the younger population, but they don’t meet current criteria for screening. Forty per cent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are 35 to 55 years old. I had a patient die last week in the ICU with COVID-19-related respiratory failure. He was only 57 and in relatively good health. (He had controlled hypertension.)

“Also, there are reports of decreased smell/taste, diarrhoea, fatigue, headaches, and sinus congestion, and a lot of this could also be other infections such as the flu, or sinusitis – the concern for lack of testing is that we cannot confirm COVID-19 in these cases. Testing is still limited to only the sickest of patients. So, anyone who has any type of sickness is given the same advice right now – stay home and self-quarantine for two weeks. If the symptoms are severe or the patient is scared, most doctors are now able to do Telehealth visits to give advice.”

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