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EC family endures symptoms, fears of COVID-19

People often relish the chance to be among the first to try the latest thing everyone is talking about.

Pandemics, however, are definitely an exception.

An Eau Claire family learned that the hard way when a mother and daughter became two of the first people in the Chippewa Valley to be diagnosed with COVID-19 this spring.

The unwanted journey began March 14 when Maggie Kison drove to the Twin Cities to pick up her daughter, Ava, who was arriving on a flight from Boston. Ava was on spring break from Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H., and the family had a beach vacation planned in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., despite the looming threat of the coronavirus pandemic just beginning to strike the United States.

The family’s troubles began innocently enough with Ava, an NCAA Division 1 hockey player for Franklin Pierce, telling her mother she was tired. Not surprising after a morning of travel and coming just weeks after a long season that ended Feb. 22 with a five-overtime loss to St. Anselm in what was the longest game in the history of women’s college hockey.

Maggie, 47, and Ava, 19, still enjoyed a mother-daughter day of shopping before returning to Eau Claire.

The next day Ava reported she was still tired and now had a sore throat. She feared it could be her third bout of strep throat this year. By the afternoon, when Ava awoke from a nap, she was sweating, although she didn’t have a fever. Still, Maggie had her first inkling that her daughter might have COVID-19.

Maggie was out of the house on March 14 when Ava texted to say she had a fever of 102 degrees.

“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. You’ve got to be kidding me,’ “ Maggie said, recalling her reaction before she called the family’s health care provider but was unable to reach anyone despite waiting on hold for about two hours. When Maggie got through the next morning, the medical team told her Ava needed a COVID-19 test but they didn’t have any. The providers called that afternoon to say they had acquired a test but still were establishing a procedure for testing.

Later the same day, an OakLeaf Clinics staff member called again and told the Kisons to drive to a special spot in the parking lot, roll down the window but stay in the car. When they did and were identified, Ava and Maggie were approached by staff suited up in protective gear.

“Ava was kind of creeped out by the whole thing,” Maggie recalled.

Once staff took a nasal swab, the Kisons had to wait — nervously — for eight days to get results that now likely would be available the first day.

In the meantime, the family canceled their vacation and was forced instead to spend their time off self-quarantined in their Eau Claire home. They fielded calls at least daily from public health officials seeking condition updates about Ava, who reported a constant headache and at one point slept almost three straight days.

“It’s scary,” Maggie said. “I was really worried about her. I checked on her a lot because I was afraid she could stop breathing while she was sleeping.”

Maggie recalled being glued to the TV and scouring the internet at that time in search of the latest updates on the coronavirus and any information she could find about symptoms.

By the time Ava finally received official word she tested positive for COVID-19, she already was feeling much better.

“When I found out I had Covid I was already recovered, so I was surprised to find out that I had it,” said Ava, who the family believes was one of the first, if not the first, patient from the Chippewa Valley to test positive.

Here we go again

About the same time, Maggie started feeling horrible.

Like Ava, Maggie said she had eye socket pain, chills and a band of headache across her forehead.

“It was not terrible pain, but nothing would stop it,” Maggie said of the headache. “It was just there all the time.”

However, Maggie was spared the loss of her sense of taste and smell — symptoms that plagued Ava.

Maggie, who also reported shooting spinal cord pain, got tested at Mayo Clinic Health System’s drive-up testing site in Eau Claire the day after Ava got her results.

When staff asked Maggie if she had been exposed to anyone who had tested positive, she pointed her thumb at Ava, who was driving. After Maggie’s nasal swab, she got her positive test result the next day.

The worst of Maggie’s symptoms lasted five or six days, or a day or two longer than Ava endured.

Public health officials have seen a broad range in recovery times, with mild cases generally recovering in a week or two, said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

“For some, cases have lasted six weeks or more, and some people have long-term effects we’re still seeing,” Giese said.

Maggie and Ava account for two of the 151 people in Eau Claire County who as of Friday had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

With each new development, other family members, including Maggie’s husband, Vince, and their two sons, Trevin, 17, and Coby, 21, had to start a new 14-day quarantine cycle.

“I was mainly worried about my family’s health,” Trevin said. “I was also really worried about the fact that I haven’t seen my friends in a few months with the multiple quarantines the health officials gave me. It really bothered me when all the guys were hanging out and I was just stuck inside for around two months.”

While she was still sick, Maggie, an avid runner who has completed two dozen marathons, said she jogged a couple times on a treadmill and on a tiny course around her yard, but found it left her exhausted and sweating profusely.

Weeks after she had recovered, Maggie said she went running and felt a burning sensation in her lungs — the only symptom she has noticed since late April — but remains hopeful she didn’t suffer long-term lung damage.

Still, based on her family’s experience, Maggie concluded, “It’s not the worst illness you could ever get, but it’s the unknown and panic associated with it that make it such a big deal.”

She looks forward to a time when enough people have had the virus that some protection comes from herd immunity, which occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making its spread from person to person unlikely.

Protecting others

While herd immunity, boosted by development of a vaccine, may offer protection for the population, Giese cautioned that healthy individuals still can spread disease to people at high risk of complications.

“We are one contact away from a grandparent, a beloved person battling a disease that marks them immunocompromised,” Giese said. “Even if we’re healthy, if we have mild symptoms and we’re not protecting others, we’re risking people who otherwise shouldn’t be negatively impacted.”

In addition, much remains unknown about the virus and how to protect people, she said.

“While it conceptually might make sense to people that for fairly healthy people getting the disease won’t be a burden, we don’t know what the full impact of the disease is,” Giese said. “What we’ve seen from other countries and states is some health care systems can be overwhelmed very quickly. We’re seeing that now in some Rust Belt states.”

In Wisconsin alone, healthy people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and six individuals in their 20s and eight in their 30s have died, she noted.

Maggie was the first recovered COVID-19 patient to donate plasma, a process that took nearly 2½ hours, at the Eau Claire Red Cross Donor Center. The plasma is used to treat seriously ill patients in their attempt to overcome the virus, and Gov. Tony Evers has promoted such donations.

“I thought if there was something I could do to save a life, why wouldn’t I,” Maggie said. “I felt it was the right thing to do.”

Ava followed her mother’s example shortly thereafter.

Plasma treatment appears helpful in some situations, said Giese, who encouraged people who have been recovered from COVID-19 for at least two weeks to consider donating plasma.

Moving on

Through it all, the Kisons inadvertently got a firsthand view of a pandemic that has rocked the entire world by killing more than 450,000 people and producing more than 8.5 million positive tests since it was first detected late last year.

The family is thankful for the caring, helpful Health Department nurse who patiently answered their questions throughout the process and for friends and family who checked on them, prayed for them and dropped off food during their quarantine, but they also have seen the other end of the spectrum.

“It’s weird because some people look at you differently because they know you had the virus,” said Maggie, who believes she presents less risk as a recovered patient than most folks on the street.

Looking forward, the Kisons, now all feeling healthy, are confident they have put this unsettling chapter of their lives behind them.

That’s especially important for Ava, the former all-Big Rivers player for the Eau Claire Stars who is now a college athlete. With the recent opening of the Chippewa Area Ice Arena, Ava was able to start skating again — after her longest break from the ice since she was 4 years old — in addition to her normal fitness training.

“The only lingering effect of Covid is that my sense of smell isn’t fully there,” Ava said. “Otherwise I’m fully recovered. I’m able to do everything I could do before without any trouble.”

Latest US monuments toppled: Grant, national anthem writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Protesters tore down more statues across the United States, expanding the razing in a San Francisco park to the writer of America’s national anthem and the general who won the country’s Civil War which ended widespread slavery.

In Seattle, pre-dawn violence erupted Saturday in a protest zone largely abandoned by police, where one person was fatally shot and another critically injured.

On the East Coast, more statues honoring Confederates who tried to break away from the United States more than 150 years ago were toppled.

But several were removed at the order of North Carolina’s Democratic governor, who said he was trying to avoid violent clashes or injuries from toppling the heavy monuments erected by white supremacists that he said do not belong in places like the state capitol grounds that are for all people.

The statues are falling amid continuing anti-racism demonstrations following the May 25 police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, the African American man who died after a white police officers pressed his knee on his neck and whose death galvanized protesters around the globe to rally against police brutality and racism.

In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park along the Pacific Ocean, protesters sprayed red paint and wrote “slave owner” on pedestals before using ropes to bring down the statues and drag them down grassy slopes amid cheers and applause.

The statues targeted included a bust of Ulysses Grant, who was the U.S. president after he was the general who finally beat the Confederates and ended the Civil War.

Protesters said Grant owned slaves. He married into a slave-owning family, but had no problem fighting to end slavery. Grant also supported the 1868 Republican platform when he won the presidency which called for allowing Black men to continue voting in the South.

Also torn down in the San Francisco park was a statue of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the U.S. national anthem “Star Spangled Banner.” Key owned slaves.

Protesters also pulled down the statue of Spanish missionary Junipero Serra, an 18th century Roman Catholic priest who founded nine of California’s 21 Spanish missions and is credited with bringing Roman Catholicism to the Western United States.

Serra forced Native Americans to stay at those missions after they were converted or face brutal punishment. His statues have been defaced in California for several years by people who said he destroyed tribes and their culture.

Police officers responded to the park but didn’t intervene. The crowd threw objects at the officers, but no injuries or arrests were reported, San Francisco Police spokesman Officer Adam Lobsinger said.

In Seattle, authorities were investigating what led to the shooting in the area known as CHOP, which stands for “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone. It has been harshly criticized by President Donald Trump, who has tweeted about possibly sending in the military to exert control.

Police released few other details about the shooting. Two men with gunshot wounds arrived in a private vehicle at a hospital at at about 3 a.m. One died and the other was in critical condition, Harborview Medical Center spokesperson Susan Gregg said.

In Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, North Carolina, it was another night of tearing down Confederate statues. In the nation’s capital, demonstrators toppled the 11-foot (3.4-meter) statue of Albert Pike, the only statue in the city of a Confederate general. Then they set a bonfire and stood around it in a circle as the statue burned, chanting, “No justice, no peace!” and “No racist police!”

Trump quickly tweeted about the toppling, calling out D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and writing: “The DC police are not doing their job as they watched a statue be ripped down and burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!”

Two statues of two Confederate soldiers that were part of a larger obelisk were torn down Friday night by protesters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Police officers initially stopped the demonstrators, but after they cleared the area, the protesters returned an finished the job. They dragged the statues down the street and strung one up by the neck from a light post.

Saturday morning, official work crews came to the North Carolina capitol to remove two more Confederate statues. One statue was dedicated to the women of the Confederacy, and another was placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy honoring Henry Wyatt, the first North Carolinian killed in battle in the Civil War, news outlets reported.

Gov. Roy Cooper said he ordered the removal for public safety and blamed the Republican majority state General Assembly for the danger.

“If the legislature had repealed their 2015 law that puts up legal roadblocks to removal we could have avoided the dangerous incidents of last night,” Cooper posted on Twitter. “Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way.”

Cooper’s opponent for a second term in November, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest issued a statement saying Cooper did nothing to stop the destruction of statues and was either incompetent or encouraging lawlessness.

“It is clear that Gov. Cooper is either incapable of upholding law and order, or worse, encouraging this behavior,” Forest said.

Amid wave of cultural change, Trump tries to stir a backlash

WASHINGTON — It was June 2015, and Democrats felt the nation’s political and cultural winds blowing their way. The Supreme Court ruled in President Barack Obama’s favor on landmark gay marriage and health care cases. The White House was awash in rainbow light, a symbol of a liberal cultural takeover that seemed unstoppable.

The following year, Donald Trump was elected president, propelled by a revolt of voters who weren’t on board.

As he barrels toward the November election, Trump is again positioning himself as the spokesperson for voters resisting a new wave of cultural change, ready to ride any backlash from the protests calling for racial equality and police reform and this week’s Supreme Court rulings extending protections to gay workers and young immigrants.

“THE SILENT MAJORITY IS STRONGER THAN EVER BEFORE,” Trump tweeted Friday, aligning himself with those who believe their voices are increasingly missing from the national dialogue.

In truth, Trump has never had support from a majority of Americans, nor has he seen a political imperative in trying to. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 but offset that by boosting turnout in crucial Midwestern battleground states among disaffected, largely white, voters. That’s the same narrow path he’s trying to replicate against Democrat Joe Biden.

Yet Trump’s efforts to harness the culture wars to mobilize many of those same voters in 2020 may be more difficult than it was four years ago. Polls show that some of the cultural shifts that took hold during Obama’s presidency have continued during Trump’s tenure, signaling that his election alone couldn’t hold back the evolving views of an increasingly diverse nation.

As a result, Trump has found himself out of step in recent weeks, even with some of his usual allies.

For example, polls show the majority of Americans support the nationwide protests over police brutality — demonstrations Trump threatened to crack down on by deploying the military. The outcry prompted the NFL to shift its position and apologize for not supporting players who protested police bias by kneeling during the national anthem, abandoning Trump on that debate.

This week’s Supreme Court rulings also put the Trump administration — which argued against extending federal employment protections to LGBTQ Americans and in favor of rescinding deportation protections for immigrants known as “Dreamers” — on the opposite side of the vast majority of Americans.

A CBS News poll conducted earlier this month showed 82% of Americans believe gay people should be protected under civil rights laws. The same survey showed 85% of Americans say the “Dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — should be given legal status. Trump has said he’s open to legal protection for them but still sought to rescind their current protections to gain leverage in any immigration negotiations in Congress.

Yet some of Trump’s supporters believe the nation is in a similar place to where it was during those heady days for liberals in 2015, with cultural trends and even court decisions papering over deep resentment and unease among many Americans.

“There is a mob mentality out right now that if you don’t agree with what certain people want you to think, they attempt to shame and silence people,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. “Yet when you go to the voting booth, you’re going to vote the way you want to.”

Some of the president’s advisers privately acknowledge that many of the base voters Trump is appealing to aren’t representative of the majority of the country. They are instead banking on those Americans being more fervent, more likely to donate to his campaign, to show up at rallies, and most importantly, to vote in November than Democrats or independents.

“There is going to be a massive turnout from people who see this cancerous political correctness coming from the major media companies, the social media companies, all of the elite institutions, including the Supreme Court,” said Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union and a Trump ally.

The president has made clear that as he embraces the culture wars in the months leading up to Election Day, he’ll put the Supreme Court in his crosshairs. He said this week that he would soon release a list of contenders for any high court vacancies during his second term.

That’s the same move he made in 2016 as he sought to energize conservatives eager to tip the balance of power throughout the judicial system and offset what they argue are “activist” liberal judges. They’ve since cheered Trump’s two nominees to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and the 200 federal judges who have been confirmed during his term.

So this week’s rulings were a jolt for many Trump supporters, one some conservatives say was needed to show the president’s base that even more like-minded judges are needed.

“I can’t think of much else that fires up conservatives than the makeup of the Supreme Court,” said Jason Chaffetz, the former Republican congressman from Utah. “They’re willing to forgive a lot knowing that Donald Trump is going to do the right thing in picking conservative justices.”

Much of the conservative outrage over this week’s court rulings has centered on Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by President George W. Bush and sided with the majority in both cases. But Roberts was joined in the LGBT employment case by Gorsuch.

To Democrats, the rulings — and particularly Gorsuch’s majority opinion on the gay rights case — were another sign that Trump is increasingly an outlier on political, social and legal matters, even in forums in which he seemingly has an advantage.

“What are they fighting for if Trump tries to enact his policies and they get overturned?” Jennifer Palmieri, a Democratic strategist who worked for Obama and Hillary Clinton, said of Trump supporters. “Trump has to worry about his base feeling like he’s ineffectual, even with a Trump Supreme Court.”