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‘Praying for a negative test’: Altoona couple recovers from COVID-19, welcomes new baby


Kelsea Greene thought it was a bad sinus infection.

She’d been prescribed medication to relieve the pain, but it didn’t help the congestion or the fever.

Days later in early May, Greene, who lives in Altoona, received her test results: She had COVID-19.

“We thought, well, that makes sense,” Greene, 19, said Wednesday.

Greene’s partner, Shay Wundrow — who tested positive for the novel coronavirus around the same time — had begun noticing symptoms first.

First, Wundrow, 20, thought he’d hit his head and hadn’t realized it. He rarely gets headaches, but had begun having intense migraines, the kind he’d only had before after a concussion. A mild fever and body aches followed.

Apart from their relatively mild symptoms, the pair worried intensely about their unborn baby. After their two-week-long quarantine at home, Greene was 36 weeks pregnant.

“I was looking stuff up 24/7, trying to see if (the baby) could get it … and because I was high-risk I had to get tested,” Greene said.

After his test in May, Wundrow’s symptoms quickly cleared up, and he tested negative for the virus the second time his sinuses were swabbed.

But the couple was mystified when, weeks into May and days after her symptoms disappeared, Greene was still testing positive for the virus.

She received six tests in total — finally testing negative at 39 weeks pregnant.

“The entire month of May I was going in for tests and they were coming back positive, even though I felt completely fine,” Greene said.

Greene finally tested negative, and was ready to be induced and deliver at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire on June 3. Then she found out the hospital needed her to have a second negative COVID-19 test before she could deliver without additional personal protective equipment and safety precautions, she said.

Greene was retested, but the couple decided to change their plans and deliver at Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire, which their doctor said required Greene to test negative for the virus just once.

Greene’s labor went smoothly, and the couple’s son Jaxon Joseph Wundrow was born at 1:41 a.m. on June 5.

“It was well worth everything,” Greene said.

Source of transmission

a mystery

Greene and Wundrow are two of the roughly 130 Eau Claire County residents who have contracted COVID-19.

Like many others, they’re baffled as to where they could have picked up the virus.

“We hadn’t been going inside stores or gas stations,” Wundrow said. “We pay at the pump, things like that. The only place I would go is work every day.”

Wundrow wore a mask, gloves and safety glasses at work. The couple wasn’t even going into stores to pick up groceries, Greene said, instead using a pickup service.

“We kind of locked down in mid-March,” Greene said. “Why take the risk? We weren’t going to go clothes shopping for the baby. We weren’t going to leave the house for no reason.”

Greene and Wundrow aren’t alone: The majority of Eau Claire County residents who have contracted the virus don’t know where they could have picked it up — 60% of all cases in the last two weeks, according to a Wednesday status report from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

Both were surprised they didn’t experience severe symptoms.

“Neither of us were coughing, nothing like that,” Greene said. “It seemed a lot scarier than what we actually got it as.”

“We had it pretty easy,” Wundrow added.

The coronavirus causes mild symptoms in about 80% of people who contract it, according to the World Health Organization. Nasal congestion, aches and pains, headaches, sore throats, loss of taste or smell or a rash on fingers and toes are listed as less common symptoms; the most common symptoms are a fever, dry cough and tiredness.

Pregnancy in a pandemic

Even though she tested negative before Jaxon’s birth, the possibility of laboring with COVID-19 was intimidating, Greene said.

People who give birth while testing positive for COVID-19 must wear a mask, face shield, gown and gloves, said Robin Miller, nurse manager in Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire’s birth center. Medical staff are required to do the same.

Parents also wouldn’t be allowed to leave their hospital room, to protect other hospital residents, Miller said.

“It was hard enough to breathe trying to push,” Greene said. “To wear a mask would have been terrible.”

The baby would have had to be tested for COVID-19 at 24 and 48 hours old.

But for Greene, the hardest prospect would have been giving up her baby until she finally produced a negative test for the virus.

If the baby’s mother tests positive for COVID-19, the baby has to go into a separate room, if possible, or stay at least six feet away until the parent is discharged from the hospital, Miller said. The new mother likely wouldn’t be able to breastfeed while in the hospital either.

“It really affects bonding,” Miller said.

The thought was heartbreaking, Greene said, “I couldn’t have imagined it.”

The couple was “hoping and praying” for a negative test, they said — and were relieved when Greene was able to deliver without the additional precautions.

Pregnant women are considered high-risk for contracting COVID-19, but if they have the virus, “the risk of developing severe symptoms does seem to be somewhat reduced,” said Dr. Frank LoRusso, Greene’s OB/GYN.

Women’s respiratory systems are taxed more during pregnancy, which can more easily lead to shortness of breath or chest pain, LoRusso said.

But in simplified terms, severe cases of COVID-19 can involve the patient’s immune system attacking the body in an inflammatory response. That inflammatory response “does seem to be wound down a little bit” in pregnant women, LoRusso said.

A novel, or new, disease means the long-term effects for pregnant women are still a mystery, but “so far all indicators are that yes, it’s OK to proceed with fertility plans,” LoRusso said. “So far, we haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary for them.”

Message to new moms

Even with the worry of COVID-19 behind them, Greene called labor “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life.”

“But as soon as he was born, it was like nothing happened,” she said, holding a sleeping Jaxon in the couple’s home on Wednesday. “All my focus was on him.”

LoRusso praised the couple’s attitude during a tough and uncertain month.

“When we look at good people in this world, that’s a quality couple right there,” LoRusso said of Wundrow and Greene. “They took care of themselves, as well as each other, throughout the pregnancy and the COVID isolation.”

The couple said they’ve advised their friends to stay away from crowded places.

“Don’t be naive,” Wundrow said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it.”

Greene wants pregnant mothers — or women wondering about getting pregnant — to understand doctor’s appointments can be delayed with the risk of COVID-19 — but “in the end, everything’s worth it.”

“I wish I could’ve heard someone’s story first,” she said. “You Google everything and (think) you’re dying … you want to hear from people who’ve been through it.”

So far Jaxon is a healthy and happy baby: At five days old, he’d grown a half-inch and gained half an ounce, Greene said. A few close family members have met him, but the new parents are requiring sanitizing and mask-wearing for their few family visitors.

“We’re not taking that chance again,” Wundrow said.

Atlanta police chief resigns after fatal police shooting

ATLANTA — Atlanta’s police chief resigned Saturday hours after a black man was fatally shot by officers in a struggle following a field sobriety test. Authorities said the slain man had grabbed an officer’s Taser, but was running away when he was shot.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields at a Saturday news conference as roughly 150 protesters marched outside the Wendy’s restaurant where 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot late Friday. The mayor also said she called for the immediate firing of the officer who opened fire at Brooks.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Bottoms said.

She said it was Shields’ own decision to step aside as police chief and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role. Interim Corrections Chief Rodney Bryant would serve as interim police chief until a permanent replacement is found.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, said the deadly confrontation started with officers responding to a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane. The GBI said Brooks failed a field sobriety test and then resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him.

The GBI released security camera video of the shooting Saturday. The footage shows a man running from two police officers as he raises a hand, which is holding some type of object, toward an officer a few steps behind him. The officer draws his gun and fires as the man keeps running, then falls to the ground in the parking lot.

GBI Director Vic Reynolds said Brooks had grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and appeared to point it at the officer as he fled, prompting the officer to reach for his gun.

“In a circumstance like this where an officer is involved in the use of deadly force, the public has a right to know what happened,” GBI Director Vic Reynolds told a news conference on a day when protesters gathered at the scene of the shooting and in other areas of Atlanta.

The security camera video does not show Brooks’ the initial struggle with police.

The shooting came at a time of heightened tension over police brutality and calls for reforms across the U.S. following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Atlanta was among U.S. cities where large crowds of protesters took to the streets.

A crowd of roughly 150 demonstrators, including members of Brooks’ family, gathered Saturday outside the restaurant where he was shot. Police shut down streets for several blocks around the restaurant as protesters marched peacefully in the streets.

Among them was Crystal Brooks, who said she is Rayshard Brooks’ sister-in-law.

“He wasn’t causing anyone any harm,” she said. “The police went up to the car and even though the car was parked they pulled him out of the car and started tussling with him.”

She added: “He did grab the Taser, but he just grabbed the Taser and ran.”

Gerald Griggs, an attorney and a vice president of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter, estimated there were 150 people protesting at the scene as he walked with them Saturday afternoon.

“The people are upset,” Griggs said. “They want to know why their dear brother Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed when he was merely asleep on the passenger side and not doing anything.”

Even though Brooks struggled with officers, Griggs said, “they could have used nonlethal force to take him down.”

Reynolds said his agents worked through the night interviewing witnesses and reviewing video. He said their findings show that Brooks tried to fight off two officers when they tried to arrest him and at one point managed to take a Taser away from one of them.

A security camera recorded Brooks “running or fleeing from Atlanta police officers,” Reynolds said. “It appears that he has in his hand a Taser.”

During a short foot chase Brooks “turns around and it appears at that time he points a Taser at an Atlanta officer,” Reynolds said. That’s when the officer drew his gun and shot Brooks, he said, estimating the officer fired three times.

Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Timothy Peek told reporters late Friday that both officers deployed their Tasers in an attempt to subdue the suspect but were unable to “stop the aggression of the fight.”

Reynolds said his agents will turn over results of their investigation to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either of the officers.

Howard said Saturday his office had already gotten involved.

“My office has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident,” Howard said in a statement, saying members of his staff “were on scene shortly after the shooting, and we have been in investigative sessions ever since to identify all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.”

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who gained national prominence running for governor in 2018, tweeted Saturday of the shooting that “sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death.”

“The killing of #RayshardBrooks in Atlanta last night demands we severely restrict the use of deadly force,” Abrams’ tweet said. “Yes, investigations must be called for — but so too should accountability.”

The officers involved in the shooting were not identified.

Brooks died after being taken to an Atlanta hospital. One of the officers was treated and released for unspecified injuries.

Protests in Trump country test his hold in rural white areas

In the lake country 200 miles northwest of Detroit, hundreds danced, prayed and demanded racial justice in Cadillac, a Michigan town that was long home to a neo-Nazi group.

It was not an isolated scene. In eastern Ohio, even more demonstrated in rural Mount Vernon, a town with its own current of racial intolerance, just as others did in Manheim, Pennsylvania, a tiny farming town in Lancaster County, with its small but active Ku Klux Klan presence.

The protest movement over black injustice has quickly spread deep into predominantly white, small-town America, notably throughout parts of the country that delivered the presidency for Donald Trump.

Across Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, more than 200 such demonstrations have taken place, many in cities with fewer than 20,000 residents, according to local media, organizers, participants and the online tracking tool CrowdCount.

“That’s what’s so striking, that these protests are taking place in rural places with a white nationalist presence,” said Lynn Tramonte, who grew up near Mount Vernon and is monitoring the Black Lives Matter demonstrations around Ohio.

The protests in these Republican-leaning areas offer a test of the president’s ability to reassemble his older, white voting bloc. If he cannot replicate that coalition, it would leave Trump with few options, especially since he continues to lose support in suburbs.

“If President Trump cannot hold onto white, working-class voters in rural, small-town Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio, I don’t know how he wins the election,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Can you rule out he won’t have that same level of enthusiasm? No, you can’t.”

Trump carried Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes in 2016, in part with overwhelming support from a patchwork of rural, white counties.

The pattern also played out in Michigan and Wisconsin, where he won by even fewer votes. In Ohio, that coalition propelled him to an easy victory.

Trump’s reelection campaign is working chiefly through online outreach to hold onto his largely white base and to identify new voters in rural areas as a defense against inroads by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Some polls suggest that, while white voters without college degrees are still a strong group for Trump, they could be more open to supporting Biden than they were to supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton four years ago.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh did not directly address the protests taking place in counties won by the president, but said more generally in a statement to The Associated Press, “President Trump expressed disgust and shock over what happened to George Floyd and praised the peaceful demonstrations, but also knows that Americans cannot live with riots and lawlessness in cities nationwide.”

But the pace of change over racial justice after Floyd’s death last month by police in Minneapolis has quickened and has sparked protests in hundreds of communities in every state, on a scale rarely, if ever, seen before. It is not that Biden will necessarily win rural counties that Trump carried easily, but he may be able to cut into Trump’s margins enough to bring those states back to the Democratic column.

In Cadillac, Mich., branch home of the National Socialist Movement — among the nation’s prominent neo-Nazi groups as recently as 2007 — black organizers were undeterred in staging their event at a lakeside pavilion even as armed opponents associated with the white nationalist group Michigan Militia parked nearby as a show of force.

Trump won Wexford County, home to Cadillac, with 65% of the vote, similar to neighboring counties in the lightly populated region, where unemployment has run higher than average in Michigan.

In neighboring Grand Traverse County, which Trump won by a smaller margin, more than 2,000 packed Traverse City’s Lake Michigan shoreline park to hear protest organizer Courtney Wiggins. The 38-year-old black woman listed demands, including that police in the 95% white town of 14,000 end racial profiling, as armed protesters affiliated with the far-right Proud Boys dotted the perimeter.

Though similar events popped up in exurban Cedarburg and Grafton in Wisconsin, keys to Ozaukee County in the GOP-leaning suburbs of Milwaukee, far more have materialized many miles from the major metropolitan areas in these four pivotal states, according to organizers and advocates who have tracked the protests.

In Mount Vernon, Ohio, the seat of Knox County where Trump received 66% of the vote, 700 people turned out on June 6 despite threats from opponents, who staged an impromptu rally later that day. It’s the same small town where two years ago the local Christian college was vandalized when leaders put on a racial justice program, and where the Ku Klux Klan had been active in the area over the past century.

Dozens of protests have taken place in counties in these four battleground states that Trump flipped from Democrat to Republican. Among them were Macomb County outside Detroit, Portage and Mahoning counties in northeast Ohio, and — perhaps most notably — Luzerne County, Penn., where voters swung dramatically from President Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump four years later.

Still, the vast majority have taken place in more than 200 small cities and towns across these four states, like Oconto, Wis., Marietta, Ohio, and Meadville, Penn., all with populations under 20,000 and in counties Trump carried with at least 60% of the vote.

And while the battle for the White House will likely be waged most intensely in these states’ diversifying suburbs, where Democrats made gains in 2018, even a slight uptick among Democrats or a softening of Trump support in the vast spaces between could be enough to alter the election.

If Biden carries every state Clinton did in 2016 and reclaims Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he would win a majority of the Electoral College votes.

Of those states, none was as close as Michigan, which Trump won by 10,704 votes out of more than 4.7 million ballots cast.

A little more than 11,000 voters backed Obama in 2008 and either didn’t vote or supported Trump in 2016 in Grand Traverse County and the five counties surrounding it, including Cadillac’s home in Wexford County, according to state voting records.

“These marginal numbers, a few extra votes here and there, we’re talking, like, a handful of votes per county, and they exist in my six-county region,” said Betsy Coffia, a Democratic Grand Traverse County commissioner. “This can make a difference.”