NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 15, 2020) - Diego Lopez, 29, is one of more than 4,000 people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nashville area. He wants the queer community to know that, despite its best efforts to help flatten the curve by staying safe and take precautions, it could still be at risk.
Lopez began following “safer at home” recommendations as soon as they were released in March. At the time, officials scrambled to provide guidance during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any time he left his home in Antioch, for whatever reason, he wore a mask, he said. He washed his hands often. He kept a safe distance from people.
Weeks later, when some local restaurants began to open back up, he decided to join friends for dinner downtown at Rodizio Grill. That was Wednesday, May 13.
The following Monday, he had a fever. Sometime Tuesday, he woke up covered in sweat.
“Only one other person we had dinner with exhibited some symptoms, and that was just a headache,” Lopez said. “No one else from that night tested positive that I know of. I thought it was just a fever and that I had sweated it out, and it was over,” Lopez said.
Then, on Wednesday night, came the vomiting. It passed by the next morning, but by dinner time Thursday, May 21, it became clear to Lopez that this wasn’t just a bug.
“I realized that I had lost my sense of smell,” said Lopez. “Then Friday, I lost my sense of taste. It was really weird. I’ve never experienced something like that before. I couldn’t smell or taste anything at all.”
That Friday, May 22, Lopez went to a free testing station set up at Nissan Stadium. But he had heard that it could take up to two weeks to get a test back, and he didn’t want to wait that long. So, on Sunday, May 24, he headed to a private clinic on Charlotte Pike. Two days later, he received a positive test result for COVID-19.
“I felt fine other than the lack of taste and smell,” Lopez recalled. “I went through a really mild case according to my doctors. I had no complications breathing, just the loss of those senses.”
Lopez lives with one other person, his cousin, and the two took extra precaution at home. Lopez said they only shared common spaces like the living room and kitchen. For the most part, Lopez was isolated in his room, only leaving to pick up food he had ordered. Lopez is a Human Resources professional, and was able to work from home.
Contract tracers from the Metro Nashville Health Department called Lopez Wednesday June 3, to give him the “okay” to leave his home again as of Friday, June 5. Lopez said he had not regained his sense of smell or taste at that point, and felt like it was too soon to break from quarantine less than two weeks after his initial positive test result.
Even though he was cleared by health department contact tracers, Lopez voluntarily tested again Tuesday, June 9, and received a negative result.
“It’s not a joke. It’s not made up,” said Lopez. “We have to learn how to live with this and take it seriously. I wore my mask everywhere and I still caught it. Get tested immediately if you show symptoms.”
This article has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project for COVID-19 coverage.