The number of COVID-19 cases jumped this past week in Moody County, prompting a Flandreau woman to speak out about what it’s like to be asymptomatic, not knowing she could infect others.
As of Monday noon, 14 people had tested positive for the virus, with five having recovered. None of the people have had to be hospitalized, and none have died. An additional 120 people have tested negative.
The county ties with Brookings and Roberts counties to rank 10th in the state for the number of total cases. Neighboring Lake County has 5 cases. Minnehaha leads the list with 2,867 cases, the majority of the state’s 3,614 cases.
For the longest time, Moody County didn’t have any tests come back positive when the disease started being measured in South Dakota in March. The first positive case in Moody County was on April 15. A week ago, there were six cases.
Angie Eastman of Flandreau said she would never have gone to the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s health care center on May 5 to get tested, but a relative called her and said three family members had just tested positive and Eastman and her children should get tested, too. They had all been in contact with each other.
At the clinic, she and two of her daughters were tested while they remained in her car, using a test that returns results in 15 minutes. Because it was too close to closing time to get results back, she had to wait until the following morning to hear that she and the girls, ages 12 and 8, were all positive. A third child who is almost 2 years old wasn’t tested but is considered a person who has been exposed. The entire family will quarantine through the month of May.
Eastman, 30, said she and her children didn’t have symptoms, but she did have a headache starting May 2. She thought her neck was out of place or she was experiencing seasonal allergies so she visited a chiropractor to get an adjustment. She continued to have the headaches and for two days last week had chest pains.
Now she wonders that if her family was asymptomatic, how many other people have the virus and don’t know it, involuntarily exposing others who may become more severely ill.
“They’re not testing people if they don’t have symptoms,” she said. “I wanted people to be aware of my family being asymptomatic. That’s how all of it is being spread.”
The state doesn’t release names of individuals nor where they live if they test positive for COVID-19, but Eastman wants the community to know there are likely more people out and about who have it and don’t even know it.
Before testing positive, she had been staying at home with her children so she hasn’t been working where she would be in contact with other people. The in-home daycare her daughter attends is closed for two weeks, following the test results.
She hasn’t figured out how she picked up the virus and wonders if it even really matters since it is out there in more places than people know. She went grocery shopping and got gas in Sioux Falls during the week before she got a headache, but she isn’t sure that’s where she would have come in contact with the disease.
Her goal now is to help prevent others from becoming a COVID-19 statistic with the South Dakota Department of Health and from becoming sick. She is especially worried about family members with diabetes and compromised immune systems.
Only one of her children has had a mild symptom, a headache. Eastman and the girl also can no longer taste or smell things. Her other children seem to feel fine.
“I just have worries with the mall opening and the casino opening.” she said. She urges people to take precautions, including washing their hands frequently. “It’s the asymptomatic people I worry about because we’re the spreaders,” she said.
Eastman said many people have reached out to help her family by dropping groceries off outside their home, offering to bring the children crafts to do and giving her bear root, a root used as a Native American medicine that opens up the lungs and helps with breathing.
Those who have cared for her and her family have helped in many ways, including helping her stay positive, she said. “I think when you’re in a quarantine like this, I think your mental health is really tested, too.”
Others have shunned her, she said. “Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of blaming lately. I had another tenant say that me and my kids should be kicked out.”
Now isn’t the time to make people feel guilty, Eastman said. Instead, it’s the time to support others and social distance to protect everyone.
It will be long month by the time she and her children quarantine for the number of days the state requires. She hopes her family has seen the worst of the virus in their home and is grateful they haven’t suffered more.
“I’ve just been pretty lucky my symptoms have been pretty mild. I’m a single mom. I can’t end up on a ventilator,” Eastman said.