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'I hear the symptoms feel differently for everybody' : A Richmond couple in their 30s tested positive for coronavirus. This is their story.

'I hear the symptoms feel differently for everybody' : A Richmond couple in their 30s tested positive for coronavirus. This is their story.

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Gov. Northam March 18 COVID-19 update

Joseph Papa, 37, and his husband, John-Stuart Fauquet, 38, haven’t been feeling well for a week. On Tuesday, they got the test results and found out why: They tested positive for the coronavirus.

They live in Richmond’s West End but spend much of their time traveling back and forth to New York for work. Papa is a book publicist and had book launches in New York and Philadelphia over the past few weeks. Fauquet works in executive recruiting and spent a few days in the beginning of March in his New York skyscraper office.

Before the calls for social distancing were issued, they had traveled to New York and Philadelphia for work and attended the Quirk Hotel opening in Charlottesville on March 5.

They also attended art galleries, ate at local restaurants, visited local theaters and went to a friend’s 50th birthday party. From late February to early March, they had contact with hundreds of people, both for work and through their personal lives.

They were feeling fine until late March 12, when Fauquet came down with a fever. The next day, Papa followed. They had similar symptoms: fever, fatigue and shortness of breath.

“I hear the symptoms feel differently for everybody. But for us, it was strong fatigue, exhaustion, and shortness of breath,” Papa said. “The shortness of breath was very new for us. It was feeling very easily winded, like you’ve just run a mile even if you’re only walking the dog.”

They visited their primary care doctor the next day, on March 13, and were tested for the coronavirus. The test was a swab of the nose and throat, and they were isolated. The swab was quick but the results took three business days, which turned into five days over the weekend.

Fauquet works in a skyscraper in New York where someone tested positive for the coronavirus. But he never came in direct contact with that person and they worked many floors apart.

“Getting tested for the coronavirus was an anomaly. I think if we went earlier or later, we wouldn’t have gotten tested,” Papa said. Because someone had tested positive in the same office building where Fauquet worked, they were tested for coronavirus.

They were sent home from the doctor’s office and they waited.

They self-quarantined. They didn’t leave their house for five days. Friends bought food and left it on their front porch.

On Tuesday afternoon, five days after being tested, they were notified that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We don’t know how or where or when we were exposed to the virus,” Papa said. “It could have been in New York or Philadelphia or Charlottesville or Richmond.”

The doctor told them to get in touch if their respiratory health gets any worse, but otherwise, they’ve been instructed to stay put, take Tylenol, sleep and drink plenty of water.

Papa posted the news on his social media channels, just to let people know.

“Most people were incredibly sweet. But others were accusatory, as if we were knowingly spreading this around. We didn’t know. This happened before any of the messaging about social distancing was coming out,” he said.

Since spreading the word, Papa said their friends have been checking in and dropping off food without contact. Papa and Fauquet plan to order groceries online and take every other precaution going forward.

Papa said, “My message is: Stay home when you can. Flatten the curve. Take it seriously. Don’t be cavalier about it. Even if you’re feeling fine.”

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran


Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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