SANFORD, Fla. - It’s a position more and more patients will face as more and more patients recover from COVID-19: You’re better, so now what?
University of Central Florida gradaute student Gabby Bivona was in that very position late last week after a mild, but still grueling spell with the illness.
"I started feeling a little bit of congestion,” Bivona said, thinking back to the first day symptoms appeared. "But over that night into the next morning, I started feeling chills and hot flashes."
That was mid-March, and because Bivona and her boyfriend had just returned from a week-long trip to London, she said her doctor immediately recommended her for testing for the now pandemic-level disease.
Sure enough, Bivona said the test came back six days later reading positive for coronavirus.
Bivona said she did what she was told to do: quarantine at home with her mom who had been exposed to her.
Bivona said she was advised by the Seminole County Health Department to follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations and remain quarantined until she was fever-free for 72 hours, her symptoms had improved and seven days had passed since she’d gotten new symptoms.
She said she also decided to wait until a full two weeks had passed just to be sure she was good to go.
That brought her to last Friday when she seemed in the clear to at least get groceries again, but she became concerned after Seminole County leaders announced that known sick patients were discovered leaving their quarantines while ill.
"Seminole County released the executive order saying those who leave quarantine will be fined," Bivona said.
She didn’t want a fine, but said she also hadn’t heard from the health department saying she was cleared.
She was originally under the impression the department would be checking in with her daily.
Health department representatives said Monday that they are trying to keep in touch with all sick patients, but that’s getting difficult with numbers rising quickly.
They do ask any patients with questions or concerns to feel free to reach out to the department at any time.
The department said their main concern for someone being considered clear of the illness is that the person passes the Center for Disease Control’s guidance.
Seminole County officials said Monday that, additionally, they want patients in the county to get cleared by a doctor.
Also, health officials said the CDC recommends that people pass two additional COVID-19 tests before they start going out again. However, because of the limited amount of tests, this is only applied to healthcare workers, firefighters, and EMTs. The general public is only required to go 72 hours since fever and seven days since onset.
County representatives said they have also been in contact with Bivona and all of the sick patients in the county throughout their illness to make sure they have what they need while in quarantine and won’t feel the need to go out.
Bivona said after a few calls Friday, she was cleared by the health department and given a written clearance over the weekend.
Though now, she’s under the stay-at-home guidance from the state like the rest of us.
"I'm still working from home. I'm still doing school work from home, so not much has changed,” she said.
NOTE: This story was updated on April 7, 2020 after receiving clarification from the Seminole County Health Department. They said that coronavirus patients must show two negative tests in 24 hours to be considered recovered. However, because of the limited amount of tests, this only applies to healthcare workers, firefighters, and EMTs. The general public is only required to go 72 hours since fever and seven days since onset.