CANFIELD — A 61-year-old Valley man was one of the first people to be tested in the Cleveland Clinic/University Hospital drive-thru COVID-19 screening site in Mayfield Heights last week.
And a week later, he learned he tested positive for the virus.
While the official count for Mahoning County is 28 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, state and local health officials have warned there are likely more than that number represents.
And that number is expected to grow substantially this week.
The Canfield resident, who talked to Mahoning Matters on the condition that he remain anonymous, suffers from diabetes and chronic asthma. Combined with his age, he knew he was in the vulnerable category for COVID-19's more serious impacts, as state and federal health officials have defined.
His first symptoms on March 15 included feeling tired, headaches and a low-grade fever.
By the following day, he said he was worse: “My lungs started to fill up, and I was coughing so hard I almost lost my breath.”
Not knowing where to turn to locally, he sought advice from Cleveland Clinic’s Express Care Online app, which is downloadable for free in the Apple and Google Play app stores. In 15 minutes, he was speaking to a doctor.
“Her advice was to go right away to get tested,” he said. The doctor filed the paperwork for testing on March 17 at a new drive-thru testing center, at the UH Landerbrook Health Center in Mayfield Heights set up by Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital.
When he and his wife arrived there at about 11 a.m., the line of cars wound around and through Landerbrook Drive for at least a mile.
“When we first got there we were greeted by a police officer who said we might be better off going home and coming back since people" had been in line since 7 a.m., he said.
“We decided to wait in line ... because I didn't want to come home and then do it all over again. I had a get-it-done-and-go-home kind of attitude,” he explained.
He waited — with a quarter of a tank of gas — for four hours for his turn. It turned out to be good that he stayed.
“We found out later they broke the line after us,” he said. “We were at the end. There were only 10 cars behind us [allowed in].”
Signs warned those in line to keep their windows rolled up. Patients were advised to text to a number to confirm their identity. When his turn came, a team gathered an arm’s length from his vehicle.
“They wore yellow suits and hoods and were covered from head to toe,” he recalled. “You could only put [your] window down halfway ... [and] they then stuck a rod up your nose.
"It all happened so fast,” he added, noting he was surprised at how deep the swab went. “I was very impressed with those people there. They couldn't have been nicer. For the first day, they were very impressive.”
The crush of patients that he witnessed at that Mayfield Heights site led to changes. Shortly after he was tested, the site was transitioned to a University Hospital-only testing site, and Cleveland Clinic patients are now sent to the W.O. Walker Center testing facility on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.
Patients in the drive-thru are tested for multiple ailments. For him, early results were negative for Influenza A and Influenza B. However, as his doctor explained, the COVID-19 tests take about a week.
On Tuesday, he learned he tested positive for COVID-19.
"I think I've weathered the worst of the storm," he said on his way to the Cleveland Clinic. "My doctor, because of my health history, wants me quarantined in intensive care."
He talked again to Mahoning Matters on Tuesday afternoon and described the care at the clinic as "great."
On Monday, before his diagnosis came back, he said he still suffered from coughing, lack of appetite, lack of sleep and, as his wife joked, “a bad attitude.”
Despite being separated from the rest of his family while quarantining, he remained relatively upbeat.
“It's all worth the testing,” he said. “You've just gotta be patient.”
In the Valley, Mercy Health announced last week the launch of an around-the-clock video visiting service for those experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.
Video visits are available through the Bon Secours 24/7 mobile app, which is also downloadable for free in the Apple and Google Play app stores. For a free screening visit, use the code CARE2020.
Have you been tested for the new coronavirus in Ohio? Tell us how it went by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.