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One Local 212 Family’s Experience with Covid 19 & being Studied by the CDC

It’s the kind of house call nobody really wants to get.       

But when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it wants you to participate in a study during a global pandemic, you gladly comply.

“We were told they wanted to study how germs transmit in a household,” said Pablo Muirhead, a member of the Shorewood School Board who came down with an early case of the coronavirus in the Milwaukee area.

Pablo came down with an early case of the coronavirus and put out a Facebook video.

His wife contracted the virus along with one of their two children. Pablo is out of quarantine but Jackie isn’t.  

Two CDC employees wore protective equipment as they did bloodwork, administered nasal swabs and then had the family do a self-test for the virus.

“They are also asking us to keep track of our symptoms for 14 days and report our temperature for 14 days,” Muirhead said.

In mid-March, the COVID-19 virus struck Muirhead, his wife, Jackie, and their 10-year-old daughter.

Their son, who turns 13 Wednesday, tested negative. So did a 17-year-old exchange student who was living with the family and has since returned home to Japan.

The CDC visit occurred early last week and a follow-up is planned in a few days, Muirhead said.

The family is emerging from self-quarantine.

And continuing to share its story.

“There is so much fear around this and you have to have the right amount of fear,” Jackie said. “You don’t want to be carefree and haphazard.” 

Early in the outbreak, Pablo took to YouTube to share his diagnosis and get the word out to his friends and others he may have come in contact with.

The family has a wide social circle. Pablo and Jackie teach at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Their two children attend area schools.

Pablo, who has an auto-immune disorder, underwent a test March 12 with the results coming back positive March 15. The rest of the family was tested March 16.

Pablo said he felt sick for a few days and his kids jokingly said that he was “milking” the illness. Jackie felt a tightness in her chest and had a tell-tale cough. Their daughter had the sniffles.

They count themselves among the lucky ones.

Jackie said local health authorities had the family write down everything they had done the previous 14 days and those they came in contact with. They figure hundreds of people have been notified.

“When I first got my positive test results I asked if I could go public and share it with my circles,” Pablo said. “They asked we not go public so we could work meticulously through the documentation we provided to avoid a panic and allow the authorities to contact people.”

When he learned he was positive, he was in shock. A few days later, health authorities gave him their blessing to go public.

“We wanted to make sure folks knew,” he said.

Another reason to go public, Jackie said, was to encourage social distancing.

“You have to push home the idea this is a dangerous virus,” she said.

Pablo is unsure if anyone he came into contact with contracted the virus. However, six days before he was tested, he had lunch with state Rep. David Bowen, who has since tested positive for the virus.

“We’re friends,” he said. “We greet with a handshake and hug, so it’s possible he may have contracted it from me. It’s also possible both of us contracted it from different people or the same person.”

Pablo added: “I think the message that we got from the health authorities … one doesn’t know where they contracted or who might get it from someone. That just stresses the point, the importance of social distancing and following the state-mandated safer-at-home order.”

One thing that has been reaffirmed for the family is how close and caring people in the Milwaukee area have been. The family was flooded with food, people offering to go grocery shopping. A neighbor even pitched in to walk the family dog, Schatzi.

“There are so many unknowns,” Jackie said. “Of course, the virus is scary. I really want people to take care of themselves. Those who are lucky like us and get minor symptoms, I want to share that ray of hope. … My thoughts go out to all of those on the front line, working in the hospital, the grocery store and keeping all of us alive.”

(This article by Bill Glauber originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on April 1, 2020. Photo was taken by Angela Peterson)

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