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‘It’s happening to real people’: Naples man who has coronavirus details experience


Ryan Mills  |  Naples Daily News

Charlie McDonald doesn’t want people to “freak out” about contracting the coronavirus.

He would know. He has it.

“I think the big thing is that there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to having it,” said McDonald, 59, who runs a Naples-based photography business. “It’s happening to real people. It is serious. It is deadly. But there is no need to freak out.”

There have been at least 38 other people in Collier County who have tested positive for COVID-19 through Monday and 30 positive cases in Lee County, according to the Florida Department of Health. Two Lee County residents have died; no Collier resident is known to have died of the virus. 

Tracking COVID-19 in Collier County:Confirmed cases of the coronavirus now up to 39

Tracking COVID-19 in Lee County:Positive cases of coronavirus continue to rise, now at 30


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McDonald got a call Monday morning from Dr. Julia Harris of the Millennium Physician Group confirming he’d tested positive for COVID-19, news he’d been expecting for over a week.

One of McDonald’s employees, whom he’d been in close contact with, had been diagnosed about a week earlier.

“I was pretty calm about it. I’m a pretty relaxed guy,” McDonald said about learning he’d likely contracted the virus. “I knew that statistically about 80% of people don’t have major symptoms, and because I eat very healthy and work out, I have a healthy lifestyle, my assumption was at the time it may not affect me too much. But of course, I didn’t know.”

McDonald suspects he was infected on Wednesday, March 11, by a colleague who was exhibiting symptoms when they worked together in the studio.

“She was coughing in my presence. We were sharing the mouse, going back and forth,” McDonald said.

His colleague self-quarantined the next day. She got a flu test, which came back negative, and was tested for coronavirus. McDonald said he started showing some symptoms on Saturday, March 14, and he self-quarantined.

Coronavirus in Florida updates:Cases continue burst as death totals rise to 18

That Sunday, March 15, the colleague’s test came back positive for coronavirus.

McDonald notified his doctor and went in for a test of his own the next day.

“I can tell you the test is not pleasant,” McDonald said. “It’s a swab that goes up as far as possible up your nostrils. I felt like they were tickling my brain.”

More on COVID-19:Lee County man who died of COVID-19 was a 'homebody' who hadn't traveled

McDonald said he notified his clients when he first suspected he’d been exposed to the virus. He said he had assignments at the Naples Zoo, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Humane Society Naples in the days before he suspects he was exposed. He shot an assignment at Artis—Naples on Thursday, March 12, the day after he believes he was exposed.

He said the clients were supportive.

“I know three people I worked with at the zoo, they had to go into quarantine for an abundance of safety,” he said. “Some people automatically went into self-quarantine just as a way of being extra cautious.”

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McDonald said he hasn’t suffered too much from the virus. He had a dry cough and a low-grade fever, but he said he’s had a lot of energy. He said his colleague got it worse and was bedridden for a while.

McDonald will be quarantined until at least March 30, he said.

“I am so lucky,” McDonald said. “I am one of the 80% that doesn’t have major symptoms.”

In some ways, he said, having coronavirus has been a blessing in disguise. It’s forced him to take a break from the hustle and bustle of his daily life.

“It’s been great. My blood pressure has dropped significantly,” McDonald said. “I’m using this time to declutter my house. I’ve tried to organize my two garages for five years. I’ve finally had time to do that. Time to pick up a novel and actually read. Sit on my lanai and watch the ducks in the lake in the backyard.

“It’s forced me to decompress and disconnect.”