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Rep. Ben McAdams recovered from COVID-19, but still wears a face mask

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Congressman Ben McAdams, D-Utah, visits the Salt Lake County Public Health Center on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, to thank employees who are producing vital contact tracing data about the source of the county's COVID-19 infections and how it may have spread among county residents.

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, recovered from a rough bout with COVID-19, but he still wears a face mask in public. So, he was asked Wednesday if he favors mandatory orders for face coverings.

“I do,” he said at a town hall meeting with Millcreek business people. “They tell me I’m low risk. They won’t tell me I’m no risk. So, it’s important for all of us, I think, to do our part.”

He described how the virus affected him, saying he wants to drive home that people should take COVID-19 seriously and follow the relatively simple steps needed to protect against it.

McAdams said he came down with COVID-19 early, just after some Utah Jazz players tested positive and the NBA season was canceled. He and a doctor first thought he just had a cold, so he wasn’t tested at a time when they were hard to obtain. When his symptoms worsened and he had trouble breathing, he was tested and found to be positive.

He quarantined at home until one morning when he found he “couldn’t make it halfway across the bedroom before I was lightheaded and out of breath. I felt like I had just finished running a race.”

He ended up in an intensive care unit and was in the hospital for eight days on oxygen.

“I lost 13 pounds in the hospital,” he said. “The COVID diet is not a diet I’d recommend.”

(Photo courtesy of Ben McAdams via Twitter) Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced on Twitter that he was discharged from the University of Utah Hospital on Saturday, March 28, 2020. McAdams, who contracted the coronavirus, was first admitted on Friday, March 20, 2020.

Even though he was probably soon virus free, he said some symptoms from damage it did lingered for weeks and months. “I still have a little bit of a cough, but my doctor says I will be 100% eventually.” He said tests show “my antibodies are great,” and he donates plasma with them to help others.

McAdams said he is 45 years old and healthy, “but this still hit me hard.” He considers himself lucky as he talks about some acquaintances whose COVID infections ended differently.

Former Utah House Speaker Bob Garff “was in the hospital at the same time as I was” and died, McAdams noted. He said a former LDS mission companion who lived in Brazil — and sent McAdams encouragement when he was in the hospital — later died himself at age 44. He said that made the illness “really hit home for me.”

He urged people to take precautions that he said are easy, even if sometime inconvenient.

“I hate wearing a mask, but I do it and things like washing your hands and sanitizing as much as possible. Those precautions are pretty effective.” And he said face covering requirements in Salt Lake County, where he used to be mayor, have helped reduce cases there.

“I would encourage people to take it seriously and take the precautions,” he said.

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