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Grand Harbor couple does right thing in self-isolating


Now that the global coronavirus pandemic has reached our seaside community, we can take pride and solace in the inspiring examples set by a couple of our first local victims, both of whom responded the way all others should.





One, John’s Island resident Pinky Regan, 84, spread the word, hoping the immediate notice might prevent the spread of the virus to others in her social network and beyond (see accompanying story).

Likewise, Grand Harbor residents Ray and Peg Dutcher quickly figured out what they needed to do after returning from a trip to the Middle East two weeks ago, even though neither was experiencing any coronavirus symptoms when their flight landed in Orlando.

“We certainly didn’t get any guidance at the airport,” Peg said. “We traveled to Egypt and Jordan, flew back through Germany, and when we arrived in Orlando, we didn’t see or hear anything from Customs.

“No signs, no warnings, no nothing.”

But the day after their return, Peg received an email from a friend who suggested they check out the CDC website and seriously consider self-isolating, just in case they had been unwittingly infected while traveling abroad.

And that’s exactly what they did.

“We have come in contact with no one since we got back,” Peg said.

On their third day home, Ray began to feel ill and show symptoms associated with the virus. He would get tested. He would become the county’s second confirmed case.

But to their credit, the Dutchers were already self-isolating, making sure they would not contribute to the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Peg Dutcher reports that her husband hasn’t required any hospitalization and, as of Sunday, she still hadn’t experienced any symptoms. “He’s on the other side of it now, nine days later.”

He was feeling well enough, she said, that they’re looking forward to quietly celebrating Ray’s 70th birthday this weekend.

The Dutchers have told family members, friends and some neighbors about Ray’s bout with the virus, but they can’t really warn anyone – because, unlike Regan, they don’t know who to warn.

“Those who need to know, we told immediately,” Peg said, “but we don’t know where or how he got infected.”

She continues to go outdoors to take walks by herself. If she sees someone approaching, she moves from the sidewalk to the roadway until they pass each other.

She also has resigned herself to a continued stretch of self-isolation beyond her husband’s recovery. Even when Ray is medically deemed no longer contagious, she plans to remain in self-isolation for another 14 days, just to be safe.

She, too, wants to do the right thing.

According to the CDC’s website, people who stay at home after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and believe they’ve fully recovered may end their isolation two ways: To be considered non-contagious, they must test negative for the virus twice, 24 hours apart, be free of symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath, and be fever free without the use of medication.

Those who aren’t tested to determine if they’re still contagious can leave their homes if they’ve had no fever for at least 72 hours without the use of medication, all other symptoms have improved, and it’s been at least seven days since any symptoms first appeared.

Even then, Hawker said, the CDC doesn’t yet know if COVID-19 survivors become immune to re-infection if exposed to the virus again.

“We’re learning more about this virus every day,” she said.

And because adversity reveals character, we’re also learning more about ourselves.