OCEAN PARK — When 82-year-old Joe Paliani told his wife Charlotte he thought he had covid-19, she didn’t believe him.
“In all honestly, he told me he didn’t feel good and he was sure he had the virus and I poo-pooed it,” Charlotte Paliani said.
Joe began feeling sick on July 25 and the couple decided he should get tested. Figuring out how to do that was a bit confusing, Charlotte said. When they called the health department, they were told it would be a couple of days before Joe could be tested in Long Beach. The department told them it would be quicker to first go to Willapa Harbor Hospital in South Bend for a rapid response test.
Two hours after being tested, the hospital called with both good and bad news: Charlotte’s test was negative, but Joe was presumed to have the virus. The rapid response test result was later confirmed by a lab test.
“Then it was really scary,” Charlotte said.
Two games of chance
Joe’s best guess for where he contracted the virus was one of the Ocean Park social clubs, either the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. He played cards at both clubs in the days before he began to feel sick. He wore a mask and gloves to the club, but sat at a table with about nine other people, about half of whom did not wear a mask.
“I took a risk I shouldn’t have,” he said.
Joe remembered seeing Long Beach City Mayor Jerry Phillips at the Moose club when Joe was there. Joe didn’t remember Phillips wearing a mask, and said it was possible Phillips might have been shedding the virus at the time.
Phillips denied being at the lodge in the days before it was confirmed he had covid-19. He always followed the mandated mask rules when in public, Phillips said. Phillips provided information to the health department about possible close contacts, but said he would not make the list public.
“You want to know every tidbit, you want every detail you want to know if I had diarrhea,” Phillips said.
Phillips hung up before more questions could be asked. He did not return follow up calls.
Isolated and quarantined
After the positive test, Joe began to isolate on the second floor of the couple’s house. Charlotte is quarantining on the first floor. She leaves food on a tray for him. Sometimes he calls the house phone to talk to her. The two are in a long-distance relationship in the same house.
Isolation is for people with a positive test for covid-19, said Stephanie Michael, health manager for the Pacific County Public Health and Human Services Department. Quarantine is for people who are healthy, or tested negative for the virus, but possibly exposed.
Charlotte, 74, is “basically healthy,” she said. Her age puts her in a high risk category for covid-19, but she doesn’t have any other underlying conditions. Joe, on the other hand, is older and has asthma. On Monday, Aug. 3 Joe slept until 10 a.m., which was odd for him, Charlotte said. She checked on him multiple times to make sure he was okay.
The county health department gave him an oxygen meter for him to test the amount of oxygen in his blood. A public health nurse calls Charlotte everyday to check on him as well.
“Amanda is great,” Charlotte said. “They never rush you, they clearly care about Joe, about us.”
The community also rallied around them, Charlotte said. People have offered to drop off food and been very kind. The couple decided to be open about Joe contracting the virus because if more people know their friends have the virus, maybe people will be more serious about taking precautions against the virus.
When the symptoms began, Joe said he felt like every muscle in his body was being assaulted with sharp pains. The pain has eased, but Joe was still unsteady on his feet on Monday, Charlotte said.
In retrospect, going to the clubs to play cards was a mistake, Joe said. Given a second chance, he would have turned and left when he saw people without masks in the clubs.
“I pushed my luck, I came down with covid,” Joe said.
He sees tourism continuing in Long Beach and he thinks those people are pushing their luck as well. He knows the merchants need business, but a dead population will result in a drop in business as well.
Charlotte doesn’t blame tourists, she doesn’t blame anyone. But she knows five people on the peninsula with covid-19. Two weeks ago, she didn’t know anyone, she said.
“Certainly July 5 seems to have changed everything,” Charlotte said.