From social distancing to quarantine: I felt indestructible, and I still caught coronavirus

Todd Maisel works on his computer during quarantine in self portrait.

I survived the collapse of the World Trade Center, went to war in Iraq in 2003 and have been shot at and threatened with death in the field. I’ve seen the horrors of world catastrophes from Hurricane Sandy to the terrible results of 100,000 people being killed in the great Haitian earthquake of 2010. Yet, I felt indestructible — a mistake to say the least.

Now I have the coronavirus, as confirmed by a lab test.

Yes, I have been keeping social distancing and avoiding handshakes, but obviously, this was not enough. The nature of my work has always been to be close to people – it’s been my way to get to know the subjects and to help the public understand what was the truth from fiction.

So somewhere along the way, I encountered someone who had COVID-19, and they probably didn’t know they had it.

At what point I contracted the virus, I will never know. Was it at the many press conferences and press briefings with the mayor? Was I sitting there with my colleagues and getting exposed and conversely exposing them? I saw one member of the media actually wearing a mask at those pressers.

Yes, I went to the supermarket, walked my dogs in the street — after all, only a hundred or so people had the virus in a city of 9 million. Again, many of us felt invincible — a big mistake with this very contagious virus.

On March 14, I felt the first twangs of the coronavirus – a full night of no sleep, tossing and turning, hot and cold flashes, a runny nose and a bit of a cough. It went away in the morning, but then the next day, a spiking fever of 100, but then down to 97. On March 15, I felt fine until the end of the day, when I had a spiking fever again.

I contacted my family physician who recommended I contact the Health Department Coronavirus hot-line. Social distancing was certainly on my mind as I continued working, staying a safe distance from subjects and no interior jobs. The Health Department operator said it didn’t sound like coronavirus, but since I’d been exposed to so many people, they moved ahead and I got an appointment to be tested.

I no longer had a fever, wasn’t coughing and my breathing was fine. I have 9/11-related asthma and I just turned 60, so it seemed prudent to make sure I was fine.

Unfortunately, I am not, having received a call from the Health Department informing me that I indeed was infected.

So now I’m home, quarantined for 14 days that started on March 23. My family has been out of town for nearly two weeks away from me, so I’m alone with two goldfish who innocently look up to me for their flakes. Being confined is so opposite my entire life and habits, as I’m a social creature. My work and reporting will continue by phone only for the next couple of weeks.

My fever has been consistently low. I have an occasional cough, a little upper respiratory congestion — but it’s nothing compared to others.

I have a colleague in the hospital in Long Island in an induced coma from coronavirus. We have a family member in Staten Island who, at 85, died of the contagion.

I’m among the lucky 80% with very mild symptoms. The worst part for me will be dealing with cabin fever — stuck inside and avoiding any type of contact with anyone.

Did we take this seriously enough? I admit to feeling indestructible, but I should’ve known that my work and my habits — despite social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing — would not be enough.