Waters on 50th resident: ‘They told me I had COVID’

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are edited for length and clarity.

Arminta and Ron Miller, residents, The Waters on 50th senior living community

Arminta: So this is very interesting. You know how we get tested here every two weeks? Well, on Sept. 19 they told me I had COVID. I think I’m the only person at The Waters to have had it, but everybody’s clear now and they’re opening up again.

I did not feel sick — I had kind of a sinus infection — but they said it was COVID. I kept telling them I didn’t have it, but they said I did. I didn’t have any other symptoms. I could smell, I could taste, I didn’t run a fever. I wasn’t overly achy from what I normally am from my arthritis. If I did have it, I certainly had a mild case.

I was shocked and upset because I didn’t really feel like I had it. I don’t go anywhere, I really don’t. I told them it has to be a false positive, but they said “No, it has to be COVID.”

Ron: The person in charge, when they found out, they said, “It can’t be Arminta, she never goes anywhere.”

It’s strange because we keep getting reports, and no staff members have had it.

Arminta: And it’s strange that Ron didn’t test positive. He was here the whole two weeks.

Ron: I’m too ornery.

Arminta: So we were really buttoned down for 14 days. Ron couldn’t even take the trash out. That poor guy. He couldn’t exercise. He couldn’t do anything. I felt so bad for him.

Ron: After Arminta tested positive, they told us, “We’ll deliver your mail and anything else you want or need, let us know and we’ll get it for you.”

Arminta: They sent out bulletins that said that someone had it. They didn’t say who. They put a little table outside our apartment and a sign with all kinds of restrictions letting everyone know they couldn’t come in.

You feel like a pariah — like you’ve got a letter “C” on your forehead or something. A couple people I talked to on the phone said they walked the halls to see who had the table in front of their apartment, so I’m sure that’s how people figured it out.

Even though we felt confined up to this point, at least we were able to walk around. They know Ron and I walk late at night when no one’s around, and they said, “We have cameras in the hallways, so you make sure you don’t walk at night.” They came down hard on us, but they have to.

Ron: They have to protect the other tenants, too.

Arminta: During those two weeks, my brother Robert passed away and that was hard. I had to arrange the entire funeral over the phone. He’s being buried at Fort Snelling because he was in the Navy. I felt bad. I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t be there to hold his hand. But even if I hadn’t had the COVID, I couldn’t have anyway. All these places are shut down. It’s sad that people can’t be there at the end when people are really sick.

The funeral is going to be on Oct. 26. We’ll have one of the pastors at our church speak about him. And he had written a little farewell letter that we’ll pass out at the service.

He was 93 and he had a good life, but on the same day I was arranging the funeral, my son out in Spokane had to have a pacemaker put in. So I was under a lot of stress. I must have done something awful in a past life because I feel like everything is coming down on my head.

We got tested again, and I’m clear now. We’ll keep getting tested every two weeks.

Ron: They are opening up again. So I can exercise five days a week. I’ve been seeing people I hadn’t seen in months. They’ve got a beer tasting this week. In November, we’ll be able to go down and eat in the dining room.

Arminta: Ron got to do some drumming. He likes that. He’s kind of musical.

Ron: Arminta can join the ranks of the president, because he had it, too. That debate was one of the worst things I ever saw in my life. It’s embarrassing and disgraceful. What’s embarrassing is what the rest of the world thought about us.

Arminta: That he would go in that car with Secret Service men — he’s just not thinking of other people. That’s what I feel. 

If I did have COVID, I was really lucky, because I wasn’t in pain. I wasn’t sick in bed and wasn’t hospitalized. But I don’t really feel a sense of relief. I probably could get it again. It’s kind of confusing. But they protected all the other people, so I can’t complain.


VOICES FROM THE PANDEMIC

 You can read all of the stories here.