SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – This weeks marks one year since the Centers for Disease Control announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States.
That same week, one year ago, Utah resident Mark Jorgensen and his wife walked on a cruise ship expecting a wonderful vacation. Instead, they ended up quarantined on the ship docked off Japan as international news headlines described a new virus that had spread among the crew and passengers.
Coronavirus was not yet a household name.
Jorgensen would be the first Utahn to contract COVID-19. On Thursday, Jorgensen spoke to ABC4 and reflected on what happened, and what’s happened since. At first, he says, he thought he would be an isolated case. His family and friends planned to meet him at the airport for a welcome-home party. He wasn’t all that concerned about having contracted the virus.
But a year later, he says, there appear to be consequences related to his health.
“I’ve had a little eye issue that may or may not be COVID-related,” says Jorgensen.
“They’re finding now that maybe it is related to that. And, they’re finding that brain fog is kind of a symptom of this. And I’ve had a lot more of that this year. I just thought I was getting old or whatever, but my brain seems to be slowing down,” adds Jorgensen.
Utah Dept. of Health spokesperson Tom Hudachko tells ABC4 that vaccines for everybody should hopefully be available by late Spring, early Summer — but it all depends on how quickly supplies arrive from the federal government.
So what’s the one thing officials wish they knew on day one that we know now?
Hudachko tells ABC4 it was the assumption, held by authorities for months, that COVID-19 spread came from those with the most prominent symptoms.
“Assumption was that in order to be infected with COVID-19 you had to be exposed to someone that was symptomatic.
“And as we moved through the pandemic, and as we did more testing, and as we did more contact tracing, we realized that people were spreading COVID-19 asymptomatically. So people who didn’t even know they were sick, had been infected with COVID-19, were able to spread their infection to others. Who then did become sick,” he adds.
Those truths helped officials understand the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing because so many asymptomatic carriers had been driving the spread of the virus.