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Second patient says Erie County wrongly told her she didn't have Covid-19

Grace is the second Covid-19 patient whose sense of relief was quickly dashed via an apologetic phone call from the Erie County Health Department.

She is 23, lives in Elma and for professional reasons doesn't want her last name used. After she pressed for a test, on Saturday, someone from the Health Department called her around 5:30 p.m. Sunday to say the result was negative, Grace said.

She prepared to go out.

Then about 15 minutes later, her phone rang a second time, she said.

A mistake had been made. Grace said she was told she had tested positive, confirming that her aches, congestion, fever and shortness of breath indeed stemmed from Covid-19.

The same thing happened to Kevin Lippes of Amherst on Sunday evening. He received a phone call telling him he didn't have the novel coronavirus. Soon after, the Health Department called back to tell him he did.

Lippes, however, had used those intervening minutes to go tell his elderly parents, whom he had been avoiding, the happy result. His parents have since been tested, and on Thursday Lippes told The News that they do not have the deadly virus.

"We feel really terrible that there was an incorrect result given," Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said as she took questions during Thursday's briefing on coronavirus cases locally. She attributed the error to a simple misreading of the results in the crush of work that the staff faces. But she knew only of the case involving Lippes, not Grace.

"There is a system in place so that is not going to happen again," she said.

Grace had been living in New York City for several months after graduating from a university on Long Island. On Wednesday, March 11, she flew into Buffalo as she relocated back to Elma.

The sore throat, chills, body aches and upset stomach began Thursday evening. The symptoms continued Friday into Saturday as fatigue set in. A fever developed but it wasn't high, 99.4.

She said she called the county hoping to be tested but was told most of the Covid-19 cases involved higher temperatures. But she persisted, noting her recent travel from New York City, and she was tested.

Grace said she has had the flu before, but Covid-19 is different in the speed in which it took over her body, and in the shortness of breath she continues to experience.

"I am not really able to get a full breath yet," she said Thursday. "I never really experienced shortness of breath with a flu."

But she considers herself lucky because she feels herself getting better and predicts her health will be back to normal before her two-week quarantine ends.

She said she's glad that, when she started feeling sick, she did not ignore the symptoms and go out in public as she normally might have.

"We try to push through that feeling of being under the weather," she said of people in her generation. "Normally, I would have done that, but given the circumstances I just stayed home all weekend."

The "circumstances" were the current climate created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I didn't want to be an idiot and put anyone else at risk. Because that would have been incredibly selfish," she said.

She thinks she caught the novel coronavirus not on the airplane home but in the busy Times Square restaurant she worked at before returning to Elma.

With her illness, she has given advice to friends: stay home.

"It's so important to stay home if you have that opportunity to work from home," she said. "By choosing not to stay home, we are forcing those less fortunate to take extra unnecessary precautions."

COVID-19 patient: 'It's made me feel like I'm some sort of a typhoid Mary'

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