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An Oklahoma Teacher Shares Her Battle With The Coronavirus

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StateImpact’s Robby Korth and KOSU’s Kateleigh Mills spoke with an Oklahoma City metro teacher named Anna about her experience catching the coronavirus and missing more than a week of classes.

Anna struggled with the disease, but credits her vaccination with keeping her from getting more sick.

TRANSCRIPT:

I started feeling sick probably on Friday of that first week. I noticed my taste was really weird, so I had an aftertaste of banana. Like whatever I would eat, I would taste banana. I don't know why, but that is so unsatisfying when you eat something and all you taste is something totally different.

I started getting like some minor cold symptoms after that, and I think the thought crossed my mind. I was like, man, I don't really know if this could be COVID. And it was like a different kind of sick — my fatigue was insane. It was really hard for me to get up and do anything. I would get up and walk to the restroom and I felt like I just run a mile. And it was just it was really tough.

But I had already had in the first week, our contact tracer at the school had contacted me and told me, like, 'hey, this student in your classes tested positive for COVID. I need you to let me know all the students who would have been in contact with this person.'

I was vaccinated. I was taking less precautions outside of work, like I was going to restaurants and maybe not wearing my mask when I was walking in or like I had gone to events like a wedding and things like that to where my vaccine made me feel more at ease. But this is the first time that I had been in a very populated area with a lot of no masks. But any time I was close to students or staff, I was wearing my mask.

That was frustrating, too, because I felt like I was taking all the precautions, I had gotten vaccinated, I was being smart with my mask, and still I caught COVID.

I would say probably about 20 to 30 percent of students were wearing masks. It seems like some of them felt pretty strongly about it, but the majority were not wearing masks. I think that was similar with teachers as well. It was much more of a personal choice. So it felt a little divisive at first.

Today, being back at school, the mask wearing is much better. I've definitely had to correct some people about proper mask wearing habits, but we're definitely seeing all the teachers are wearing masks and all students have a mask and are being directed to wear it appropriately.

My kids are really excited to have me back, which is exciting, like I loved how happy they are. But I also am like I've been doing elbow bumps, so I'm not doing high-fives or fist bumps. I've been having them like wipe down everything at the end of class. I've been a lot stricter about asking kids to pull their mask up over their nose to wear it correctly, because I am scared.

I'm young and pretty healthy. I didn't think I would get as sick as I did. I can't imagine how sick I would have gone without the vaccine and thinking about my coworkers or maybe the families of my students or my own family, I can't imagine how sick, more vulnerable people would have gotten.

My district doesn't have COVID days anymore this year as well, so I had to use almost all of my personal sick leave for this, which has been really frustrating because that leaves me like if I were to get sick again, I wouldn't be able to receive pay.

I don't want to go to virtual because I think the kids get a better educational experience being here, but I also don't want to be scared every day to come to work, and I don't want the kids to be at risk. So I think there's a lot of stress right now. I think a lot of teachers feel overwhelmed. So just be kind and gracious. I just hope that we're able to figure out a way to maintain health across the school.

StateImpact isn’t disclosing Anna’s last name or school due to her concerns about it affecting her job.

StateImpact is tracking the spread of COVID in schools. More than 45 schools have had to close their doors or pivot to distance learning because of the coronavirus. If you know of a school that has closed or pivoted to distance learning that isn’t on the list, please contact Robby Korth at robby@stateimpactoklahoma.org.

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Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
Kateleigh Mills is the Special Projects reporter for KOSU.