Updated March 25, 2020 - 8:13 am
When Erika Reed heard that the Clark County School District had its first instance of a student testing positive for the novel coronavirus, she was surprised.
A few days earlier, her daughter, Madison, also had tested positive.
Since then, Reed, her daughter and the rest of the family have been quarantined at their home. They expect to learn any day now when their at-home quarantine will end and hope they soon can return to lives that, in this scary time, at least resemble normal.
Madison, 11, is a sixth grader at Freedom Classical Academy charter school in North Las Vegas. Reed said that on March 9, Madison came down with a low-grade fever and a cough. Madison does have asthma, so the cough was concerning but, at that point, “we suspected nothing,” Reed said.
“But every day she got worse,” Reed said. “On Tuesday her cough was a little deeper. I was, like, ‘OK, we’ll be doing breathing treatments.’ She was hovering at 99.5, 99.8 (degrees), and I’m, like, ‘This is odd.’ Wednesday was the same. Then the cough got a little worse and she still had a little fever, under 100.
“Then, Thursday, she came down and started dressing for school and she looked pale. Also, her cough became deeper,” Reed said, and she felt achy and had an earache.
“I realized all my kids already had the flu earlier, in February. So if all of them had the flu, what is this?”
Reed decided to keep Madison home from school and, having heard about the coronavirus, tried to have her tested.
“I was skeptical,” she said. “But at the same time, what if I was right?”
It took about four hours of talking to medical providers on the phone to have a test approved. But, on March 12, both Reed and her daughter were tested for coronavirus.
“The doctor said, ‘We’ll get results within 72 hours. If it comes back positive, you’ll be hearing directly from someone at the test facility or health district. If it’s negative, you’ll be hearing directly from the provider.’ ”
At 2:30 a.m. March 14, Reed was awakened by a phone call from the testing facility that said Madison had tested positive. She also was told someone from the health district would contact them and that, in the meantime, they had to immediately quarantine themselves in their home.
“I was up the rest of the morning because I was freaking out a little bit,” said Reed, who spent the next several hours cleaning and sanitizing. Reed said she also texted Madison’s school to let officials know that Madison had tested positive. But she held off telling Madison.
“I didn’t want her to freak out,” Reed said. Then, on Sunday, “I finally broke down and told her, and she’s, like, ‘What?’
“You could see she was about to cry. I told her, ‘You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be OK. We’re going to treat it like a cold or flu, but you’ve got to stay in your room.’ ”
Later that Sunday, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that he was closing down schools statewide beginning the following day.
Monday morning, an official from the Southern Nevada Health District called, Reed said. The family was given access to a monitoring app and instructions to “check every day to tell us how you’re doing,” Reed said.
Reed said a health district employee told her early last week that Madison was the only school-age child here who had tested positive.
“My husband was, like, ‘I think our daughter got the whole school district closed down,’ ” Reed said.
But Gregory Bortolin, a spokesman for the Nevada State Department of Education, said the timing is coincidental, and Sisolak’s decision was based on what by then was an increasing incidence of coronavirus cases nationally.
Then, on March 18, Heard Elementary School in Sunrise Manor told parents that a member of the “school family” also tested positive for the virus, in the Clark County School District’s first case of COVID-19.
Freedom Classical Academy is a charter school not under the umbrella of CCSD. Rebecca Feiden, executive director of the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority, said the school notified her office of Madison’s test result that weekend. Bortolin said Feiden, in turn, notified Nevada state school Superintendent Jhone Ebert a day later, on March 16.
Meanwhile, on March 15, parents at Madison’s school learned that someone had tested positive but didn’t know who. That evening, Reed posted a video on the school’s Facebook page to bring other parents up to speed.
Parents were concerned and panicked, she said, “so I felt the need to make a video to clear the air and let them know it was my daughter.”
“I expected there would be some backlash, but parents were very supportive and nice. They were, like, ‘We’re praying for you.’ The school parents came together as a group.”
At home, the family was preparing for a two-week quarantine. The order included the entire family — Reed and her husband, Jason, Madison, and their children ages 6, 9 and 21, none of whom have showed symptoms.
“Fortunately, the house is 3,500 square feet and (Madison) has one of the biggest rooms in the house,” Reed said. “She and her sister share a room. So we separated the youngest out of the room.”
Reed brings meals to Madison’s room, and Madison knows that when she leaves her bedroom, she first has to wash her hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, then use a sterilizer and wear a mask. Madison knows she can’t touch anything outside the room and anything she does touch has to be disinfected.
Reed said movie nights and games helped to pass the time and a friend helped keep groceries coming.
Madison said Tuesday that she was feeling well and that she kept busy during the quarantine by texting friends, “napping and Nintendo.”
And the first thing to do when she leaves quarantine? “See my friends,” she said.
Reed hopes her family’s experience will help raise parents’ awareness about coronavirus but also encourage them to not overreact.
“As parents, all we can do is look out for the signs,” she said.
Reed added, “I don’t want anybody to feel alone.”