Plumas man shares COVID experience, blasts county’s response

By Debra Moore

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A Sierra Valley man has stepped forward to share his experience with coronavirus and also to lambaste Plumas County health officials for their dearth of information and the Board of Supervisors for its lack of leadership during this pandemic.

Sam Wilbanks said he first began experiencing symptoms the Thursday after Thanksgiving, which was Dec. 3. “I had a little cough,” the 68-year-old said. Then the next day, Friday, he learned that his adult daughter who is currently living at home had allergy-like symptoms. Wilbanks’ cough also became more pronounced and he scheduled a test for that Saturday at Plumas District Hospital in Quincy. On Monday, he received the results — positive.


Over the ensuing days, his symptoms became more pronounced — congestion in the chest, mild fatigue, chest aches from coughing and a sinus headache. He didn’t lose his sense of taste, but said foods tasted very salty. During the Dec. 17 interview, two weeks after the onset of symptoms, Wilbanks said he still has slight congestion and cough, but is improving.

His wife Kim and daughter Maggie also tested positive for the virus. They went to PDH, on the same day as his diagnosis, for their own tests. For the most part Kim’s symptoms were mild, similar to those of a cold, and only lasted for a few days. Maggie reported severe body and joint aches. Both have recovered.

The family relied on over-the-counter medications such as Dayquil and Nyquil, but also took turns lying face down and pushing on each other’s backs to help break up chest congestion. Sam also took walks to get a little exercise and fresh air.

When asked if he worried about his symptoms taking a turn for the worse as has been reported to occur, Sam said he tried not to think about it, though he had read about individuals suddenly needing hospitalization days into their battle with the virus. “It was in the back of my mind,” he said, “but I had a pretty normal cold trajectory.”


Where/when did they contract it?

Wilbanks said that he and his family are fairly isolated at their home, only going into town for food. But that changed on Thanksgiving, when their adult daughter flew home from Texas for the holiday. Wilbanks said they knew it wasn’t recommended, but thought that they had taken all precautions. The next day more individuals were added to the mix. “About a dozen of us went to look for Christmas trees and had dinner,” he said.

Still, he doesn’t think those interactions were the cause of the virus. “None of those people tested positive or developed symptoms,” he said.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving he took his daughter back to the airport and he and his wife ran a few errands in Reno. He thinks that’s when he contracted it, but doesn’t know for sure. He said it’s also possible that his daughter, who had “allergy” symptoms before he came down with a cough, could have been the source.


Public Health/Board of Supervisors

When asked if Public Health had been in contact with the family, Wilbanks said, “Representatives called every day. They were very nice; they were very concerned.”

But Wilbanks didn’t have anything positive to say about their bosses at Public Health. “I think the leadership has failed the people of the county,” he said. “I think that they have actually hurt the county — they need to provide more specific information — and they don’t, and the supervisors have been basically AWOL. I feel like they’ve really dropped the ball.”

At the conclusion of the interview, Wilbanks reiterated his concerns. “I think the county needs to get off their duff and do their job,” he said. “This is a public health crisis and information is the most important thing that they can provide.”

He elaborated that it’s not helpful to know that there are cases in the eastern region. “What does that mean?” he asked. “Graeagle? Portola? Out here in the Sierra Valley? People need to know so they can be aware.”