CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte woman hasn’t left her house in more than three weeks, yet still tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m absolutely terrified,” Rachel Brummert, who already has an autoimmune disorder, told WCNC Charlotte on April 10. “This is the sickest I’ve ever been and it’s the most scared I’ve ever been. From what I’m hearing about ventilators, it’s scary stuff. I’m really hoping I can wait this out at home.”
Now less than two weeks since Brummert first appeared on WCNC Charlotte and became a national mystery, an epidemiologist has solved the mystery. (That update is below.)
At a higher risk for complications due to her underlying condition, Brummert said she listened to the health experts. Other than a trip to the pharmacy more than three weeks ago, she hasn’t left her house once.
“I really thought I was doing everything right,” she said.
Brummert said aside from the pharmacist and her husband, who grocery shops but is temporarily living in a separate room, the only other person she’s come into contact with is a woman who volunteered to drop off groceries at her doorstep once. Brummert said the woman later tested positive for COVID-19.
“I barely had any contact,” she said. “I didn’t even touch her.”
Brummert said she gets the mail every few days, but always wears gloves. However, she didn’t think to wear gloves when bringing in packages from her front porch. In addition, she said she hasn’t eaten takeout.
Brummert has experienced many of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, including cough, fever, headache and trouble breathing, but even so, she said it took several days to meet the criteria to be tested.
Regardless of the source of the infection in her case, Brummert knows her diagnosis is just another reminder that COVID-19 is easy to get and often hard to trace.
“I’ve never had anything like this before,” she said. “I’ve had the flu. This is not the flu. It’s a whole nother monster.”
UPDATE: MYSTERY SOLVED
Remember that trip to the pharmacy three weeks before testing positive? That March 18 errand was her last into the outside world.
An epidemiologist called Brummert Tuesday, April 21 with the news: They had traced her exposure back to the keypad at the pharmacy.
"I felt a little relieved it wasn't the groceries," Brummert told WCNC Charlotte's Nate Morabito in a follow-up interview. "When you pick up a prescription, you have to sign for it."
Brummert said she hasn't had a fever in more than three days.
"It's been a horrible few weeks both physically and emotionally and I really want to move on," she said.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
In response to this story, viewers have shared questions about Rachel Brummert. WCNC's Nate Morabito has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to spread facts, not fear.
When did she start self-quarantine?
Around March 15. She left the house once since to visit a pharmacy on March 18.
When did symptoms first show?
She says symptoms first showed around March 22, but it was unclear if it was COVID-19 at that time. Brummert says she experienced headaches, cough, fever, loss of smell and taste and shortness of breath.
When did she get tested?
The test was collected at the emergency room on April 5. It was detected on April 9.
What about her husband?
He went into work in early March, but has worked from home since. He gets the groceries, but up until recently, she did not wipe down the groceries, which she now regrets. They are temporarily living in separate rooms and have been for some time. The kitchen is the only common area, which remains clean. When he checks on her, he wears a mask.
What about the volunteer?
A woman volunteered to drop off groceries at her doorstep on March 20. She said "thank you" from the door and unfortunately, did not wipe down the groceries. The woman was on the bottom step.
Brummert said the volunteer told her after that she later tested positive.
What were her practices to avoid COVID-19?
She said she practiced social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Did she still get the mail or packages?
Brummert said she would get the mail every few days but would wear gloves. She says whenever she received packages, they were handled without gloves.
Did she go to any other places?
The only other places she said she went before her symptoms appeared is her therapy appointment and a Dunkin Donuts during the first week of March.