We survived Covid: Ontario principal and police officer share their month of sickness

Jodi Elizondo recovered from coronavirus and she says it’s nothing like the flu. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

Tomas and Jodi Elizondo had Covid.

Tomas was one of four officers in the Ontario Police Department who fell sick at the end of June.

“We’re in the public so much, it’s just so hard to say where we got it,” he said. He was wearing a mask on patrol, using hand sanitizer, and “doing everything we’re supposed to be doing,” said Tomas.

But on June 29, he felt feverish, even though he wasn’t breaking a fever.

He had a dry cough, which persisted for three days.

The next day, he got tested, and his temperature went to 101.4.

Jodi, the Ontario High School principal, began feeling a fever too.

She had severe body aches, and lost her sense of smell. The health department presumed her a Covid case as well, and the couple stayed home from work for the next month.

The experience of the Elizondos illustrates the price local people can pay when they contract the virus. Malheur County has one of the highest infection rates in Oregon as health authorities say too many local residents aren’t seriously following recommendations to stem the pandemic.

On social media, some commenters contend the virus is no worse than the flu, that the recovery rate is high and that public authorities have dramatized the infection.

The Elizondos discussed their bout with Covid to share what the virus is like and to urge people to take the coronavirus seriously.

In the weeks that the couple was quarantined and off work, they mostly slept. Tomas’ body aches would be dulled by aspirin, but would never go away. When he wasn’t sleeping, he would sit on his deck, to fight the body chills he constantly felt.

His fever was gone after three days, but then he felt short of breath, and lost his appetite.

They stopped cooking meals. Nothing appealed to them.

“You just don’t eat. Without a sense of smell, nothing appeals to you. You can’t smell, can’t taste. Doesn’t matter if it’s steak or cardboard to us,” said Jodi.

Canned soups and Gatorade became their go-to, dropped off by relatives. Their family couldn’t help cook, keep them hydrated or nurse them for risk of infection.

They felt isolated.

“No one could come by and help us,” said Jodi.

Jodi developed a lung infection within a week of her test. She couldn’t breathe. Tomas drove her to St. Luke’s Hospital in Fruitland, but Tomas couldn’t come inside with her for risk of spreading the virus. He sat in his car in the parking lot for three hours, not knowing what the doctors were doing, not knowing what tests they were doing, not knowing what’s going on. That lack of knowledge was scary, said Tomas.

Jodi said it felt like somebody was sitting on her chest. At the hospital, nurses and doctors came and went dressed in what looked like hazmat gear.

She went home with an inhaler and a prescription, but still sick.

“We didn’t get dressed,” said Jodi. “You’re in bed, and you sleep all the time, you don’t eat. We lost a significant amount of weight.”

Jodi lost 15 pounds in two weeks. Tomas lost 25.

They missed their vacation. Jodi had planned a seven-day trip to the Seal Rock, on the coast, with her kids in July.

When the couple began to get better, Jodi worried about infecting her family when they came to see her. She was worried that, even if she waited longer than instructed in quarantine, she might infect them.

Now, the Elizondos are recovered and returned to work. He’s back to street patrol and she’s working on a virtual return to education, but they still feel weak, and Jodi’s cough hasn’t gone away.

They decided to share their account so that people will wear masks.

“I wear a mask to protect other people,” Tomas said, who wears a neck gaiter when out on patrol. “You’re helping people.”

Tomas said he wouldn’t wish Covid on anyone. Jodi said she can see how people could die from the disease.

“If sharing our personal story gets people to wear a mask, just wearing a mask, it’s worth it,” said Jodi. “We got a kind of sick that we haven’t experienced before.”


JULY REVIEW: The latest on Malheur County’s pandemic

YOUR COVID QUESTIONS: Experts answer many questions from the community about the coronavirus

VIDEO: Quarantine 101 – Do people who test negative after exposure still have to quarantine?

News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or at 541-235-1005.


Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically. DONATE – to provide additional support.