Marietta councilwoman recovers from COVID-19, begs others to stay home

Marietta City Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Credit: City of Marietta

Credit: City of Marietta

Two weeks after she was diagnosed with the coronavirus, Marietta City Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson is slowly resuming the life she led before the virus upended her routine.

Richardson, who was tested and diagnosed in mid-March, said she's now symptom free. She is one of more than 340 Cobb County residents and 5,400 Georgians who as of Friday have tested positive for coronavirus. She's also one of many survivors who are calling on their neighbors to their part in helping curtail the pandemic.

Although her symptoms have cleared up, Richardson said she still has no energy and sleeps most of the day. She has been able to perform some work and City Council-related duties at home. Her diagnosis caused her to miss her father’s March 14 funeral. Her sister also died a few months before in early January. Neither death was related to coronavirus.

“I’m trying to determine if it’s because I was so sick or is this the grief from losing my sister and my dad,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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The Marietta City Councilwoman on Thursday, April 2 returned to work, attending an in-person council work session wearing a mask. City leaders and staff practiced social distancing by spacing themselves six feet apart and streamed the meeting online for the public to watch.

“It was exhilarating,” she said when asked how she felt after the meeting. “I enjoyed being at the meeting and seeing people.”

Richardson, 59, previously told the AJC that her symptoms started suddenly. She woke up around 1:30 a.m. March 11 with a fever and a cough. She didn’t go to the City Council meeting scheduled for that night, and tried to manage her symptoms. The cough was unrelenting, and wouldn’t let up after taking numerous doses of cough syrup and puffs from her inhaler. Allergic to codeine, Richardson says she resorted to taking Aleve.

“The pain was laughing at the Aleve,” she said. She visited her doctor’s office the following day and was tested for the virus. The test came back positive March 16, she said. She was ordered to stay home until she was symptom-free for at least 72 hours and had finished her medication.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said he was glad to see Richardson was on the mend. He said he was “scared” for her when he learned of her diagnosis. Tumlin said while he felt for the people who were grappling with the pandemic when it was spreading across China, he said it hits home when a person you know is diagnosed.

“It’s really up close and personal,” he said.

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After weeks of residents statewide ignoring recommendations to curtail the virus by not gathering in large groups, Gov. Brian Kemp has signed an executive order for Georgia residents to shelter in place. Richardson said she's surprised at how little people have thought about the impact their actions could have on more vulnerable residents.

Richardson told the AJC that she’s seen people argue that shelter-in-place orders violate a person’s First Amendment right to assembly and that it’s wrong to force people to hold virtual religious services. She said that these precautions are necessary because public health officials warn that people can carry the virus while having no symptoms, and can pass the infection to others.

“Some people are just thinking about themselves,” she said. “There are people who have no consideration for the fact that they could be asymptomatic and give it to their grandmother or to a friend’s mother.”

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On the flip side, Richardson said she believes the policy makers have done the best they can to respond to an unprecedented series of events. Marietta city leaders on March 24 approved a resolution declaring a state of emergency in the city. Richardson, along with City Councilman Joseph Goldstein, voted against the resolution.

Richardson said she felt like the city’s resolution caused “confusion” because it didn’t mirror the order passed by Cobb County. She said that the city should have followed the county’s lead and closed its parks.

“I have wanted to shelter-in-place provisions since our first emergency order,” she said. “I would prefer if parks were closed.”

Richardson said she hopes Cobb and Georgia residents will continue to heed the advice of public health officials to stay home until it’s declared safe for everyone to resume their normal lives. She said her experience has made her more determined to slow the spread of the virus.

“It will spread, but we need to allow our medical professionals time and equipment to treat those who need it,” she said. “I don’t want to read the obituary of anyone else that I know, especially if their death is attributed to an overburdened health system.”

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