Patrick Hamilton

Patrick Hamilton, 25, of Coalport, tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus on Friday, less than a week after treating a patient at Reading Hospital in Berks County. Hamilton, a registered nurse, said the patient presented to medical staff with pneumonia and was not immediately placed in isolation. Hamilton is also employed at UPMC Altoona.

COALPORT — The community of Coalport has rallied to support a man who is one of the first COVID-19 cases in Clearfield County.

Patrick Hamilton, 25, of Coalport, tested positive for the virus on Friday after becoming symptomatic on Wednesday.

The Glendale High School graduate who attended Mount Aloysius College to obtain his registered nursing degree is a traveling nurse. He works at Reading Hospital in Berks County and also at UPMC Altoona. He has been a RN for five years and has called Coalport home all of his life.

As of Tuesday, Berks County had 110 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Clearfield County has four cases and no deaths.

Hamilton believes he contracted the illness after taking care of a patient at Reading Hospital.

“My symptoms developed super quick. I woke up Wednesday and went to work at Altoona and had a dry cough. I didn’t think much of it,” Hamilton said in a telephone interview from his Coalport home. “A few hours later I felt sore in all of my joints, like I had tendonitis. It was a dull ache. By the end of my shift I had a fever of 100.5. I was miserable, achy and had a fever.”

In addition to those symptoms, one that has recently made national headlines as a sure symptom of COVID-19 was noticed.

“I also could not smell or taste anything,” Hamilton said.

From the time Hamilton came home from work until Friday, he said he felt very ill.

He learned later on that a patient he had taken care of in Reading earlier in the week had presented with pneumonia — and days later was determined to be COVID-19 positive.

“He wasn’t in isolation until a day or two later after I had already treated him,” Hamilton explained. “Patients are not all flagging as positive for COVID-19.”

On Thursday, the day after the symptoms began, Hamilton contacted his primary care physician who used FaceTime social media to talk to him. The doctor then contacted UPMC’s Wolf Center in Pittsburgh to have Hamilton’s case reviewed by the state Department of Health to determine if he should be tested for COVID-19.

“They wanted to know if I had any possible contacts. At the time, I didn’t think I did,” Hamilton said, adding he still was not aware that a former patient was found to be positive. But because he was a nurse and had been working in a county with a high number of cases, he was sent to a UPMC-affiliated test site on Friday.

He was told on Saturday that he was positive for coronavirus.

“I was actually surprised,” Hamilton said of the test result. “By Saturday when they told me, I was feeling great already. It didn’t feel any worse than a flu or cold. I felt bad for two days but otherwise, I was fine.”

Hamilton said the only symptom he has left is not being able to smell or taste. He has not had a fever since Friday.

“From Wednesday to Thursday and on Friday, I still felt crappy,” Hamilton said. “When I woke up on Saturday, I felt like $1 million.”

Hamilton, who lives with his parents in Coalport, said once he is fever-free for seven days his quarantine will be over. His parents’ quarantine will end on April 15. Hamilton said so far, his parents are “presumed positive” but are asymptomatic and are fine.

Once he was confirmed positive, he had to answer to DOH as well as both hospital systems regarding where he worked and when, and who he had contact with.

“They had to quarantine 10 nurses and a lot of staff and patients that I was around that Wednesday when I started to become ill,” Hamilton said. “So far, none of those people, all of whom I know personally, who are now quarantined, as well as the patients, have become sick. So far, so good.” When asked if the positive result scared him, Hamilton said no.

“Everything you see in the media — on the news and on the Internet — is about people who are deathly ill and dying. That is not the norm,” Hamilton said. “The patients I have taken care of who had Influenza seemed worse.”

He said the COVID-19 headlines, especially the ones in larger cities like New York City, are scaring people.

“The situation in New York, what is happening there, we hope we don’t see those numbers here,” Hamilton said. “It seems impossible that it could happen here, but I also know it could happen. I hope we don’t see those numbers.

“If we have to put patients in the Blair County Convention Center or the Jaffa Mosque, we’re in more trouble than we thought.

“The stuff we see online is more like sensationalism; a dramatization of what is going on,” Hamilton said. “I am on a lot of Facebook groups of nurses, and the nurses working in New York City are saying it is not as bad as what we are seeing in the news.”

In the meantime, Hamilton is hunkered down in Coalport — a community that has rallied around his family since the news of his positive case filtered through town.

“I have had so many phone calls, texts, and more Facebook messages than ever. My work managers call me. My doctor calls me or FaceTimes me to make sure I’m okay,” Hamilton said. “People are bringing food, gift cards. They drop it off on the porch so we don’t have to go out. That is life in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Everyone has been so supportive to both me and my parents.”

Hamilton said he is looking forward to getting back to normal.

“I feel great. If I’m fever free for four more days, I’ll be back to my life.”

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