‘Somehow, I still got the bug’

Zach Wilkinson/Daily NewsDevon Felsted, the president of Pullman Disposal Service, poses for a photo in front of a flag portraying his alma mater, Washington State University. Felsted, who also serves as the lieutenant governor of Division 56 Pullman Kiwanis Club, shared his experience of having COVID-19 with other members of the club via Zoom video conference.

Devon Felsted said he took COVID-19 seriously, wore his mask, practiced social distancing and used hand sanitizer.

Yet, the president of Pullman Disposal still tested positive for the virus in October and became one of more than 3,000 cases confirmed in Whitman County.

“Somehow, I still got the bug,” he said.

Felsted shared his experience Thursday with the Kiwanis Club of Pullman, of which he is a member.

Felsted said his main symptoms were coughing, head congestion, heartburn, night sweats and not being able to enjoy certain foods as much as before.

He logged his daily experiences in a journal, which he shared with the Kiwanis Club. He recorded when he first started feeling ill, when he got tested, when he took time off work and when he started to get better.

His wife and sons also tested positive around that time for COVID-19, but all have recovered.

While Felsted said his experience was not as harrowing as many others who contracted the virus, the effects of COVID-19 have been long lasting.

“I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt completely like I’m back at 100 percent,” he said, adding that he still experiences head congestion and heartburn.

Some foods still don’t taste good to him.

After having mostly recovered from it, though, Felsted said he is no longer scared of the virus. He does continue to wear a mask because he does not want to spread it to others.

He also knows that wearing masks makes others more comfortable.

“Wearing a mask is a small price to pay for keeping from scaring people,” he said.

Felsted then introduced Whitman County Public Health Director Chris Skidmore to the Kiwanis Club. Skidmore gave an update on vaccination efforts and the number of COVID-19 cases in the county.

Skidmore said other than a slight uptick in cases following the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, COVID-19 cases in the county have been dropping off “fairly dramatically.”

He said Whitman County is one of the top performing Washington counties, if not the top county, in administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination clinics at places like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Pullman Regional Hospital typically draw hundreds of people, and Skidmore said weekend clinics could have a capacity of 1,500 people if there were enough vaccines available.

He said thanks to vaccination efforts, cases at long-term care facilities have dropped and the county has not seen a case at these facilities in two to three weeks.

Skidmore said vaccine distributions from the state have been limited and it has not provided new funding support vaccination capabilities. He said the county has been lucky that several hundred people have volunteered to help at the clinics.

The state on Thursday announced more vaccines will be coming to Washington starting next week through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Due to the allocation increase, three more pharmacies will be added to the program: Walmart, Rite Aid and Kroger.

Skidmore told the Kiwanis Club that while the county is making progress with getting people vaccinated, there is still a lack of mental health help for people during the pandemic.

Skidmore said he is seeing an increased need for mental health services here in the county.

“This is a topic that I’d kind of like to work on and try to bring to the forefront and try to start to have serious discussions locally on what we can do to meet that need,” he said.

Skidmore said the county should explore recruiting mental health professionals to meet the demand or utilize telehealth services.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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