County COVID survivor recounts experience; Landeen thought he had a cold

JEFF LANDEEN said that because he is a social person, he felt it was best to be open about being diagnosed with COVID-19. He said friends and neighbors were very supportive when he was sick, calling and bringing over food for him and his wife.

The number of new positive cases of COVID-19 has been declining in South Dakota while other parts of the country are seeing significant increases. On Monday, that number reached a low not seen since April 4.

Lake County is not among the counties contributing to the decline. At the beginning of June, the county had seen eight positive cases. By the end of the month, that number had crawled up to 21. However, within the last week, the number of cases has jumped from 22 to 35, an increase that matches the entire previous month and is 63% greater than the number seen during the first two months combined.

Even months after testing positive, Lake County's first documented COVID-19 case has questions, beginning with the big one: where did he contract it?

Jeff Landeen of Lake Madison suspects he may have picked up the virus in Deadwood, but he can't be sure because none of the individuals with whom he made the weekend trip got sick.

"I played some cards with some other gentlemen from Madison at the No. 10," Landeen said, noting the date, March 14. "On the 18th, there were two bartenders at the No. 10 who had the virus, but I didn't go to the bar, not once."

The state health nurse who contacted Landeen daily after he tested positive discouraged him from making that connection, telling him the timing was wrong. However, since COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days, and he first experienced symptoms on March 25, Landeen isn't sure he agrees with her.

"She said, `It's hard to determine where you might have picked it up'," he related. At the same time, she admitted she didn't know much about the disease and was unable to answer any of his questions.

Landeen didn't think he had COVID-19 when he first began to experience symptoms.

"I thought I had a head cold," he said, and noted that he continued to work for a couple of days.

He coughed and sneezed and had a migraine headache. He didn't have much of a fever, if he had any, and he didn't experience any shortness of breath. Because he didn't have the identified trifecta -- cough, shortness of breath and fever -- he might not have been tested if the health-care professionals in his family hadn't insisted.

South Dakota had reported its first COVID-19 case on March 10 after a Pennington County man died. At the time, cases were scattered around the state. The Argus Leader reported a man in Beadle County, one in Charles Mix County, another in Minnehaha County and a woman in Davison County has tested positive.

By March 25, when Landeen began to show symptoms, the state was reporting 41 cases. His wife Lynn, who is a home health nurse with Madison Regional Health System; his daughter Toni, who is a nurse anesthetist; and his son Derek, who is a paramedic firefighter in Watertown, all felt he should be tested.

"My son told me that if he had to come down, I was going to get tested," Landeen said.

By that time, Landeen had done some research and realized that he was exhibiting another symptom. He had lost his sense of smell. In addition, even though he had worked for a couple of days after exhibiting symptoms, by April 1, when he was tested, he was sick enough to stay in bed.

By then, the number of cases in South Dakota had increased to 129. Within two weeks, that number had grown to 1,068. During much of that time, Landeen was sick in bed.

"For the first 11 days, I couldn't eat," he said. Altogether, during that time, he ate a can of tomato soup and a can of chicken noodle soup.

"I would lay in bed and sleep most of the day," he recounted. "I watched Westerns and slept and watched Westerns and slept. I didn't have any energy whatsoever."

Then, his wife got sick.

"The first thing we thought is: she has COVID," Landeen said.

However, she was tested and the test came back negative. They don't know if it was a false negative or if she truly did not have the virus.

They do know that her symptoms were different than his. As a precaution, they stayed in separate bedrooms but, concerned as a result of reports about people dying in their beds from COVID-19, checked on one another frequently. Until Landeen made a confession, neither knew the other was doing this.

"I told my wife, `I stick my head in the door to see if you're breathing when I go to the bathroom'," he recounted. She admitted to doing the same thing.

The state did not require additional testing to confirm that Landeen had recovered when they released him near mid-April. They determined he was recovered because his cough was controlled, he hadn't had a fever for three days and he was feeling better.

"I didn't feel 100% yet. I didn't do anything. I stayed home," Landeen said. The following week, though, he ventured out.

"Everywhere I went, I was wearing a mask," he indicated. To date, neither friends nor family members have been infected by having contact with him.

Landeen knows that he was lucky. In the four months since the first cases in South Dakota were announced, 109 people have died and 744 have been hospitalized.

"Even though I was pretty sick, I would consider it a mild case," Landeen stated.

While recognizing that freedom of choice is important, having lived through the disease, he suggests following CDC and state Department of Health recommendations to remain healthy.

"If you're going to avoid it, you have to follow what the experts say," Landeen said. "If you want to protect yourself, wear your mask and do your social distancing."

As of Monday noon, the state had recorded 7,524 positive cases.