Congresswoman Jahana Hayes spoke exclusively with NBC Connecticut Wednesday, 10 days after testing positive with COVID-19.
The congresswoman said each of the days since she got the virus have been different, presenting physical challenges she never expected to face, given her otherwise good health.
“I am a healthy woman. I don’t have asthma or breathing issues so to just experience this and have to think about my breathing and pace my activities is scary,” she said in an interview with NBC Connecticut’s Leslie Mayes.
The congresswoman said she was initially hesitant to do a recorded interview over concerns about being able to maintain her breath while speaking.
“I spent the first couple days just on a roller coaster of symptoms. I had a fever. I had night sweats. And then when those subsided, the lingering symptom that I’ve been dealing with and continue to deal with is just extreme fatigue and shortness of breath,” she said.
The fifth district congressional representative became ill after a staffer tested positive. And it comes four months after her husband successfully fought COVID-19.
Hayes said even as a member of Congress, she had to visit multiple locations before she could get a COVID-19 test and some of her staff had to pay out of pocket for testing and couldn’t get timely results, exposing what she sees as large gaps in the coverage lawmakers thought they secured for all Americans.
"When I was tested, I was asked for my insurance card. And when I communicated that back to leadership, everyone said no the testing is free. You don’t have a problem. And I said it’s not as simple as we think it is. And I really shared that experience so that they could understand what people are going through,” said Hayes.
Hayes has documented her COVID fight in daily handwritten captain’s logs on Instagram. She said enduring this sickness personally is only strengthening her calls for her fellow Washington lawmakers to get more serious about bringing this pandemic to an end and bringing relief to American people with a new aid package.
“These long gaps are just prolonging this, and this virus is not over. The fact that my husband experienced this in May and here we are four months later the same family is going through it again just crushes every myth about this, that you can’t be exposed again, you can’t get it again. We don’t know what happens or how this virus moves. So we have to take preemptive steps at every turn to make sure people are healthy.”
Hayes said she’s been able to continue working while in quarantine at home. She’s attended congressional hearings virtually and she’s voting by proxy through Rep. Joe Courtney.
As the nation heads into flu season, she also encourages people to visit a doctor if they feel sick and not self-diagnose and seek out a test if they feel they’re at risk.
“This is no joke. It’s not anything where on this day, this happens and then tomorrow you feel a little better. You know, you wake up and you take every hour as it comes,” she said.