TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - They are fighting the novel coronavirus on the frontlines, putting themselves at risk to save lives. Now, a Tucson nurse has tested positive for COVID-19. She is in quarantine with another nurse showing similar symptoms.
Andrea Arriola is a full-time nurse at Tucson Medical Center (TMC). Last Monday, she says she tested a patient for COVID-19.
“That patient did end up coming back negative,” she said.
At the time though, she didn’t know what the patient’s results were, and even though she was wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the test, Arriola decided to self-isolate just to be safe.
“I just had a gut feeling we shouldn’t go to work,” she said.
Since Monday, March 16, Arriola has been in isolation with her boyfriend, Carlos Torres, who is a nurse for Carondelet Medical Group.
“I stayed away from my family, away from my son,” she said. “It kind of felt like we weren’t doing much to help the situation. I really missed my family and I thought ‘if I don’t have symptoms, why can’t I see them?’ And then, sure enough, this weekend, we both got fevers.”
Arriola said they haven’t experienced a cough or sore throat, just sporadic fevers and bad headaches.
This week, she visited Banner University Medical Center to get tested.
“They only tested me because I was the only one with possible exposure,” Arriola said. “They told me I would have to wait 7 to 10 days, but they called me 2 days later [Wednesday, March 25th,] and I had a positive result.”
She says it’s reassuring knowing she made the right decision.
“My dad is at risk, he has heart and lung problems, and if I had gone over [to visit him] just because I wanted to … I don’t know how I would have lived with myself,” Arriola said.
To this day, Arriola has no idea where she picked up the virus.
“I could still have gotten this from the hospital, but who knows? I could have gotten it at the grocery store, who knows?” she said. “I took every precaution I thought I could take. I stayed away [from people], I washed my hands, I wore the PPE. I did everything that I could and I still have it.”
She believes more people have the virus in Pima County than officials know. Arriola and Torres said hospitals will likely see an influx of patients soon.
“We were short-staffed going into this situation unless we get staff from elsewhere … but everywhere across the country is short-staffed,” Torres said.
Arriola said local hospitals are doing everything they can to prepare.
“They are trying to open up some extra beds, at least at Tucson Medical Center. They’ve canceled the elective surgeries,” she said.
Arriola just hopes healthcare workers get the equipment they desperately need.
“I’ve been feeling pretty guilty not being out there [on the frontlines],” she said. “It’s really hard not being there.”
This is why as soon as their quarantine is up, the two plan to return to work, treating patients to the best of their abilities.