Family opens up about Covid-19 struggle

Apr 5, 2020

One of the first Covid-19 cases in Dartmouth has opened up about her family’s struggle with coronavirus after both she and her husband fell ill with the highly contagious sickness.

Vanessa Anderson, a Massachusetts native with deep roots in Dartmouth, had moved to Brooklyn just six months ago with her husband and two children. 

They came back to the South Coast to escape the New York outbreak a few weeks ago. Anderson’s daughter is vulnerable to the virus, as she suffers from diabetes.

“That’s why we were so intent on getting out of New York,” said Anderson. 

“We were obsessive about the hand washing,” she noted of the weeks before their departure. “We started getting really scared like a month ago, but everyone was still saying everything was fine.”

After outbreaks in a few nearby suburbs, they decided to come up to Dartmouth, where Anderson and her father are from.

But they didn’t realize that her husband had already caught it. He came down with a fever and a cough, and tested positive for Covid-19.

She realized she had the virus herself when she lost her sense of taste and smell.

Luckily, the couple isolated themselves from the family in separate rooms, and didn’t spread it to her father and his wife — who are in their seventies — or to their children.

Anderson said she was “terrified” they had spread the virus, especially after her stepmother started feeling ill — but she later tested negative for coronavirus.*

“Our stress levels are through the roof,” she told WBZ-TV in a video interview on March 24.

“We were terrified everyone was getting it,” she said afterwards of the days leading up to the interview. 

She noted that the family doctor, who was checking in on them daily through FaceTime, said it was “kind of a miracle” that the children didn’t get the illness too.

Anderson said that the family is “grateful and happy” that they didn’t spread the virus to anyone else, adding that they were lucky to have such a strong community to support them.

“We’re very grateful for what we have and to be in this wonderful community,” she said. “This is my true home, this is where my dad was born...My husband and I got married here.”

“The only real estate I own is in Dartmouth,” she added. “It really is my lifelong home.”

This point is important to her, because she said there is a fear of people coming in from virus-stricken New York and other places.

“Personally, I understand, but it’s a good thing that some people can leave New York because it’s taking pressure off the system,” she noted, adding that “everybody I know who has left New York has been very committed to the quarantine.”

“We actually came here, isolated, didn’t get anybody sick,” she pointed out. “Nobody wants to get everybody sick.”

“You almost feel radioactive,” she added. 

Now, Anderson said, the family is focusing on getting better.

After what she described as “a 12-day ordeal”, her husband is recovering and has avoided a hospital visit, while Anderson herself said that her sense of taste and smell has mostly come back.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” she said. “We’re just kind of recovering because it’s just such a nightmare. Everybody’s just reeling from what’s going on in the world.”

But she did note that “there’s a benefit to getting on the other side and having some immunity.”

“I’m offering to get groceries for neighbors who are more vulnerable,” Anderson said, adding that hospitals can use plasma from the blood of people who have recovered to help those still fighting the illness.

“I would do that in a heartbeat,” she said.


*Clarification added on 4/6/20: Anderson had previously stated in a television interview that the virus had spread to her father and his wife, but to the family’s relief, they subsequently tested negative.