'It's not the flu' | Tampa city councilman urges caution after COVID-19 battle

Posted at 12:11 AM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 11:43:02-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- A Tampa city councilman is asking people to be cautious and careful after battling COVID-19.

Councilman Orlando Gudes said he got tested and started quarantining in June after the mayor notified him of a staff member who contracted the virus. He’s not sure where he got it, he had been to meetings and several places, but says a couple days later he fell ill.

“It’s just something you don’t want to get. It’s not the flu, it’s just something totally different. It affects you in all kinds of ways and you just don’t want it,” Gudes said.

Gudes described chills, back pain and weakness. But he says he used heating pads on his back and that his mother called every couple hours to make sure he was walking around.

“From there, we tried to wait it out. Thought I was getting better and then it turned. It caused some other organs to kind of get exposed to this virus, I guess and then from there, I needed some treatment for some other issues,” he said.

Gudes said he started having trouble with his eyesight. When he told a good friend, they called his doctor, who eventually sent him to the hospital.

“My blood sugar was so high, almost to 600, so they were trying to treat that and get that down. I think I was already fighting the disease already coming out of that and then it just added on to the other complications,” he said.

Gudes said he had to spend around three days at Tampa General Hospital, describing nurses who talked and comforted him as a blessing since he had to be alone.

“God is good. I’m blessed that I’m still here, you know. I just know what it’s like for family members who don’t get to say their last rites, their goodbyes to their family members. Because again, you’re lonely and the hospital doesn’t allow family members to come in there and you die alone,” he said.

Now, he’s home, recovering, has tested negative for COVID-19 and is following up with a specialist. He said the illness changed his perspective.

“It affects everybody. Rich, poor, no matter who you are, socioeconomics, when you get it, you get it. Some people are lucky who may have a strong immune system to fight it or however their body system is made up,” Gudes said. “I was strong as an ox but hey, it got a hold of something else. And so my thing is, I just tell people who are doing these lawsuits -- people who are out there against the mask -- you just don’t understand. You don’t know if you might bring that home to another family member.”

Gudes is encouraging people to stay away from large social gatherings, social distance, wear masks, wash hands, follow guidelines and tells young people to get tested.

He weighed in during a city council special call Tuesday, where the Department of Health (DOH) provided an update. The county health director said hospitals are very busy, and while managing, are stressed.

“The virus at least in our community is stabilizing. That’s the best term. But we don’t want to keep where we are. We must get down significantly. Just to put it in perspective, if you look at the number of cases per 100,000 per capita, we’re having almost 10 times what NYC is currently having. We’re having less than Miami but they’re having an extraordinary high. So we just gotta keep doing everything we can as a community to keep the virus at bay, away from each other and that’s that whole concept of social distancing and masking, if you will,” said DOH Hillsborough's Dr. Douglas Holt during the call.

On Tuesday, data from DOH showed 9,440 new coronavirus cases, with a positivity rate for new cases of 13.62 percent.

Governor Ron DeSantis said nearly 24 percent of hospital beds and nearly 20 percent of ICU beds remain available.

“You look at the COVID like illness visits, we had 2,500 on July 7. The last two days, we’ve had about 1,000 statewide. And so that’s a very significant indicator about who’s actually going to the ED’s and then we’ve seen the hospital censuses really stabilize in most parts of the state. Some of them have even declined, which is a good sign as well. I think we’re gonna get through it,” Gov. DeSantis said during a news conference.

Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration reported 9,520 hospitalized with COVID as primary diagnosis Tuesday.

According to health department data, 21,780 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. The number increased by more than 500 compared to Monday’s hospitalization total. That’s the largest daily increase during the outbreak so far.

“I just want everybody to be safe be cautious and stay home if you have to,” said Gudes.

Gudes hopes his story will help others.

“I’m just grateful for God to be here and I’m starting to get better and I can tell the story to other people to maybe save somebody else’s life,” he said.

The City of Tampa reports 167 sworn and civilian employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began.