Jeremy Silver doesn’t like to sit still. But a month ago, he didn’t have the energy to even get up from the couch.
At 24, the musician from Concord was battling the coronavirus. He and his girlfriend were two of just 22 cases reported in the Vermont county where they were tested.
“I was really on the couch almost the entire day for about seven days straight,” said Silver, who has worked as a gig pianist and singer at lounges around the Boston area and also has performed at synagogues and senior living facilities, including Kaplan Estates in Peabody. “I’m like, very much not that kind of a person, so it was disconcerting.”
Silver, who was president of his fraternity and his a cappella group at Tufts University, was in the middle of the journey of a lifetime last month with his girlfriend, Claire Schnadig, 22. In January, the couple had taken jobs as au pairs for a set of twins in Zurich. And, as late as March 9, things were relatively normal as they returned to Switzerland from France, where they had met up with Schnadig’s extended family.
A week later, they hiked with friends back in Switzerland. They think that’s when they contracted the coronavirus because one of the hiker’s boyfriends was ill though at the time, they thought nothing of it.
In their short stint in Switzerland, the couple covered a lot of ground: they cooked for the family each night, roamed around Zurich with new friends, skied all over France and Switzerland, and met up with Silver’s family in Italy. As late as mid-March, life seemed good, until the twins’ school shut down. Three days later, on March 19, they received an email from the US State Department warning them they might have to shelter in place indefinitely, so they were on a plane back to the US that weekend. They had decided to go to the Silver family vacation home in Vermont.
In the airport, Schnadig had a slight cough and a sore throat, but didn’t think much of it until five days later, when Silver came down with a fever. “The first three days when I had a fever, it felt like the flu. And the big headache days that followed it, it felt totally unique,” he said. “It just simply felt different than any kind of cold or flu that I’ve had before.” That, combined with severe exhaustion he described as “a cloud that was thick enough and heavy enough that like, I did not have the energy to FaceTime for longer than a minute,” prompted them to get tested for coronavirus at a small Vermont hospital.
During the drive-through test, in which a long Q-tip is stuck far up the patient’s nostrils, Silver was “anything but calm.” He said it felt like the swab was “scratching my brain.”
Two days later, they learned they had both tested positive. Luckily, Schnadig felt less sick than Silver, so she was able to take care of him while he was ill.
Coronavirus is frustrating because the symptoms come and go in waves. Silver described a rollercoaster of severity where his headaches and fever let up for a few hours, then came back with a vengeance. “I felt good briefly, but then it’d hit me again. Back to the couch,” he said.
Schnadig and Silver agree that one of the strangest side effects of the disease was their loss of taste and smell. “We had brought back a ton of Swiss chocolate. And like three days in a row, I tried one piece, and I just could not taste it,” he said. “Claire told me it was a waste of our good chocolate.”
Both have been symptom-free since April 4, based on a Google sheet where they tracked their symptoms day-by-day. Since neither one is infectious now, they plan to head home to Concord, where they both grew up.
While he’s relieved to be out of the woods, coronavirus is still a constant worry for Silver. “Yes, we don’t have to worry about physically getting sick but we still have the same anxieties as everyone about like, when’s this going to end? How is my life going to be changed by this?” he said.
Silver has been filling his time with teaching a few virtual piano lessons and posting his musical arrangements on social media, including a recent remix of “Dayenu.” He also recently applied for a temporary job as a contact tracer ‒ tracking down anyone that somebody with an infection may have had contact with in the days before they became ill – to help Massachusetts find a way out of this pandemic. When asked for advice on handling the disease, he kept it simple: “Stay home!”