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Being positive: A look at how 3 locals experienced COVID-19

With positive cases of COVID-19 now at an all-time high in the region most of us know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Those falling ill experience the virus in abundantly different ways. Some barely notice a change, some feel as if the wind has been blown from their sails for weeks, even months. Still others in our midst have tragically passed away.

Here's a glance at how a few area residents faired in the face of a positive case.

Sarah Steinkopf

For Sarah Steinkopf, a preschool teacher at Wadena-Deer Creek, her first symptoms of COVID-19 came about a week after being exposed to the virus. She had a dry throat, a cough and then chest tightening prompting her to be tested a second time, which returned positive results. Friday’s tired feeling turned into feeling “almost like I had been hit by a bus even though I hadn’t really done much” on Saturday.

“Interesting enough the Wednesday before that I did a saliva test and that came back negative, so to me that’s just a reminder that you’re not always going to test positive right away,” Steinkopf said. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends being tested five to seven days after exposure to the virus.


During the second week of staying home, Steinkopf said her symptoms remained mild and she focused on resting, drinking fluids and staying home. She lives with her sister Jenny who also tested positive for COVID-19, and they enjoyed activities like puzzle and Lego car competitions when they felt well. Friends and family members also dropped off goodie baskets and meals in their porch as well as sent cards and text messages during her 16 days of quarantine and isolation.

“If you do have COVID or if you’re having symptoms, I don’t think you should be ashamed to let people know… there’s people out there that want to help, so reach out to your family and friends,” Steinkopf said.

For those with mild symptoms or in quarantine due to exposure, Steinkopf encourages people to have the positive mindset of “I’m going to make the best of it,” whether you choose to complete projects or rest. And most importantly, “If you’re not feeling well, stay home,” as Steinkopf said.

She’s still tired early every day but is thankful for mild symptoms and at the same time knows how varying COVID-19 symptoms and effects can be.

“I definitely learned that I take a lot of things in life for granted, like just a simple trip to the grocery store just because obviously I couldn’t go anywhere,” Steinkopf said. “Once I was able to go back to work and to church and to those things … my heart was very full.”

Dean Uselman Dean Uselman Photo courtesy Don Hoffman

For Dean Uselman, Wadena’s Economic Development Director and former fire chief, he said symptoms were not as severe as others he has heard about.

His symptoms started just a couple days after visiting his brother who he found out tested positive with COVID-19 just a day after the two parted ways. He recalls his brother was not coughing, sneezing or exhibiting any symptoms and they didn’t get real close, they are brothers after all. Yet, they were close enough.


“It just really took me by surprise,” Uselman said.

When he found out his brother tested positive Oct. 19, Uselman was at work, but he hadn’t come into close contact with others and left immediately. His symptoms began on Oct. 20, he was tested Oct 21, and five days later was notified he had a positive test.

The process continued as Uselman received a call from the Minnesota Department of Health to compile a list of those he had come into contact with. He was eager to make sure those people knew he had tested positive to limit their exposure. He believes he did not spread the illness to anyone else but recognizes that it’s easily done.

“It’s very real and very contagious,” Uselman said of the virus.

On quarantine, Uselman continued to work as much as he could though he admits trying to stay up to speed was difficult for several days as he was extremely fatigued.

After 10 days he was cleared from being contagious, though because he still exhibited symptoms it was decided he should continue to work from home until his condition improved.

His symptoms included body aches, headache, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, fatigue, a loss of taste and smell, and perhaps most concerning was a difficulty to retain information.

Uselman’s brother came out of the illness and is doing well.


Uselman wanted to share about his illness to impress upon people the impact that this virus can have on an individual and very quickly a larger population without taking careful steps to stop the spread.

“The last thing I want is to spread this to someone else,” Uselman said. “I think it just really brings an increased level of awareness of how quickly it can spread.”

Uselman encourages people to follow social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing to prevent the spread.

Kyle Davis

Kyle Davis

For Kyle Davis, a real estate appraiser at Davis Appraisals, the onset of his symptoms came with a fever, headache and stuffy nose on Nov. 7. While the symptoms were much like a common cold or the flu, he was tested for COVID-19 the next day after experiencing stomach issues.

Over a period of three days, Kyle and his wife Leah, who is pregnant, had mild symptoms, which for Leah included a fever and losing her sense of taste and smell. Kyle had nausea and chest pain until about day five.


With previous lung surgeries and pleurisy (lung lining inflammation) since college, Kyle said the tougher part for him was having a positive outlook. People with underlying medical conditions are considered higher risk for severe complications from the coronavirus, though any person can experience mild or severe symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

“I think it more challenged me was the mental part of it, like not succumbing to negative emotions and stuff like that,” Kyle said. “And trying to just stay positive and keep your mind off stuff because all of my symptoms in the grand scheme of things were pretty minor.”

The family enjoyed the remaining time at home as a staycation where they could sleep in, play games, play outside and simply be together. Kyle was also able to work from home.

“We could sit home and be grumpy and mad and be in the dumps, or just have a different perspective of it and be like, ‘OK, we’re alive, we’re well, we can’t do anything about it so let’s just make the most of what we got,’” Kyle said.

Kyle still feels chest pain, though the pain continues to be “really minor.”

Sarah and Jenny Steinkopf.JPG
Sisters Sarah (right) and Jenny Steinkopf both tested positive for COVID-19 in October. While staying home and experiencing mostly mild symptoms, the sisters also had puzzle competitions. Photo courtesy of Sarah Steinkopf


Sarah and Jenny Steinkopf.JPG
Sisters Sarah (right) and Jenny Steinkopf both tested positive for COVID-19 in October. While staying home and experiencing mostly mild symptoms, the sisters also had puzzle competitions. Photo courtesy of Sarah Steinkopf

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