Greg Geilman has an important message — start acting as if you and everyone else already has the novel coronavirus.
Geilman offered that warning because on Saturday, March 21, he learned he had tested positive for the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
The 50-year-old Manhattan Beach resident is a frequent gym-goer and beach walker. He does not have a compromised immune system or underlying health conditions. Except, he said, he's a workaholic who owns lots of surfboards he wished he used more often.
But none of that necessarily means anything.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease, which appear two-to-14 days after exposure, include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. While most people — particularly healthy adults — will experience mild symptoms, the recent death of a minor, reported by L.A. County officials on Tuesday, highlight the disease's danger no matter a person's age.
Community transmission — when folks get a disease from an unknown source — has also become increasingly worrisome for public health officials.
Geilman, the quintessential Generation Xer who lives near the beach, illustrates that. The real estate agent hasn't traveled to an exotic country, or anywhere of known community transmission. He hasn't attended any birthday parties or large gatherings or come into contact with anyone with the virus — that he knows about.
"I have no clue where I got it," Geilman said by phone Tuesday. "I could have picked it up at the gym, at Whole Foods, from a Trader Joe's shopping cart. I have no idea and it kind of doesn't matter."
That's Geilman. Circumspect, matter-of-fact. He speaks in a measured tone that is part laid back, part reassuring.
At this point in the coronavirus cycle, he said, "if you're not assuming everyone has it" and acting appropriately, "you're being stupid. Assume everyone has it: your best friend, your girlfriend, your parents, your kids."
Earlier this month, Geilman said, he noticed a sore throat. One day it was scratchy. The next, not. He popped a throat lozenge, guzzled fluids and carried on.
Like many people, he stocked up on food and began distancing himself from others. He began a self-quarantine on March 12 because, he said, he just didn't want to catch the virus.
Six days later, on March 18, COVID-19 had other ideas.
Geilman woke up feeling as if he had the flu, he said. His sore throat came back. He had body aches and sensitive skin, especially around his torso.
The first three days were the worst, Geilman said.
"I had body aches and chills and the night sweats were brutal," Geliman said. "I woke up one night in a pool of sweat, moved to a dry side of the bed and then woke up again sweating."
Geilman was feverish, but his temperature never reached higher than 101 degrees, he said. He started scouring Facebook and Instagram to see if friends knew where he could get tested for COVID-19.
Geilman learned two important things about COVID-19: First, many doctors asked him if he had mucus or congestion. If you do, they said, it's good news: you likely have a cold. Second, acetaminophen works to reduce the fever.
After many tries, Geilman found MakeYouWell urgent care in Torrance had COVID-19 tests. He drove to the facility, on Hawthorne Boulevard, and an employee met him in the parking lot; he was ushered into the building once it was cleared of people.
Geilman has been recovering since. His biggest problem, he said, is answering the hundreds of comments he's received on the Facebook videos he's posting during his recovery. Most Facebook comments are supportive, but some people have questions.
He's trying to determine if the rundown feeling he has is leftover fatigue from the virus — or the emotional toll of making his COVID-19 status public.
"I run a really successful real estate team and if our business goes down, so be it," Geilman said. "There are a lot of things that I'm powerless over and this virus is one of them."
Geilman said he tries balancing self-care and helping folks get more information about COVID-19.
He said he feels compelled to help spread the word about not spreading the virus. And, he's helping in more concrete ways.
Tuesday morning, a phlebotomist in hazmat gear came to draw Geilman's blood. It was put on ice and driven to San Diego for the biotechnology firm Genalyte for testing a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
"I'm excited that I got this out of the way early," Geilman said. "I want to be useful to other members of the community. I'll be able to go other places where people are afraid to go."
But for now, he plans to quarantine a week longer than doctors recommend. He's well taken care of by family and friends.
And he can't wait to get his toes in the sand and his surfboards in the water.