Joe Coon used to be worried about catching COVID-19. Now that he’s had it, another worry has presented itself — being stigmatized because of it.

Coon said he was eating at Applebee’s in McComb on Sunday night when he spotted someone he knew who also had the virus and decided to go talk to him about their miserable shared experience.

“One of the servers overheard us talking. She goes and tells the manager,” Coon said.

One of Coon’s dinner guests — a friend of a friend he admits he doesn’t know that well — was approached by the manager, who asked about Coon.

“The manager was worried about whether or not I had symptoms,” he said.

Coon said he understands the concerns over public health, but he noted that restaurants screen customers before serving them and he passed the screening. More to the point, he doesn’t understand why the manager didn’t just ask him about it.

“Why not come and ask me?” he said. “You could have come and asked me about it instead of disturbing someone I barely know. I would have been cool with it had he asked me.”

A message left Monday for the manager on duty Sunday night wasn’t returned.

Coon contracted the illness in late March, but he’s not sure how. He said more than a dozen people at his church, including his pastor, also came down with the virus.

“Fortunately the Lord was good and everybody recovered,” he said.

Coon, who works for C Spire, said the company shut down its Brookhaven and McComb stores as soon as they learned that he had the virus.

He said C Spire has been supportive of him and responsible in its response to the virus, but that hasn’t been the case everywhere.

He went to another restaurant to eat long after being recovered from the virus and saw some people he knew, who immediately backed away from him as he approached them.

Coon said he felt shunned, although the reality is he’s probably better equipped now to be circulating in public than the vast majority of the local population, considering his body has likely produced antibodies that can fight off the new coronavirus.

But science and society are different things, and he fears people will view him as if he’s been branded as a walking virus factory.

“What are we all to expect, the ones who have recovered?” he said. “Are we supposed to live under a rock all of our lives?”

Coon said his bout with COVID-19 was a miserable experience. He couldn’t eat for nearly two weeks and lost about 30 pounds as a result. He also had some respiratory problems.

“I was laying in the hospital bed. They put me on one of those nebulizer things for two hours,” he said.

He said prayer seemed to be the best treatment. His pastor, who also was recovering from COVID-19, called him while he was in the hospital and prayed over him.  

“Within the hour, my fever had broken and I had my first meal,” he said.

Coon said he’s spoken with others who have recovered from the virus and learned some had similar experiences and others didn’t.

“That’s the weirdest thing about this virus — everybody reacts differently to it,” he said.

Coon said he just hopes people will stop reacting so differently to him now that he’s survived the ordeal.

“You can’t treat people like that. You can’t treat them like they have the bubonic plague or they’re a leper,” he said.

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