Congressman recounts personal
experience with COVID-19
By Doug Lowe
Not even being the son of a pioneer could prepare Ben McAdams for his coronavirus journey.
After being hospitalized at the University of Utah Medical Center on March 20, and spending eight days there being treated with oxygen and other therapies, McAdams emerged smiling, but unshaven, on March 28.
He said he expected to spend a few more days at home as he recovered from an experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone.
McAdams, 45, shared the dubious honor of becoming one of the first two members of Congress to test positive for the virus. The other, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, had mild symptoms and was not hospitalized.
Two days after leaving the hospital, McAdams talked with the Sanpete Messenger about his experiences with the new coronavirus and the challenge it poses for the county, state, and nation.
When asked how he felt about becoming one of the first members of Congress struck down by the virus, Adams said it was a role he would rather have avoided, since it felt “like being hit by a truck.”
McAdams also spoke of seeing a “possible symbolic message” in the fact that his partner in becoming the first members of Congress with COVID-19 was a member of the opposite political party. The possible message? According to McAdams, “It is time for our nation to rise above political party differences.”
In a statement that McAdams issued on his last day in the hospital, the day Congress passed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, he praised the representatives and senators of both parties for working together to pass the legislation.
According to McAdams, “urgently needed resources” will soon be coming to Utah—to individuals, families, small business owners, employees, health care providers, and local governments—to help them handle “the havoc that the coronavirus is wreaking on our communities.”
McAdams learned from experience that being “relatively young and in good health does not keep the virus from making you dangerously ill.”
Neither did all the recommended precautions McAdams was following: Hand washing, avoiding touching his face, social distancing and the like. In his case, those steps were not enough.
“Fortunately, I was at home and had been home for a couple days, when I started having symptoms,” McAdams recounted. “So, I had not been out and about, exposing lots of other people before I even knew I was infected.”
Isolated at the U. of U., McAdams was put on oxygen in response to breathing difficulties, and treated for fever and other symptoms until the symptoms abated and tests confirmed he no longer had COVID-19.
During his phone call to the Messenger, he talked about his effort, and efforts of like-minded Democrats and Republicans, to have a special inspector general oversee the billions dispensed under the CARES Act. The inspector general’s office will be responsible for ensuring “that all those billions get spent the way they are supposed to.”
Talking of the temptation and corruption that “big pots of money bring with them,” McAdams said he was pleased the legislation included “multiple layers of financial oversight.”
McAdams expects it may be necessary for him to return to Washington “in order to continue representing my district there.” However, he has some hope that long-distance legislating will become the new order of the day until the coronavirus threat is brought under control.
The congressman has been hosting what he calls “telecom town meetings,” enabling the residents of a certain area, or citizens sharing a common concern, to have a virtual meeting with him.
For example, on the same day that McAdams made his phone call to the Messenger, he hosted a remote meeting with the leaders of a wide variety of Utah nonprofit organizations.
Similarly, McAdams is hosting a series of virtual get-togethers with local government leaders to help them express their concerns and improve his understanding of their situations.
In his interview with the Messenger, McAdams urged Sanpete small business owners and nonprofit organizations, to quickly apply for the “emergency grants and forgivable loans” that will come under CARES Act.
He also mentioned help that rural hospitals will receive to expand the availability and quality of medical care to those who live outside the state’s major population areas.
A few days after the phone call, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the state would make interest-free “bridge loans” to qualified small businesses to tide them over while they wait to receive Small Business Administration (SBA) loans funded by CARES.
Web-based applications for the SBA loans financed through Zions and other Utah banks went on-line between Sunday and Wednesday of this week.