Margaret Novins talked to me on her cellphone from a hospital bed at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, N.J.
She had been ill since March 8, toughing it out through fatigue, a cough and fevers that brought on vicious chills for five evenings straight.
Finally, on March 15, she went to an urgent care center and, on March 16, to an emergency room. The attending there called it “conversational dyspnea.”
“I couldn’t breathe,” she said.
Novins, who shared her lab tests and medication list, got her diagnosis March 19. Next to the entry for SARS-CoV-2 were the words “Detected Critical.” She had the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
To that point, Novins had been a pneumonia patient for three days, treated mainly with antibiotics. But within an hour, a new drug was added to her med list: hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria-turned-autoimmune drug, also called by its brand name Plaquenil. President Trump is touting the drug, some say overselling it, as the possible answer to the COVID-19 crisis.
Novins’ responded to the treatment. She was better, though surely not well, the next day.
“The fever,” which was still spiking when she was on other meds, “is now gone, which is fantastic,” she said on Saturday March 21, coughing at times but able to speak.