Breckenridge Texan

COVID and the Judge: ‘It’s definitely worse than the flu,’ he says

COVID and the Judge: ‘It’s definitely worse than the flu,’ he says
October 19
20:27 2020

By Tony Pilkington and Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

With a gravely voice and obvious congestion, Stephens County Judge Michael Roach got out of bed from a Sunday afternoon nap to answer some text messages and talk with the Breckenridge Texan over the phone about his still-ongoing bout with COVID-19.

His wife, Cori, tested positive on Thursday, Oct. 15, and then, after developing symptoms himself, the judge was tested and confirmed positive on Friday. So far, their sons have not shown any symptoms.

Roach said his wife started feeling not-so-good on Wednesday and then started feeling really bad on Thursday. He was mowing the grass at the Stephens County Airport when she called to let him know she was feeling bad. She took a rapid test at Stephens Memorial Hospital and was positive.

“I wasn’t feeling just really great that day (Thursday), myself, and so I came home,” he said. “My symptoms became worse over that night. The next morning, I called the doctor, and I was rapid-tested at 3 on Friday.”

Roach, who is also Stephens County’s emergency coordinator, has been leading the local effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He, along with other city, county and health officials, created a multi-tiered community health plan to let the community’s residents know how stringent they need to be in their anti-virus practices, such as wearing masks, maintaining recommended distance from others, staying at home whenever possible, etc.

Last week, as the number of local active cases of COVID-19 began to increase rapidly, he and the other health authorities enacted Stage 5 of the health plan, which requires masks inside a commercial entity or outside in a place that social distancing isn’t possible, recommends sheltering in place for high-risk community members, and strongly discourages travel outside the county.

Roach says that he likely contracted the virus from his wife, who might have been exposed to a family member, who didn’t realize they had the virus at the time.

Worse than the flu

His experience with the disease has been much worse than other illnesses he’s had in the past, Roach said.

“I’ve had the flu myself, and I’ve had surgeries and things like that, but I’ve never had anything that lasted as long as this did or with the amount of body aches,” the county judge said. “I’m telling you…there were three days there, two days in particular, that there was not a waking moment that if (we) didn’t have Tylenol or acetaminophen or something, it was almost unbearable. It hurt so bad; it felt like I’d been in a car wreck, honestly. My back hurt really bad, especially my hips, my shoulders, my neck, between the neck and the shoulders. That’s been the most uncomfortable thing, the body aches and then tremendous, tremendous headache. Last night, I was trying to read some stuff, and I couldn’t even focus to read because my head hurt so bad. (I had a) low-grade fever. And then, today (Sunday), Cori lost her sense of taste and smell.”

Roach said a good night’s sleep has been impossible because he tosses and turns all night, unable to get comfortable. “I’ve had the flu, and for me, this is just for me, it’s a lot worse than the flu,” he reiterated.

The Source

Although Roach isn’t certain where or when he was exposed to the virus, he said that on Sunday, Oct. 11, he and his wife were around a family member who later tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. However, their interaction with the family member was brief.

The family member who later tested positive for the virus has been very conscientious throughout the pandemic, practicing social distancing. However, Cori did have a brief conversation with them.

“One of the things that surprised me was just how rapidly that this virus can spread,” Roach said. “Because we thought we were doing pretty good, just trying to stay away and fist-bumping or elbow-bumping … but we didn’t have masks on, though.”

Roach, who is also the pastor at Apostolic Lighthouse, said that during services, many of the church’s parishioners wear masks and practice social distancing by sitting only with family members. A few church members who have already recovered from COVID-19 don’t bother to social distance, he said.

“We have masks and hand sanitizer, if folks want to do that, but most of us just stay away from each other. Some of them do, and some of them don’t, it’s like life,” he said.

The church has moved services online for two weeks to try and stop any further spread of the disease, Roach said.

Getting tested

When he started feeling bad, Roach called his doctor’s office, and they sent the order for the test to the hospital. Roach got a rapid COVID-19, as well as a secondary swab to be mailed off, in case the rapid test came back as negative. He also had blood drawn so that it could be tested for coronavirus antibodies, also in case the swab tests came back negative; that way, he would know if he had already had the disease.

The testing was all done curbside in the driveway area of the emergency room at Stephens Memorial Hospital.

“Another thing…they don’t stick that swab way back in your nose like they used to,” he said. “The new test, they put it in your nasal and then they go around and around and get a sample that way. They don’t stick it way back there like they used to. It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s just like sneezing a little bit, tickles. It doesn’t hurt. It’s not invasive like some people think it is.”

Roach said as soon as he was informed of his positive test, he immediately began to think of who all he had been in contact within the past few days. “That’s the first thing I thought of, my parents, family members I know are very sick,” he said.

“And, then, I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to beat this thing and have a good positive mental attitude and do the right thing and stay healthy,” Roach continued. “But, I can tell you, there’s some times through this that… tightness in my chest, when you’re rolling around and can’t get comfortable … weird thoughts start slipping into your head, and you start checking your oxygen levels every hour. I’ve had those moments, too.”

The progression of the disease

Roach stressed how quickly the illness progressed.

“Literally, you are kind of feeling odd that morning, and then you are really rough that evening,” he said. “Within 12-18 hours, it went from feeling funky to being very sick.”

Roach said he will stay home according to his doctor’s orders, which is at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms or 14 days from exposure.

“I’m very infectious, I could really give it to somebody,” he said.

Advice to others

Roach said he’s heard people arguing for the concept of “herd immunity,” which means that if enough people in a community become immune to the disease, the spread will be slowed down or even stopped. Medical experts say that herd immunity can be achieved by vaccines or by people building up immunity after having had the disease.

However, Roach said that even if people will eventually be exposed to the coronavirus, he advises everyone to protect themselves as long as possible until better medications and vaccines are developed. Roach used himself and the improvements in the testing procedure as an example of why it is best to try and avoid the disease as long as possible.

“I would postpone (getting COVID-19) as long as possible, even until maybe there is a vaccine or some other kind of medical treatment or actual medicines they can give you that are more successful at treating it than what they have now,” he said. “By doing those things (taking preventative measures), you give yourself the benefit of time. Even, with me, by the time I was tested, the test had progressed so much that it wasn’t even bothersome, like it was in the early stages of this pandemic.”

The county judge also advises everyone to seek treatment if they are feeling bad, especially if they are having symptoms of pneumonia or breathing difficulties or if they are immuno-compromised.

Roach said he and his wife have not taken any prescription medications for their illness, and he advises others to avoid ordering any type of experimental drugs online. Instead, he says to consult with a local doctor, especially one that is familiar with your medical history.

“It is absolutely serious,” he said. “And, it affects everybody differently because our bodies are all different. But, for me personally – this is just my story – it has been far worse than the flu.”

Although Roach advised everyone to take precautions, such as wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others, avoiding going out in public unless necessary, he also emphasized how important those practices are if you have been exposed to someone who tests positive.

After finding out on Monday that he and his wife had been in close contact with someone who tested positive, he wore a mask to work all day Tuesday and left the courthouse early. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, he was able to work on a county project at the Stephens County Airport, staying outside and away from others.

“The other thing that I would emphasize is that when you have it, you have to stay home,” Roach said. “This is how we keep the transmissions down here locally is, don’t get out and about when you’re sick. Follow the doctor’s orders. That’s how we’re really going to get ahead of this.”

Even after he recovers, the county judge said, he will continue to practice the guidelines, such as wearing a mask in public, social distancing, etc.

Feeling better

On Monday afternoon, Roach said he was beginning to feel better.

“I woke up feeling about the same as yesterday, but I started feeling much better after a morning nap and some medicine,” he said.

Local situation

This afternoon, Monday, Oct. 19, Stephens Memorial Hospital announced that there have been nine new positive cases since Friday. With four patients being moved to the “recovered” category, the county now has 49 active cases of COVID-19.

Also Monday afternoon, Breckenridge Independent School District announced that four additional people connected to the schools tested positive since last week, two high school students, a staff member at South Elementary and a district-level employee. The school district now has 14 active cases, six among staff members and eight among students.

Additionally, on Monday, BISD Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Casey Pearce announced that all high school football activities, including the games against the Wall Hawks that were scheduled for Thursday and Friday, have been canceled for the next several days. The status of future games will be decided next week, Pearce said. Click here for the story.

On Friday, Breckenridge’s Villa Haven Health and Rehabilitation Center announced that two staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. On Sunday, the nursing home announced that another person at the facility had tested positive within the previous 24 hours.

In Wichita Falls, United Regional Health Care system announced that they are nearing their maximum capacity in their COVID-19 units.


In concluding the interview, Roach said, “To recap, for me, it’s been a lot more serious than the flu; the side effects have been more significant. I realize it’s different for everybody. So, I would just say, it’s real, it’s rough. It’s going to be really rough if you have co-morbidities. It is no fun. If you can keep from getting it, do it.”


Cutline, top photo: Stephens County Judge Michael Roach wore a mask at Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting after he was briefly near a person on Sunday who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. By Thursday, he was starting to feel bad, and on Friday, he tested positive for the disease. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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