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Jeremy messersmith talks about his COVID-19 testing experience

Jeremy messersmith at The Current in 2018. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

In the midst of the spread of COVID-19, virtually all music venues have postponed shows for weeks. One Minnesota musician is now navigating how to proceed after showing possible symptoms.

On March 16th, jeremy messersmith shared on Twitter that he’s been tested for coronavirus, posting a video of the nasopharyngeal swab test.  This morning, March 18, messersmith joined the Current’s Jill Riley over the phone to check in on his experience with the test and how he’s been doing during self-quarantine.

Jill Riley: We’ve got jeremy messersmith on the line. Jeremy, how are you doing? Good morning!

Jeremy messersmith: Good morning. I’m doing much better than I was a few days ago, even though I still sound like death. But I’m feeling a lot better.

Yeah, you sound a lot better, let me tell you, from the video that I saw. So, you were in your car and you did one of the drive-through tests. So jeremy, if we could just start from the beginning. Did you feel like you were coming down with symptoms, and then you called your doctor? How did it all start?

It probably started a few weeks ago. I had like a day of like some light chills. And then it went away, I didn’t think anything of it. And then I started noticing just a tightness in my throat, maybe a little over a week ago, say the eighth. And then just out of an abundance of caution, I immediately quarantined. My brother is an ER doctor and so, you know, I was just kind of texting, and he was like “You should definitely not go anywhere. You don’t know if you have this thing, but you don’t want to risk infecting other people. So, don’t go out, from here on out, for the foreseeable future.” So, we’re on quarantine. And then, I think it was on Sunday, I had just launched into a big raging fever and started getting a cough and then lost my voice over the course of maybe four hours, it was very quick.”

So then, did you make a call to your doctor? How did that process happen? Because I know that people kind of go through a screening process before they’re actually given the test.

Yes, I went to a website, and I did like basically an online visit. And all they did was ask a bunch of questions, when did I first start having symptoms, medical history, you know, recent travel and stuff like that. You know, I hit the “submit” button, and they said it would be reviewed by a doctor. Maybe in a couple of hours, they sent me a note back that said, “You should come in for testing, show up at one of these drive-in facilities, only open on Monday.” So I did.

When you got there, what was it like? I mean from what I saw from the video, you didn’t even get out of the car.

No, I did not. They have signs up at the clinic saying, “Don’t come in.” It was a bunch of people just kind of sitting in their idling cars, waiting for someone in protective gear to come out and talk them through a few things. I went through the test part, but they gave you some quarantine information and just kind of chatted for a little bit.

What did it feel like?

Well, it’s still really the old sideshow blockhead trick forever, it’s the one where people hammer nails into their noses? It’s basically that. They take a very thin swab, they call it a “nasopharyngeal swab,” and they just insert it way back through your nasal passage until it hits the back of your throat. And you can see in the video that I cough, it triggers kind of like a cough-sneezing thing, it feels like you have something kind of caught in your throat. And I would say that it’s mildly uncomfortable but it’s not particularly painful. It only takes a second.

Is there a certain amount of time that you have to wait and then the doctor gives you a call?

Yeah, they said it would be about three to five days before I would get results. And I will likely post those right away. That way, I mean, anybody that I’ve had contact with for the last couple weeks, just so they know. But even if I’m negative, it really isn’t going to change anything about what I’m doing for the next probably month, which is just sitting around, doing nothing.

What have you been doing to fill the time?

Well, I’ve been reading some comic books, catching up on some of that. I’ve been writing some haiku. I’ve actually been meditating quite a bit, it’s nice to have a practice in that. And playing so many video games…oh, it’s like, it’s a field day. It’s like a new golden age of having time to play any video game that I want. And that’s also a great way I keep in touch with friends and do a shared activity together. I’ve also been having Netflix parties with people as well. There’s like an extension so you can all watch the same thing together and chat and stuff and it’s very nice. I had virtual brunch the other day with a friend, which was good.

Can you give people advice, maybe just from your point of view, of how meditation has helped you?

Sure. I did a two-week silent meditation this fall. Actually like a lot of the lessons that I learned there are proving very helpful. The most important thing, I’m actually terrible at meditating, but I am very good at sitting still for like an hour at a time, is how to think of it. But it does help kind of like, shrink the world a little bit. You know, for the next, you know, several months maybe, I will be living in a very small place, and my world is very much shrinking. But it’s very nice to bring focus to the body, bring focus on what’s here and right around you. And it’s also a great time to write in haiku, things like that.

Anything that you want to share with us this morning? Or is it still a work in progress?

Oh, any haiku? Oh man, I would be far too embarrassed. Oh man, hold on, all the real haiku poets would…oh man. I don’t want to lose that key demographic for The Current.

Well, jeremy, thank you so much for checking in, and best wishes to you. I hope you continue to get better, and we fully realize that you and so many musicians here in Minnesota and all over the world are being affected by all the precautions and cancellations and postponements when it comes to coronavirus in the music industry, and we wish you the best of luck. Social media has got to be just a great way to connect with your fans.

I mean, yes, and also to kind of give a little solidarity. You know, we are all in this thing together, and I’ve had so many people reach out with, “Hey, I’m sick and I’m scared.” And we’ve all got each other’s backs, and we’re all going to get through this.

Sylvia Jennings contributed reporting to this story.

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