First is from Jennifer Casteneda of Shell Beach

SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department has started a “My COVID Story” series. The first story on Jennifer Casteneda of Shell Beach was posted on the County’s website on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

It is part of a San Luis Obispo County Public Health series highlighting the impact that COVID-19 has had on SLO County community members.

As COVID-19 cases increase in San Luis Obispo County, more people may contract the virus and some could get seriously ill. To help shed some light on the different ways COVID-19 impacts people and reduce the stigma around the illness, the County Public Health Department is asking for anyone who contracted the virus to consider sharing their story.

SLO County’s first story in the series comes from Casteneda, who tested positive for COVID-19 in the fall of 2020.

“It really hit home for me when I lost my sense of taste and smell. I had just made a salad and poured some dressing on it and then…nothing. It was bleu cheese dressing and I couldn’t taste a thing. Not a thing. That’s when I knew it was COVID.

“I had been feeling just ‘off’ for a few days by then — feeling some sinus pressure and a very slight headache, just thought it was allergies or that I hadn’t had coffee that day. I was also feeling foggy — doing things that I wouldn’t normally do, like putting the milk back into the cupboard, not the refrigerator. Things like that. I told my sister, who knew I had job interviews coming up, and she said I was probably just distracted, so I wrote it off. It wasn’t until I looked back that I realized that all of these things were the earliest signs that I was sick.

“When I tested positive, I freaked out. My parents and I hadn’t seen each other for a while; we were being really good — but we had seen each other that weekend before I realized I was sick. They stayed at my house. We hung out, shared meals together. So I called them and said, ‘Are you sitting down?’

“They thankfully never got sick. Neither did my boyfriend. And I’m so grateful for that. I’m also so grateful that my COVID experience was a mild one. I had a headache, fogginess, and a slight cough. I never had a fever, so each time my temperature was taken, I didn’t think I was positive. Overall, it was incredibly mild and I feel incredibly lucky for that.

“I recently lost my uncle, who lives down in Los Angeles, to COVID. One day we were on the phone with him, talking about the Dodgers’ win — he was in the hospital at that point but seemed to be doing really well. The next day we got the call that he was gone. So I know everyone’s case is not as mild as mine.

“I still struggle with how I got it. I was in between jobs at that point, so I wasn’t going into an office. I wasn’t really going anywhere, which was why I was so surprised when it happened. I saw my boyfriend and went to church and the gym (this was back when both were open inside). But we were always spaced out, and people had masks on most of the time — they even took our temperatures at the door — so I felt like things were pretty safe. To this day, I don’t know when and where I came in contact with it. The contact tracers told me it’s OK, it’s hard to know where you might have been exposed, and some never do. But still, I wonder sometimes.”

Getting through this together, Atascadero