Jerry King says when he and his wife pulled into the State fairgrounds in Detroit to get tested for the coronavirus, the parking lot was filled with tents and people with masks on.
“It was reminiscent of something that I’ve seen on television, when they lock down a city or country for containment of some type of virus,” says Jerry.
Click on the audio player above to hear Jerry King talk about his experience with the coronavirus
The couple both tested posted for COVID-19. While Jerry’s wife, Torrey Green King, didn’t complain of symptoms, Jerry felt fatigued and had a fever and body aches. They both began working to boost their immune systems and fight off the potentially deadly infection.
They took vitamins and herbal supplements, including a root extract that Native Americans used in the early 20th century hoping to fight off infection during the 1918 flu pandemic. Jerry began boiling water with an orange peel or onion in it and then breathing in the steam as a way to try to ease his congestion. He also drank lots of tea and gargled to clean out his throat.
But his symptoms persisted.
“The virus was definitely deadly. Just the way the phlegm would shoot up in my mouth at nighttime. That was kind of scary,” says Jerry.
Finally, a month after the couple first tested positive for COVID-19, they both felt much better. But when they went in to get re-tested they found a surprising result. While Torrey tested negative for COVID-19, Jerry still tested positive.
“They don’t know much about this virus,” says Jerry. “They are still reacting and collecting data.”
“The virus was definitely deadly. Just the way the phlegm would shoot up in my mouth at nighttime. That was kind of scary.”
The Kings are not sure how they contracted the virus, but wherever they got it from, as African Americans, the couple had the odds stacked against them.
Early data shows that the virus has disproportionately impacted African Americans. While the state of Michigan is 14 percent black, data from May 6 shows that African Americans make up 32 percent of COVID-19 cases and 41 percent of the deaths.
“It makes you, you know, angry when you see the numbers skew in a certain way,” says Jerry.
Jerry says he’s not surprised by this data because of the inequities that have long existed for black people in terms of education, jobs and healthcare.
But the activist and labor organizer says he’s hoping overdue lessons will be learned from the pandemic. He wants Americans to “[take] this sad opportunity to get deep into the data and really look at what we can do to reshape and to level the playing field.”