TEMPE (AP) — After five hours of shoveling rocks into his family’s backyard, Jimmy Flores, 30, met up with his close friends at the bars in Old Town Scottsdale on a Saturday night in June.
“This bar was super packed. I was kind of concerned because I was like, man, everyone’s tight, they have limited cups. Some people were sharing drinks, it was weird,” said Flores, who also shared drinks with his friends that night.
The next day, Flores said his body was sore before going to bed, but he shrugged it off as being tired from working and drinking. Then, Flores woke up in the middle of the night with a temperature of 103 degrees.
“I texted my buddy and said, “I think I’m getting the flu.′ He goes, ‘That is scary because I am too,‘” Flores told the Arizona Republic.
After testing positive for COVID-19 the week of June 8, Flores said Maricopa County Department of Public Health employees were able to trace the new coronavirus to a bar in north Scottsdale. Flores said the department asked him not to share the name of the bar.
He was admitted June 15 to Banner Baywood Medical Center with COVID-19 and pneumonia after experiencing body aches, nasal congestion, fatigue, headaches, chills, sweating, shortness of breath, and other symptoms, according to Flores.
Flores is one of the thousands of confirmed new COVID-19 cases in the month since Gov. Doug Ducey lifted the stay-at-home order in Arizona. Face masks became mandatory across Maricopa County within the last week to help slow the spread of the virus.
Once at the hospital, doctors used an oxygen tank to assist with Flores’ breathing and gave him a mixture of antibiotics and a corticosteroid for treatment.
Flores also had to learn a coughing technique and lay on his stomach to help with breathing.
No visitors were allowed in the hospital while he was admitted and he went days without being able to eat a full meal or get a full night’s rest, Flores said.
His friend, who is 41, also tested positive for COVID-19, but he did not have to be hospitalized, Flores said.
Since contracting the virus, Flores started posting updates of his journey on his Facebook page to raise awareness. His initial post was shared more than 2,000 times.
“When I did the initial post that went viral, I got a lot of people that were kind of like, ‘Did you boost your post? Are you pushing a narrative?’ ” Flores said.
“That wasn’t meant to be political. It was supposed to be me ... saying, ’Hey, I didn’t take this seriously. I was like you. I didn’t think I was gonna get COVID. I didn’t believe in COVID because I didn’t know anyone that got it. ... and I got it in the worst possible way.”
Flores said he visited public places during the pandemic that were more secluded than the bar he contracted the virus from, “but the biggest thing was just sharing drinks ... I hate doing that anyways, so I should have never done that,” he said. “I wasn’t wearing a mask, I was still giving people hugs.”
After more than a week in the hospital, Flores was discharged home Monday, but breathing is still a challenge and he is taking multiple medications, he said in his most recent Facebook post.
“I’m definitely going to be a very, very, very, protective-gear kind of guy for sure,” Flores said. “I’m just going to be extremely careful, but I think I’m kind of making it a mission to educate people on this and just tell my story.”
His friends and family also created a GoFundMe page to help cover his medical costs. Flores said he has insurance to help with some of the costs, but will not receive the hospital bill for another week. “I really care about people not going through this and that they have to take this seriously because it really hurts,” Flores said.