First Tampa officer to test positive for COVID-19 admits he joked about the virus, at first, until he got it

The first officer with the Tampa Police Department who tested positive for COVID-19 has recovered, and now he has a message for everyone else: stay home and stay healthy.

Officer Trevarris Saulsberry described the aches, the migraines, and how his body went from hot to cold and back to hot within a matter of minutes. He said he was in a fetal position for a week -- and he's not exaggerating. 

Saulsberry said he first noticed he was feeling lethargic during a shopping trip at Costco with his girlfriend.

"I was really irritable," Saulsberry explained in a Facebook video shared by the police department. "My muscles were hurting."

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It was too much to complete the trip. So, Saulsberry and his girlfriend went home and he fell asleep on the couch. When he woke up, his girlfriend and 4-year-old son were already asleep for the night.

Saulsberry began playing video games. That's when he started feeling cold. He turned his fan off. 

Then, he started feeling his body warm up.

"I turn my fan back on. I get super cold and that just keeps going back and forth," he described.

He gave up, and went back to bed, hoping it will go away.

"Time passed. It didn't go away,"  Saulsberry said. "I checked my temperature, I'm at 102-103 degrees. That's when I get up. I tell my girlfriend, 'I'm sick. I don't know what's going on. I just need you and my son to stay away from me because who knows what this could be.'"

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The following day, he said he woke up to a "major" migraine. It was a pain he never felt before. At this point, Saulsberry was convinced he had the flu.

"But this was a little bit different because my head was banging. I felt like somebody was sitting there kicking my head the whole time," he said.

He rested in bed -- in a fetal position.

"When I tell you I was in a fetal position for seven days, I was in a fetal position for seven days," Saulsberry said. "That is no exaggeration. I don't want anybody to take that lightly."

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Saulsberry went to the hospital. Doctors said he had flu-like symptoms but, as a precaution, he was tested for the coronavirus. 

"I said, 'Fine, I know I don't have coronavirus,'" he recalled. But seven days later the test came back positive.

Saulsberry said he was confused because on the 10th and 11th days of his symptoms, he had migraines and shortness of breath. He didn't think it would be enough to mean he actually had COVID-19.

"This can't be real. This is a joke," Saulsberry recalled. "It wasn't a joke. At this point, he told me to stay away from my son, to stay away from my girlfriend. So, I locked myself in a room for another 7 days until I get tested again."

Before this, the crazy thing is I was joking about it before. I was like this is just a common cold. This is not a big thing.

— Office Trevarris Saulsberry, Tampa Police Department

Only a master key would let someone into the bedroom, he said. His girlfriend would use it to bring him food and water. 

"I didn't really want to eat so I just drank a whole bunch of fluids," he said.

Saulsberry felt guilty because his son kept asking him to play with him.

"And it hurts because you want to play with your 4-year-old son, but if you play with him he has the possibility of catching what you have and I don't want to do that to him," Saulsberry said. "I don’t want to do that to my girlfriend because I don't know what I would do if I were to lose any of them."

After those 7 days passed, he got tested again. The tests came back positive, leaving Saulsberry in disbelief. 

"At this point, I'm like, 'They say this is supposed to stay in my system for 14 days. We're at day 15, 16, how am I still testing positive for coronavirus?" he questioned.

He said his only symptom by this time was shortness of breath. 

"Walking around the house, I had to carry my son's asthma pump -- just to walk around. Other than that, no headache, no coughing, no sneezing. The fever probably lasted four or five days," Saulsberry said.

"When I tell you I was in a fetal position for seven days, I was in a fetal position for seven days. That is no exaggeration."

— Office Trevarris Saulsberry, Tampa Police Department

It was about a month before he returned to the Tampa Police Department for work.

Before the Costco trip, Saulsberry said he joked about the virus.

"Before this, the crazy thing is I was joking about it before," he admitted. "I was like this is just a common cold. This is not a big thing. Why are they shutting the NBA down? Why are they shutting this down?"

He said his attitude changed once he came down with the COVID-19 symptoms. 

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"Then I was like, 'Okay, now I can see why they're doing what they're doing,'" Saulsberry said. "At the end of the day, there's people dying. I was just blessed enough not to be in that situation that those unfortunate people were in."

"All I can say is take it seriously. Wash your hands," he added. "Do what [experts] tell you to do."