Olivia Weinberg / Sun Assistant News Editor

The student is quarantined in a hospital in Madrid, where he was diagnosed while studying abroad.

March 12, 2020

C.U. Student Studying Abroad in Spain Diagnosed With COVID-19

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A Cornell student studying abroad in Spain tested positive for COVID-19, and is currently recuperating in a Madrid hospital.

The student, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear he would face negative stigma after returning to the U.S., discussed his experience with COVID-19 in an email to The Sun.

“The first few days in the hospital were the toughest,” wrote the student, who initially suffered from a high fever and cough.

The student first came down with a fever on March 3 and went to the Hospital Universitario Madrid, where he was diagnosed with bronchitis and sent home. Two days later, he went back for a checkup after his fever — which at one point hit 104 degrees — did not go down. During this second visit, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized.

After being given this diagnosis, the student remained in the hospital for a few days and began gradually feeling better. However, amid concerns that he could have been exposed to the coronavirus, he was tested and not allowed to leave the facility.

He reported feeling “anxious to get out of [the hospital] because I could barely eat the hospital food, didn’t feel like I was being treated as fairly as possible and nobody was giving me any information,” he wrote. “I was just stuck in the dark wondering when I’d be released.”

The student ultimately tested positive for COVID-19, which often has similar symptoms to pneumonia. But the news of a definitive answer came as a source of ease for him. 

“I changed my frame of mind to be that there’s nothing I can do now but wait it out,” the student wrote, adding that his fever and cough had subsided over the previous two days.

Spain has been one of the countries hit the hardest by the coronavirus, having so far reported over 2,200 confirmed cases and 55 deaths.

The student was not alone during his hospitalization. He remained in contact with his parents and girlfriend during his hospitalization through frequent phone calls and received visits from friends and Cornell faculty, who often brought food for him.

The student will remain in the hospital for the remaining eight days of the 14-day COVID-19 isolation period.

After this period, he wrote that he will “[book] the first flight I can find out of Madrid,” adding that “hopefully the borders or the airport won’t be closed, because I’m very ready to get back to the States.”

Potentially complicating matters, in a Wednesday evening address, President Donald Trump announced that as a part of the “most aggressive” response to a virus in “modern history,” all non-essential travel to continental Europe would be suspended. It is unclear how the executive order will affect American citizens attempting to return home. 

“I now know what it’s like to have [Coronavirus] and it’s honestly not as bad as people are making it out to seem,” the student wrote. “But the fact of the matter is it can happen to anyone and I just got unlucky.”