A man in West Chester County, New York, is being described as the state's "Patient Zero" in the coronavirus pandemic, and he has now broken his silence. Attorney Lawrence Garbuz of New Rochelle survived COVID-19 despite contracting it early in the outbreak, when little was known about treatment or containment. On Monday, he shared his story on The TODAY show.
Garbuz and his wife, Adina, joined TODAY's Savannah Guthrie by video chat on Monday to discuss his unique case of the coronavirus. The 50-year-old lawyer said that there was "no mention" of COVID-19 when he visited the doctor earlier this year. His positive test results for the virus were revealed on March 2, making him technically the second person in the state to carry it. He remained in the hospital until late March.
“Did coronavirus even come up when you went to that first visit to the doctor?”May 10, 2020
“Not at all."
"I just thought it was a cough," Garbuz said. "A winter cough, and quite frankly, I'm not certain that any of the sort of medical staff had been thinking about that initially when they examined me." While Garbuz has been deemed the "Patient Zero" of new York's COVID-19 outbreak, he admitted that he is still not sure when or how he contracted the virus. He sad: "I'm a lawyer. I sit at a desk all day. I think at the time we were sort of focusing on individuals who had maybe traveled internationally, something that I had not done."
Garbuz's wife said that she initially feared he had pneumonia, but his condition kept getting "worse and worse" from there. She said it is shocking when a healthy, vibrant person, all of a sudden overnight gets so sick so quickly. I know that at this point, we're not so surprised by that. But at that time, it was shocking."
Adina also said that her husband's positive test results sent her on a wild path to retrace their steps and notify every public place they had visited. She said she was "on the phone through the night with various departments of health finding out what to do, and sharing everywhere we went... I didn't want anybody else to get sick."
Garbuz commuted from New Rochelle into Manhattan on the Metro-North railway to get to work at his law firm. He most likely contracted COVID-19 on public transportation. Garbuz was intubated and transported to a hospital in New York City by ambulance. Adina admitted she was afraid that he wouldn't make it through the drive in his condition. Garbuz, meanwhile, said that he had no memory of the journey, or anything else until he "woke up from the coma."
"I really have not focused on any of the media frenzy in terms of one of the first patients to get it," he said. "But I have been focused more on, as I say, getting better." Meanwhile, Adina said she and their four children are just counting themselves lucky that Garbuz is still with them, especially after the pandemic hit hard and their state became the epicenter. She said: "this is just like a miracle for all of us."