ABC News Corona Virus Health and Science

Man learns his fate nearly a week after taking COVID-19 test

It took six days for Billy Roberts to learn he'd tested positive.

An Atlanta resident who recently tested positive for coronavirus shared his story with ABC News, describing how difficult it was to receive treatment and get his results back.

Billy Roberts, 46, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but his journey began after he attended a concert in Los Angeles and flew home March 1.

After arriving home, Roberts learned on the news that a Transportation Security Administration agent at Los Angeles International Airport had been confirmed as having the virus. But Roberts, who has asthma, did not start exhibiting symptoms until March 12, when he started feeling shortness of breath and a higher temperature while at the gym, he said.

"I didn’t really think that much of it," he said. "And then I got body aches. And then I got the fever. And it was kind of like a dry cough."

The next day, he went to his primary care doctor, who wore protective gear, and tested negative for the flu. When it was time to test for the coronavirus, the doctor's office had already gone through 25 that day and had to ask a neighboring office for their last one for Roberts, he said.

Roberts began self-isolating as soon as he returned home that day, but on Monday he had no choice but to go to the hospital because of severe respiratory issues.

When he got to the emergency room at the Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Roberts noticed signs cautioning those who believed they had the virus outside the waiting room. After he was checked in, Roberts was moved to an isolated room with a "huge air purifier," and he described the nurse who came in to treat him as "laissez-faire" until he told her he was 99% sure he had the virus.

The nurse's demeanor immediately changed, and Roberts said he could hear her in the hallway telling a doctor she was scared and didn't know what to do.

The doctor who attended to him made clear that he wouldn't be able to get tested at the hospital. After receiving a chest X-ray, he was prescribed a breathing treatment and inhaler and has been holed up in his apartment ever since.

It took a whopping six days for Roberts to get his test results back. But, he said, he was "actually relieved" that the test came out positive so that his friends and family would take the crisis more seriously because he's the first in his social circle to be diagnosed.

He had to spend hours getting in touch with everyone he may have come in contact with at the gym, football practice or when he went out for drinks.

One friend he had drinks with, an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had exhibited symptoms, he said, adding that he is "scared to death" that he passed the virus along.

"It’s so weird," he said. "I would have never had exposed that many people if I had known."

Roberts also touched on the "psychological stigma" of having the virus.

"You feel dirty -- like people are going to hate me if I give it to them," he said.

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Roberts does not think he would have been affected so much if he didn't already had asthma. As of Thursday, he was feeling better but still had a 99-degree fever, a bit of a cough and some fatigue. But he's on the mend, he said.

After he received his test result, Roberts said his doctor told him to continue to self-isolate for another 14 days, after which he'll be tested two more times, and if those tests come back negative, he'd have the all-clear to venture out into the world again.

"That’s a long time," he said. "I already feel like I’ve been isolated for a week."

He's been passing the time by resting, binging Netflix and taking his dog, a 5-year-old Australian shepherd and Collie mix named George, out for walks and to throw the ball, he said. The interior designer also alerted his current clients that he won't be able to work for some time, and they've all been understanding, he said.

Once he is allowed out of isolation, Roberts hopes to return to work, the gym and perhaps even volunteer at his church, he said.

What to know about the coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map