December 16, 2022 from Bill Rice Jr.'s Newsletter

Facebook can be a great research tool for journalists … and served this purpose for me before I was banned.

As much as I’ve written about “early spread,” I’ve yet to tell the “back story” of how this topic became my main focus of journalistic attention over the last 2 1/2 years.

In a nutshell, I became interested in “early spread” because I became sick in January 2020 and think I probably had the virus. (I’ve never been sick or tested positive since.)

“Hmm,” I thought. It actually didn’t take a rocket scientist (nor an epidemiology scientist) to start putting 2 and 2 together and crafting a working hypothesis.

Before I was banned by Facebook, I used this social media tool to ask my approximately 1,200 friends if they or a family member might have had Covid before February 2020.

I received approximately 35 responses. These 35 people included anecdotes that list more than 70 people who perhaps had Covid in this time frame. I saved these responses, which I’ve never published until now.

I should emphasize that I do not think every person who thinks they had early Covid actually had Covid. Like myself, most of my respondents can’t be sure if we had Covid or not.

Still, I think it’s very likely the real “first wave” of Covid happened in the peak flu-season months of 2019-2020 (just like subsequent big spikes happened in the same flu-season months).

Most of these respondents live in Troy, Alabama or formerly lived in Troy. It was these responses that motivated me to continue a research project that continues today. For more anecdotes, including my own and one from a doctor who treated me, see the Reader Comments.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Randall Curtis, per his wife Melinda, had COVID-19-like symptoms in late December/early January. Tested negative for flu and pneumonia in January.

Cindy Warren DeLongchamp - First week in January - tested negative for regular flu. Her doctor said she had “a virus … I thought I was going to die.” Her husband also had a “persistent cough for three weeks but was never tested.”

Collin McCray - Symptoms developed on Jan 26th or 27th. Was “very sick” and didn’t feel normal for at least two weeks. Never got a flu test.

Griff McCrary - Collin’s son, who was “presumed” to be positive for “regular flu.”

Lyle Wise - Late January. Terrible and lingering cough, unlike any he has ever had before.

Tricia Radcliff - late Jan./early Feb. Owner of  a popular Dance studio in Troy.

Approximately “half” - 12 out of 24 - of Tricia’s dancers who went on a trip to Orlando at the end of January got sick, per a phone conversation with Tricia. It’s possible most people who went on this 3-day trip already had a virus by the time they travelled  to Orlando as people started developing symptoms on this trip or immediately after they had returned. Tricia said she was very sick with a type flu she had never had before, but did not get a flu test.

Dawn Key -  My daughter Maggie’s teacher. Had symptoms in late January. Her 3 children also developed symptoms and one developed the “rash” common in some CV-19 children. Note: My daughter also got sick the day before I did … so my “case” of Covid might have originated from this classroom.

Note: My wife is a high school teacher. When I was laid up in bed for a week, she came home from school one day and said that “half” the students in one of her classes were out sick with whatever virus was spreading through our town. My wife was the only member of our four-person family who did not get sick in January 2020. Knowing so many of my friends, family and neighbors had been sick in December and January motivated me to do this informal survey.

Dawn Knotts’ son - tested negative for flu at University of Alabama infirmary in February. Dawn’s son was told he probably had bronchitis, which his roommates also purportedly had.

The assistant DA in neighboring Crenshaw County was “very sick” in the same time frame and tested negative for regular flu, according to Lyle Wise.

Parent of one of the dancers  who went on the Orlando trip. Was sick immediately upon his return; tested negative for regular flu and has speculated he might have had CV-19.

Shannon Lapp & daughter Molly - Experienced symptoms in late Jan/Feb. “It felt like an elephant was on my chest.” Her daughter also had a persistent low-grade fever.

Charlie Turnipseed & Cara Lott - Long persistent cough that began in January.

Lisa Sprieul - Had bad symptoms “in early November;” tested negative for flu and strep.

Geoffrey Stough - Symptoms in December; was told had pneumonia and pleurisy in January.

Mrs. Gene Schroeder  - Very bad flu-like symptoms in late January, according to her daughter, Vikki.  Her mother felt like “she was going to die.” Mrs. Schroeder tested negative for regular flu.

Louis Loving and his wife - Had flu-like symptoms in mid-December that lasted six weeks. Both got tested for flu twice and tests for regular flu were all negative. Treated for walking pneumonia.

Jennifer Griffits - October symptoms - tested negative for flu. Extremely sick for two weeks and didn’t feel normal for a month.

Walker Stallworth - Per his mother, Walker had a  fever that “went away quickly” but had a cough for at least 3 weeks in late January.

Michael Thomas’s wife - Flu-like symptoms end of December/beginning of January. Tested negative for flu.

Warren Hanchey - Thinks he had virus in mid January at a meeting with scientists in California and ”all of us got it.”

Jimmy Ennis - “I had the symptoms from the middle of November til first of December.” Tested negative for flu.

Alan Wood - “Pretty sure I had it.”

Maria Braswell Ashworth’s son - Per Maria, her son attended a conference in Las Vegas in January and came back “very sick.”

Note: Las Vegas keeps coming up with local anecdotes as well as in a similar story I published weeks ago where strangers from all over the country contacted me. Link:

Hellen Morrow Taylor - My husband and I both had these symptoms in mid-January.

Covid runs through school …

Name Not Used by Request  - An employee of an area school. Per phone conversation: “Many” kids at school had symptoms in January/early February (and maybe in December). This employee came down with symptoms around Martin Luther King Day weekend (Jan 20th). Strongly suspects CV-19 was spreading through students, faculty and Troy University aides in December and January.

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Tully Burnett - “Pretty sure I had it in that time frame but did not get tested for flu. Shortness of breath was the difference for me vs the flu.”

Bart McLendon - Symptoms in “mid-January for 3 weeks.”

Connie Hill - “Pretty sure I had it late November.

Sandra Huggins Lee, husband and son - “Jeff and I both got what we thought was upper respiratory infections in January as well as our son Bryan. All tests negative for flu and strep. It took me a month to completely get well. We all had steroid and antibiotics shots my son has two rounds. I feel like we all had but can’t be sure.”

Sheila Taylor Ingle Aughtman - “I believe my mother passed away from this. She was in the hospital all of January and she passed Feb 7. She had all of the symptoms but they weren’t testing them back then.”

Twin children of Greta Kantor Nash  - “Both were ill in Troy in February.

A near fatality ….

Butch Foster - Was a patient at a Montgomery hospital  for much of February - very ill, critical condition on ventilator. His daughter, Katharine Foster Bedsole, believes he may have had it. FB message to me: “Bill, I do think he had it and then possibly gave it to us.”

Note: I spoke to Katharine at length on June 7th. To me, Mr. Foster is a strong candidate of having COVID-19. Katharine told me her father, who was 78 at the time, is a “very tough” man and has never been the type to go to the hospital for flu-like illnesses, but he did with this illness. He became ill around January 26th or 27th, went to a local medical clinic around Feb. 2nd and was admitted to Jackson Hospital in critical condition on Feb. 7th. He had complained of acute shortness of breath for days. (For first time in his life, he got incredibly winded climbing the steps at his home). He later developed ARDS and pneumonia. Katharine and her daughter became ill within two or three days after visiting Mr. Foster in the Montgomery hospital on Feb. 7th. Mr. Foster tested negative for influenza three different times. If he did have COVID-19, Mr. Foster contracted the virus in late January and almost died from it in February.

Shirley Reynolds -  “I had COVID upon return from New York around New Year’s. Of course, no one knew what it was but no taste or smell for a couple of weeks and low grade fever/lethargy were the tell tale signs.”

Jean Orendorff - Believes had it in December or maybe January. Very sick for at least 5 days. Went to doc, tested negative for flu. Was not like any other illness or flu she had ever had. She was teaching at Troy University and wonders if she contracted from one of her students. Has not tested positive since (and got two COVID tests as precautions).

Jessica Moran - Local school teacher who came down with symptoms on Feb. 19th trip to Birmingham. “I was miserable. Couldn’t shake it … Very different than flu.” Lost sense of smell and taste (still is off), high fever, chills - couldn’t get warm, disoriented, difficulty concentrating. Fever for several days - when got home didn’t get out of bed for three more days. Didn’t feel normal for at least two weeks. Father and mother were also sick around same time as well as some students and employees at her school. Has not tested positive since or had similar symptoms since.

***

ON DECK:Twenty ways officials concealed evidence of early spread” and “The copious evidence that Influenza Like Illness (ILI) was ‘severe’ and ‘widespread’ in the flu season of 2019-2020.” In my opinion, this evidence of “early spread” was also covered up by subsequent “revised” CDC flu reports.

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https://billricejr.substack.com/p/how-i-got-started-on-early-spread
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