Congressman, 45, Says Coronavirus Symptoms Left Him So Tired He Couldn't 'Hold Up a Telephone’

A Utah politician is speaking out about his experience being hospitalized with the new coronavirus while encouraging people to do everything in their power to limit their possible exposure.

In his first interview since being released from the hospital last week, Rep. Ben McAdams spoke with Today’s Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb about the severity of his symptoms, which he said took a “turn for the worse” several days after he was first diagnosed on March 18.

Although he had initially described the infection as like “the worst cold I’ve ever had,” by March 20, the Utah democrat had reached a point where he could no longer walk across the room “without getting out of breath, without panting and just needing to sit down.”

After speaking with his own doctor, McAdams, 45, checked himself into a hospital, where the staff there put him on supplemental oxygen and initially intended to keep him overnight.

“Overnight became eight nights,” he said on Today. “It was quite an ordeal. It wasn’t until a week later that my fever broke and I was able to breath on my own without the assistance of that supplemental oxygen and started to feel better, but it was pretty rough.”

Detailing one of his lowest moments, the lawmaker said that although he tried to speak with his family on a daily basis over the phone, “there were a couple of days there where I didn’t even have the energy to hold up a telephone.”

“I was just lying there waiting for the minutes to pass and hoping that my body would have a chance to catch up,” he said.

McAdams, who has resumed work and says he is now “virus-free,” went on to encourage everybody to take the infectious respiratory illness seriously, no matter their age or overall health.

“I’m young, I’m healthy, I have no underlying health conditions. I exercise every day. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “You don’t know it’s going to hit you, how it’s going to affect you and what the consequences might be.”

While people over 60 and with underlying conditions are more vulnerable to severe complications and death, the virus seems able to affect anyone, health experts say.

On Today, McAdams encouraged people around the country to stay at home as much as possible — even if their state has yet to issue an official order about social distancing.

“I think that every state should look at it and every individual should, whether or not it’s required or not, take these guidelines, these requirements from the state, take them seriously and probably take it a step or two farther if you can,” he said. “Stay at home. Even in Utah, you’re still able to go to the grocery store, but I would encourage people to limit that to necessary trips or bundle your trips together so your exposure to the public is limited.”

In addition to McAdams, Florida lawmaker Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart as well as Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul have also tested positive for the coronavirus.

As of Thursday, there have been over 214,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and more than 4,800 people have died, according to available data.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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