What a High-Risk Person Wants You to Know About COVID-19 Isolation

Staying at home is hard. It’s boring. Plus, the weather is so nice — it kind of makes you want to lose the mask, throw a massive Memorial Day pool party, and invite all your young, healthy friends, right? Wrong. In case CDC recommendations and common sense haven’t made it clear yet: the novel coronavirus is not over, and neither is the need for safety and social distancing protocols. Not even for the young and (seemingly) healthy.

There are plenty of reasons why now is not the time to ease up on precautionary measures. Take, for instance, personal safety. Over 100,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 in the United States alone — lives that ranged in length from five years to 105 years. If you’re not particularly concerned for your own wellbeing, consider public safety. Every individual plays a part in slowing (or speeding) the spread of the novel coronavirus.

CDC estimates and more studies are now suggesting asymptomatic cases could be making up a larger percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases than first thought. This means you may not feel or appear sick but can spread COVID-19 to those you come into contact with — relatives, grocery clerks, UberEats delivery drivers, everyone — who may go on to spread the novel virus to those they come in contact with, ad infinitum. Elderly and immunocompromised communities are especially at risk for this type of transmission. Ahead, model Camerone Parker, 54, tells Allure what it’s like to live as an immunocompromised individual in the time of the novel coronavirus and why she’s asking you to please stay home.

As told to Jessica Defino. 

What it means to be immunocompromised

I have been so blessed to have a modeling career that spanned several decades. I was fortunate enough to walk in Fashion Weeks all over the world, including the big four [New York City, London, Milan, and Paris]. My career actually gained more strength as a “classic” model, which is an older model, 40 and up. I am very, very proud of that fact.

I am immunocompromised. My doctors — my cardiologist, my internists, and my hematologists — have all said that if I contract [COVID-19], there is a strong likelihood I will not make it.

When I was 32, I was hospitalized for meningitis and was in the hospital for several weeks. The neurologist assigned to my case was like, “I want to run some more tests, there are some things I want to take a good look at, I want to make sure the meningitis has left your body.” I went through this litany of tests. He called me one day and said, “I just need you to come into my office. I need to talk to you. It’s really important and you need to come now.” I drove to his office, walked in, and sat down across the desk from him. He asked me questions, marked everything down. He looked at me and said, “I’m really sorry to tell you this, but you have multiple sclerosis.” Multiple sclerosis itself is a two-part disease. It is an autoimmune disease and it is a neurological disease.

I’ll never forget that feeling. I was silent. I just took it in and finally said, “Alright, how long will I have it? What do I have to do? Like, chop chop, I gotta go.”

He said, “No, Camerone, you will have this the rest of your life. You’re very lucky in being diagnosed now, because we have disease-modifying drugs (DMDs), and we can maintain it.” The drug that I was being assigned to was $65,000 a year. I was an independent contractor, I had no medical insurance. I thought, “How am I going to do this?” I became the hardest working model in the industry and people didn’t realize that I was working to stay alive.

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