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Natasha Ott, a 39-year-old woman in New Orleans, Louisiana died alone in her kitchen last week after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Her boyfriend, Josh Anderson, first shared her story in a Facebook post on Saturday.
In his March 21 post to Facebook, Anderson said Ott became sick around March 10 when she sent him a text message that said she had an illness that was “like a respiratory cold.” She described having a “tiny fever,” Anderson wrote.
Ott worked as a social worker at CrescentCare — a clinic serving people who live with HIV — and was sent home from work. She had been told that despite her symptoms she was a low-risk for the virus. Her workplace had five COVID-19 test kits on hand but amid calls of shortages nationwide, Ott decided to avoid using one of the tests.
“We only have 5 coronavirus tests at my clinic. I declined to take one so someone else could,” Ott wrote, Anderson said.
Ott’s symptoms included a respiratory cold, fever, and loss of appetite, which persisted until her death, The New Orleans Advocate reported. The CrescentCare website homepage commemorated Ott’s life, calling her a “phenomenal social worker, colleague and human.”
CrescentCare’s CEO Noel Twilbeck confirmed to The Advocate that Ott was an employee and that she had died, “but he declined to say anything more, citing respect for her family,” the New Orleans outlet said.
CrescentCare did not immediately return an Insider request for comment.
Data from initial cases have suggested that COVID-19 has the largest impact on senior citizens, though there have been reported instances of critical cases and even deaths among people who are younger. About 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the US have been among people aged 65 and older, according to a Centers for Disease Control report released March 18. As of Monday, a 44-year-old in New York City who tweeted about having the virus is now on a ventilator and in critical condition.
About 10 days before her death, Anderson said Ott texted that she “tried to go to Ochsner” — presumably Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital just outside of New Orleans — to get tested for the flu, but had been told she would need to wait a week to see her primary care doctor. Instead, Ott was able to use a flu test at the clinic where she worked. The test came back negative, Anderson said.
“Hey, they don’t think I need to get tested unless I develop a fever. All looks well,” she wrote to Anderson on March 13, according to Anderson.
Two days later, Ott told Anderson she might need to use one of the limited COVID-19 tests at her clinic after all.
“Hey, I’m not feeling so hot still,” Ott said, according to Anderson. “I may be testing at work tomorrow. I’m probably fine. I just tried to drink some medicinal whiskey and feel unwell. I’m ok. I love you.”
Anderson said Ott “was a stoic soul, and her tone of voice and joking demeanor made everything sound like not so big a deal.”
On March 16, Anderson said Ott was finally tested for COVID-19. The next day, she told Anderson she was feeling “ok,” he said.
Two days later, Anderson said his girlfriend told him she didn’t “want to be sick anymore,” saying, “I just don’t understand why I don’t feel much better yet.”
Ott told Anderson it could take five days for her COVID-19 test results to come back
When he visited Ott to help walk her dog, Anderson said his late girlfriend complained about a feeling “something” in her lungs. Ott also told Anderson her test results had been delayed, he said.
On Friday, Ott sent Anderson a morning text message but Anderson said his followup messages to her went unreturned. Around 8 p.m. that evening, Anderson went to her apartment and found Ott dead on her kitchen floor.
Anderson said as of March 21 that Ott’s test results for the novel coronavirus had not come back. Although he has since updated his Facebook post on two occasions, Anderson did not say whether Ott’s test results had yet been delivered. He did not immediately return an Insider request for comment.
“Our government is ill-prepared for this pandemic in a way that has and will cost lives,” Anderson wrote in his post. “Cherish your loved ones like you could lose them, and let them know you cherish them.”
Other than a past experience with giardia, an intestinal infection she contracted while working in Togo for the Peace Corps, Ott was “in decent health,” Emily Coalson Stamets, who identified herself as Ott’s sister, wrote in a post to Facebook.
According to The New Orleans Advocate, health officials in the city had complained about the small number of tests received from the federal government and the long turn-around time it took to get results. Health care providers were turning people away unless they exhibited serious symptoms, according to the Louisiana newspaper.
Throughout the month of March, the US has struggled to keep up with the number of testing kits needed for the spike in cases that have occurred. Earlier in March, the US had the lowest per-capita rate of testing for the virus of any developed nation.
A spokesperson for Ochsner Medical Center did not immediately return an Insider request for comment.