SLO County family recalls struggles with COVID-19 illness

Feb 17, 2021

Since March of last year, about 19,000 people in San Luis Obispo County have tested positive for the coronavirus and around 200 people locally have died due to the pandemic.

On March 14th, 2020, the county reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus. The next day, south county resident Oralis Cornelius and her husband became the second and third confirmed cases.

“It was shocking," Cornelius said. " I didn’t know what to expect.” Cornelius has significant underlying health conditions and was also recovering from recent brain surgery.

The week before she and her husband tested positive, they were at a hospital in Los Angeles for a check-up. That’s where they believe they contracted the virus.

Cornelius wondered, "Are we going to die from this? What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen to our kids?."

The family had to quarantine for a month, and Cornelius said she struggled the most. “At one point, I had to go to the hospital," Cornelius said. "I remember being the first one to go to the hospital with the coronavirus.”

To make matters worse, panic-buying meant lots of grocery store shelves were empty. “I remember logging onto Instacart," Cornelius said, "and they said they couldn’t deliver anything to us because there was nothing to buy at the stores.” 

But Cornelius said the community stepped up in ways she could not have imagined. Neighbors shopped and dropped off food for them and, despite the isolation, the family found ways to pass the time.

Their daughter, Kensey, channeled her energy into music. “I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling," Kensey said. "So that’s when I could write in all down and just sing it.”

Cornelius said their faith got them through a hard time and they were lucky to recover. She urges people to take the coronavirus seriously as the pandemic continues to affect the community.