Ohio officer shares COVID-19 recovery story to urge caution, mindfulness

"This isn't something that you can just say, 'Oh, it's, it's not gonna happen to me'. Because it can happen and it can be bad"


Sean McDonnell
The Repository

NEW FRANKLIN, Ohio — Officer Jason Tirbovich said he was feeling well, and didn't have any symptoms of coronavirus. Then during dinner with his family, he couldn't smell or taste anything.

Two days later, he found out he had COVID-19, and he and his family were put under quarantine.

"I was very lucky; I didn't have it that bad," Tirbovich said. "I never went through a lot of what other people are going through"

Tirbovich is one of thousands of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio. He said he's since recovered, and returned to work at the New Franklin Police Department last week after being cleared to do so.

Throughout the process, Tirbovich said he and his family were largely asymptomatic. He said he felt sluggish and had minor headaches, but after just a week, he was already feeling back to normal.

 

We are happy to report that officer Tirbovich has fully recovered from Covid-19! Thank you for all your support and prayers! As most of you know officer Tirbovich is the Manchester Local Schools resource officer. He posts these videos every Tuesday on the Tuesday announcements at the high school and calls them “Tirbo Tuesday”. He wanted me to share his announcement for today to let our students know he misses them and he’s doing well! Thank you again for all your prayers and support. Together we will all get through this !

Posted by New Franklin Police Department on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

"I never even had a temperature," Tirbovich said.

Even in his own family, Tirbovich fared better than others. He said before he tested positive, he was helping his brother move into a new home with his family. A few days later, his brother had trouble breathing, and went to get an X-ray of his chest. Since he tested positive, Tirbovich said they're assuming his brother had it too.

"I don't know if I gave it to him or he gave it to me," he said. "We have no clue."

While he was on quarantine, Tirbovich said health officials called him a few times each day, which broke up the time spent watching Netflix. Health officials also performed "contact tracing," notifying anyone Tirbovich might have been around of the potential for exposure.

Tirbovich said as a police officer, he is often interacting with people. He also runs a senior watch program at the department, but he's been calling seniors instead of visiting — and luckily, he didn't have any contact with his seniors.

He said it is scary to think about how many people with whom he came into contact.

"You don't want to cause more work or more worries for people, because everybody has so much stress as it is," he said.

Tirbovich is the resource officer for Manchester Local Schools. Although the department didn't release his name right away, it didn't take long for the community to find out and then offer support for Tirbovich while he was on quarantine.

He said he lost count of the amount of times food was dropped off at his door, and of all the messages and phone calls he and the department received, asking if he was okay.

"I mean, it almost made you cry," he said. "It just shows you how appreciative they are."

"I feel guilty too, because I really didn't have it that bad," he said. "Those people you hear about that are like on ventilators. Those are the ones that really got it bad."

He's on patrol because school buildings are closed, but Tirbovich said he already misses working with Manchester Schools.

While the students are home, they still get to see him each week on their morning announcements, where he's continuing to host "Tirbo Tuesdays." Each week, he gives students a safety tip or lets them know about an upcoming event.

Tirbovich returned to work last week, and is adjusting to the new normal to protect himself and others.

He said officers have been social distancing, both in the station and out in the field, and they now have masks to wear. As a "hug person," Tirbovich said it's been an adjustment to get used to giving people extra space.

The department is taking officers' temperatures when they come in each day. Tirbovich also is taking precautions when he gets home. He said to protect his family, he immediately washes his clothes and showers after each shift. Tirbovich said officers are going into houses and doing inventories of cars, and especially with something invisible like a virus, it's hard to know what you have on you.

Now that he's had coronavirus, Tirbovich said he doesn't know if he's able to get it a second time. He said the jury is still out, and health officials told him it was possible to get it again.

He said his next step is to get tested for antibodies, and see if he can help the cause by donating plasma.

Tirbovich said he was fortunate he wasn't hospitalized or on a ventilator, and that the disease is something everyone has to take seriously.

"This isn't something that you can just say, "Oh, it's, it's not gonna happen to me," he said. "Because it can happen and it can be bad. I was just lucky."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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