A year after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency following the state’s first three confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of those patients says she found her diagnosis to be a target on social media.
Bonnie Lippe learned she tested positive for the coronavirus a year ago.
“I went back and I started to look at the news reports from the day of, and Gov. Hogan’s press conferences, and I just started crying,” she said. “I felt like I was right back there.”
Lippe was Maryland’s first confirmed coronavirus case, along with a couple not related to her who had been on the same Egyptian cruise.
Few expected what was to follow Hogan’s declaration: a stay-at-home order, the shutdown of schools and businesses, shortages of basic supplies. People were told to wear masks. They were afraid.
“Just looking on Facebook — there’s a Montgomery County group — and the things that they said, just as if I had purposely come into the country, infected myself purposely, and then went around licking doorknobs,” Lippe said.
She said reaction to her diagnosis was markedly different than the online outpouring of support for D.C.’s first confirmed case, Rev. Timothy Cole.
“I don’t understand what the difference was,” she said. “Perhaps because he was a man of the cloth; perhaps because I actually tested positive 24 hours before he tested positive. I didn’t understand the vitriol, it was so vicious, but not from people who knew me and knew that it was me.”
The vaccinated population in D.C. may be overestimated in this map because some non-residents who work in D.C. are included in the totals.
“Fortunately, I was able to hide myself up until now,” she told News4.
Lippe believes she was past the contagion stage by the time she finished the cruise and arrived home to Montgomery County Feb. 22, 2020. She said she remembers being sick on Valentine’s Day.
Alerted by CDC contact tracing, she tested positive for coronavirus March 5, 2020.
Further contact tracing ultimately tied no other Maryland cases to her.
Coronavirus Cases in Maryland by Zipcode
Data for ZIP codes with 7 or fewer cases is suppressed.
Credit: Anisa Holmes/NBC Washington
By then, the virus was already pouring into the U.S., and few families would emerge from the year untouched by illness or loss.
Lippe watched the pandemic unfold, saddened knowing many of those infected likely faced the same type of criticism she had.
“That person who’s judging your coworker could have been the person who infected their coworker, with so many asymptomatic people out there,” Lippe said.
Lippe has since moved out of Maryland to be closer to family.