Music professor first known AU faculty member to experience COVID-19 symptoms

Peter Folliard, music professor and Augustana Orchestra director, hasn’t left his master bedroom in over 12 days.

He began self-quarantining after developing symptoms of the coronavirus on Friday, April 3.

“All of the sudden I was really achy, sort of like the beginning of the flu almost,” Folliard said.

After the first two days of achiness, Folliard’s condition deteriorated.

“By the time Sunday rolled around, I started to have trouble breathing, and I was having chills,” Folliard said. “It was terrible at that point.” 

On Sunday morning, Folliard went to the emergency room to get tested for COVID-19.

“The difficulty breathing got really scary,” he said. “That’s where it was like, ‘Wait, this is unlike anything else.’ That was where I started to get terrified.”

Although his test came back negative, medical professionals still advised Folliard to follow protocols for self-quarantining. He was told that 30% of coronavirus tests show a false negative. 

Folliard lives with his wife, 2-year-old daughter and his parents, who came to visit before the coronavirus began affecting the U.S. As soon as he started experiencing symptoms, Folliard moved into his master bedroom — away from the rest of his family.

“It’s totally weird,” Folliard said. “Since April 3, I’ve been hanging out in my bedroom.”

Folliard has had a fever for all 12 days of his isolation period. In order to leave his room, he’s been instructed to wait 72 hours after his symptoms have subsided.

During this time, Folliard has focused on improving his health while attempting to teach his classes. He notified students of his symptoms and canceled his lectures for the first week of his illness. But after Easter, Folliard began teaching again.

“I’m back to a full teaching schedule now,” Folliard said. “I kind of wish I wasn’t, to be honest. I’m still exhausted, but I’m hanging in there.”

At this time, Folliard is believed to be the first Augustana faculty member to have experienced symptoms of the coronavirus. Faculty that contract the virus can use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal program that supports staff in the event of an illness or post-pregnancy. 

Augustana has not yet developed its own resources for faculty experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, Folliard said.

“For everybody, I think these protocols are developing as we learn about it,” Folliard said. “I think, over time, we’ll realize that we’ll need to develop new plans for things like this.”

For those that contract the virus, Folliard emphasizes taking quick action. “It’s nothing to mess around with,” Folliard said. “It’s scary. You’ve got to contain it as best you can, as quickly as you can,” he said “[Anything] that you can do to self-quarantine, to keep yourself and those around you safe is really smart, as soon as you start experiencing any symptoms.”

Throughout his experience, Folliard has been thankful for the Augustana community.

“My colleagues and friends have been amazing — just incredible,” Folliard said. “My students have been awesome.”

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