South African filmmaker Dan Mace has released a video on YouTube describing how his infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 went undiagnosed and undetected. It is not clear exactly when he contracted the virus or whether he was infectious when he flew from Los Angeles to Cape Town.
Mace is known for short-film format advertising campaigns for which he won three Young Director Awards in two years at Cannes Lions. He also directed “This Is Your Time“, a short film to advertise Vodacom South Africa’s NXT LVL services aimed at young people.
More recently, Mace quit his career in advertising to launch a YouTube channel.
He began his YouTube career in New York in partnership with Casey Neistat. Mace and Neistat later moved to Los Angeles.
Mace explained that he returned to Cape Town from Los Angeles for his wedding, which they postponed when he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. He received his diagnosis on 21 March 2020.
“I would like to share my story, my symptoms, and insights I have gained for the purpose of scientific research and, in hope, to help save lives,” Mace stated in his video.
Time and symptoms
According to Mace, the timeline leading up to his diagnosis was as follows:
- On the morning of 19 February 2020, Mace woke up with extreme fatigue in his apartment in Los Angeles.
- Symptoms included feeling faint when he stood up. Mace called in sick and slept the whole day.
- Mace woke up on the night of 19 February with “extreme night sweats”. He reported that his bed and blanket were drenched in sweat.
- On the morning of 20 February, Mace woke with a bad headache. He described the intensity of the headache as “alarming”. His eyes were extremely light-sensitive. Other symptoms included dizziness and light-headedness.
- On the advice of a friend to deal with what they believed to be symptoms of extreme stress from work, Mace went surfing.
- He reported feeling breathless from just putting on his wetsuit.
- On the evening of 20 February, Mace again woke up with extreme night sweats. He described it as “possibly worse than the night before”.
- With the benefit of hindsight, Mace reported that he had not realised yet that he had completely lost his sense of taste and smell. “I just hadn’t had an appetite… so I wasn’t yet fully aware of it.”
- Mace recalls that by 23 February, he had the following symptoms: pain in chest and racing heartbeat, dizziness, eyes very sensitive to light, ears sensitive to sound, and a dry cough.
- When Mace asked doctors whether he may have SARS-CoV-2, they asked him several questions including whether he had travelled to China recently. When he said no, they said there is no chance that he had the virus.
- Mace’s attending doctor agreed to have him tested for influenza, and a swab test showed that he was positive for the Influenza B virus.
- The doctor gave Mace a flu shot, ordered him to rest for five days, and warned that he might develop pneumonia.
- Mace reported that his symptoms worsened and that it became difficult to breathe. Based on the doctor’s description of the symptoms Mace may expect, he believed that he had pneumonia as a result of the flu. “I’ve never felt anything more intense than that sensation in my entire life,” Mace said.
- On 1 March, Mace woke up feeling more normal. However, when he made breakfast he realised he had no sense of taste and smell. He also realised that he hadn’t been able to taste or smell since he had become ill.
- Feeling better, Mace became more social. On 7 March he celebrated his birthday with friends and was able to exercise as normal.
- On 10 March, Mace flew from Los Angeles to Cape Town (via Dubai) aboard an Emirates flight.
- Upon landing in Cape Town, every passenger was screened for fever. Mace was screened and allowed to pass through the border.
- Mace explains that he was in contact with many people. He saw his family, went on a weekend away with close friends for his bachelor’s party, and attended a music festival in Cape Town.
- By 16 March, his senses of smell and taste had not returned. The following day, Mace saw reports from others infected with SARS-CoV-2 that they had also lost their senses of taste and smell.
- Mace got a note from his doctor to get tested for SARS-CoV-2 at PathCare and on 21 March he received notification that he had tested positive. He is now in self-isolation.
Mace said that if he got the virus while he was in the United States, he hopes that he was past the infectious stage by the time he boarded the plane to Dubai, and from Dubai to Cape Town.
“I just hope that my story can somehow help others out there,” he said.
For more information on COVID-19 and the coronavirus that causes it, please visit the World Health Organisation website.
If you suspect that you are showing symptoms of a SARS-CoV-2 infection and you are in South Africa, please visit the Department of Health web portal for the coronavirus for information about who to contact to get tested.