Florida TV news anchor Peter Busch deals with COVID-19, enters third week of quarantine
Peter Busch began feeling subtle symptoms Thursday, July 16. Not much at first. A headache and a mild sense of weakness. There was no shortness of breath, no coughing, no loss of taste or smell, no high fever, which are some of the telltale signs of COVID-19.
For the past eight years, Busch has delivered the evening and weeknight daily news as a co-anchor with Kellie Burns on NBC-2. Now, he’s the subject of a news story, having spent the past three weeks and counting in quarantine in his home office because of the virus.
Busch, 40, tested positive for the novel coronavirus Monday, July 20. Other than two appearances on NBC-2 from his quarantine room, he has yet to return to work, because he continues to test positive. Tested again Tuesday, Busch said he hoped to receive a negative result Wednesday.
“I felt like a headache,” Busch said of his first symptoms. “I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I felt it. I just didn’t think, ‘That’s an obvious symptom of the coronavirus.’
“So anyway, I went to work the next day. It was the same. Nothing intense, by no means. But it was still there. I felt some fatigue.
I had my sense of smell and taste. I checked myself for a fever. There was no fever. I didn’t think too much of it.”
The symptoms intensified over that weekend, July 18-19.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with sweats and chills,” said Busch, a Fort Myers resident. “That made me think, ‘OK. Something might be happening here.’
“That Monday morning, I drove to my doctor’s office. I knew he had access to the rapid test. I took the test. Sat there in my car the whole time. He came out, 15-20 minutes later and said, ‘You’re positive.’
“It immediately sent my brain scrambling. You’re sad about it. You immediately realize, you have to make some immediate changes.
How are we going to make this work at home?”
Married to Rachel and the father of three daughters, Victoria, 12, Vienna, 10 and Charleigh, 8, Peter Busch said his first actions were to protect them from his germs. His daughters or his wife, who has been working from home in cybersecurity, will place his meals just outside the glass office door and then clear the vicinity. Busch then will open the door, retrieve the food, retreat to his office and eat.
“When I need to use the bathroom, I’ll wear my mask and not touch anything on the way to the bathroom,” he said.
The office has a couch, a TV and books. He read “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand and watched the movie “Ford vs. Ferrari” and HBO shows “True Detective” and “The Watchmen.”
“Relatively speaking, it’s not a bad way to ride out a quarantine,” said Busch, who has left the house for walks and short bike rides and one harrowing errand with his oldest daughter. “But it’s definitely getting old.”
Busch took Victoria for her own coronavirus test, when she announced she wasn’t feeling well Sunday and wanted the peace of mind of knowing positive or negative.
“It cost $120 at a private lab,” he said. “It was a difficult experience for her, because she’s just a kid. So I was hugging her and holding her hand while wearing a mask. That was the first physical contact I’ve had, with anyone in my family, for more than two weeks. She was negative. Thankfully. Then we went back to the old rules.”
On Friday, July 24, a week after feeling the first headache, Busch said his symptoms disappeared. He did a live shot on the 6 p.m. newscast from his quarantine room that day.
The symptoms were gone, but the quarantine continued, because on Friday, July 31, Busch again tested positive, a week after feeling his last symptoms.
“This time, it really shook me,” he said. “Now, here I am heading into week three, still at home. It’s starting to wear me down a little bit. I’m reading that it could take up to six weeks to get a negative test, even though they were feeling fine for weeks and weeks and weeks. The virus just stays in your body, even if they’re not contagious.
“Work is requiring me to get a negative test before I can come back. CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines changed. If it’s been 10 days since you tested positive and at least three days with no symptoms, you are fine to leave quarantine and go about your daily life. NBC-2 is being stricter than that, and I understand that, and I’m fine with it. They are requiring that you have a negative test to come back.”
Kellie Burns, his co-anchor, took her long-scheduled vacation this week, her first time off since the pandemic began. The station has done some shuffling.
“I miss him,” Burns said. “I miss his wisdom. Every time he tests positive, I call him and can hear the disappointment in his voice. He’s very apologetic. I say, “Peter, it’s not your fault.’”
The station has taken precautions to prevent a workplace outbreak, Burns and Busch said, and so far, no one else there has tested positive other than Busch. Burns and her colleagues each went in for testing after Busch informed them he tested positive.
“One day, I’m going to look back on this experience and be so thankful that at least I could be at home,” Busch said. “It’s done a lot for my emotional and mental well-being to still feel some sort of a connection to my family. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for people who end up in the hospital and be completely separated from their families.”
After he tested positive the first time, Busch said he replayed his movements for the previous 10-14 days, trying to figure out how he could have gotten the virus. Nothing came to mind.
“I have no idea,” Busch said. “I have been wearing my mask every time I go to a public place. My wife tested negative. No one in my family has it. I don’t know. It’s possible that wearing the mask is more to protect others and not yourself. It’s possible that someone not wearing a mask was coughing or sneezing near me.
“It’s a mystery. Everyone I came into contact with for 10 days before testing positive, I checked up with. No one else had symptoms or tested positive. I don’t think it’s from someone I knew. I think it really shows how contagious this can be. Even when you’re careful, you can get it. I’m just thankful that I was wearing my mask.”
Just before testing positive, Busch attended his oldest daughter’s first communion.
“Just imagine if I hadn’t been wearing a mask?” Busch said. “I could have been spreading it. I’d never forgive myself.”
Busch said he has learned much from this experience.
“First and foremost, the symptoms are not always the obvious ones,” he said. “You’ve got to pay attention to what your body’s telling you. I never had a single respiratory issue. Not one.
“The other one for me, we have to have better access to rapid testing. Some people with mild symptoms get tested, and they don’t find out for a week or two. We can’t expect people to sit around and wait for their test results and not continue to live their lives. I was fortunate to have access to rapid testing. Most people do not.
“And finally, this virus can stay in your body for a lot longer than you realize.”
Peter Busch, an NBC-2 weeknight news co-anchor for the past eight years, has been in quarantine for two weeks and counting because of COVID-19. Here’s a timeline:
July 16: Felt headache, mild body ache
July 17: Delivered most recent newscast on NBC-2
July 19: Experienced fever-like chills
July 20: Tested positive for COVID-19, began self-quarantine at home
July 24: Symptoms of headaches, mild body aches dissipated, disappeared
July 31: Tested positive again despite no symptoms
Aug. 4: Tested again
Aug. 5: Awaiting results
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: NBC-2 anchor Peter Busch deals with COVID-19, enters third week of quarantine