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Wrong Side of the Mountain is a column by CVN reporter Phil Perry

Welcome to Wrong Side of the Mountain, my column about what makes Boone County a good or bad place to live, depending on your perspective.

As most of you have heard by now, I tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. I felt like it was important for me, as someone who works in the public eye, to be transparent about my situation and perhaps, I could help someone else through awareness and sharing my story.

Optimistically, we’re hoping for a false-positive test but realistically, I’ll follow the guidelines set forth before me in an effort to protect others.

My wife, daughter and bonus-son have tested negative and we’ll all retest in a few days.

My first thought was to get on the phone and talk to everyone who had contact with me — in or out of my home — over the last two days, which goes beyond skip tracing protocol. Once my inner-circle and those close recent contacts were made aware, I made a public post on Facebook about it.

The most often-asked question I’m getting is, “Where did to get it from?”

Well, in all honesty, I have no idea or I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. I attend meetings on a weekly basis where people are herded in and out of conference rooms like cattle and like the rest of you, my wife and I have to grocery shop for our family, buy gasoline and work every day to support our family. I play in a band, where we rehearse with masks on and return to our cars to bathe in Purell for the ride home. During the stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Justice, we shut the band down completely with no rehearsals.

I’ve attended public events to produce photo galleries and interviews for the paper and, when permitted by state guidelines, traveled out of state to snag my daughter who, through shared custody, also makes a home with her mother in South Carolina where she attends school. Our “exchange site” is generally in Wytheville, Virginia, where we meet half-way.

At one point, we went 10 weeks without seeing one another — the longest since her birth. Our previous high was four weeks while I had surgery and was recovering.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time, as I had a transmetatarsal amputation (all of my toes on one foot) in June due to complications with diabetes, and my wife had rotator cuff surgery last week. Our home is much like a hospital ward, but with much better food and music.

When this pandemic started, I was critical in a column about the way the Boone County Health Department handled social media posts in relation to this. My stance on that has not changed, but I have noticed that they have drastically “upped their game” in that department in recent posts.

My interview with them was very professional and cordial in relation to my test results, despite the fact that I know that they know who I am. I want to thank them publicly for their help and genuine concern. I was impressed with their professionalism and thorough screening.

I also want to thank the personnel at Boone Memorial Hospital who are conducting free COVID-19 testing in Danville. They were quick to inform me of my results and gave me guidance regarding what to do next — in the same helpful way as the BCHD.

It only took about an hour for someone to call HD Media, which owns the CVN, and request that someone write about the fact that my band played a 90-minute set at the West Virginia Freedom Festival in Logan. Of course, this was anonymous, they wouldn’t dare attach their name to this as I attach mine to every stitch I produce. But then again, I get paid to do this, you do not.

In a June column, I applauded the Boone County Fair and the West Virginia Coal Festival for pulling the plug on those events. Keep in mind, at that time the stay-at-home order was in place and it was on July 1 that we began opening up.

On July 2, we did headline a night of music at the festival. At that time, the state was open to do so and they proceeded with the event. We had booked this show months in advance and we held up our end up of a business agreement. I loaded in at the back of the stage, played my music and loaded out and went home. I did not frequent a single vendor or walk more than 25 feet from that stage. I had a plan. I went in and did the gig and left. The stage was without a doubt the safest place to be.

As I write this, nobody in our band has tested positive but me, and this includes my bass guitar technician, who set up my rig and was at my side through set-up and performance.

I wasn’t reckless and wore a mask with the exception of our show. Since that time, West Virginia fairs and festivals have been shut down and no concerts indoors or outdoors are permitted as of the time of my writing this column.

I only bring this up because I think it is valid because I have been asked if I thought this is where I contracted the virus. Personally, I believe that I had more of a chance via a gasoline pump handle or a grocery store credit card machine. We will never know, will we? I did nothing wrong in relation to our governor’s guidelines and I felt that through that entire evening, I went above and beyond to protect myself. I even wiped my gear down after the show and shed my “stage clothes” at the washing machine before entering my home.

What I hope is that others who have tested positive for COVID-19 will have the courage to step out and communicate about it with their community. There is a stigma attached to this and by many you are immediately judged as someone who was reckless or rogue.

So far, I feel fortunate to be only experiencing severe headaches and an upset tummy. I’ve received so many messages of support and it is simply overwhelming and it is certainly appreciated. I have received the support of HD Media and I will be conducting my interviews via telephone only for now. I assure you, ya can’t get the ‘Rona through your cell phone. Don’t panic when I come calling for a quote.

Over two decades in this business has given me thick skin and I can handle whatever negativity is thrown my way. In the end, I feel that my public pleading for transparency in local government should be followed via my own actions. What good am I to my readers if I don’t break bread at the same table as those I question through my work? Be safe, be well neighbors.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.