ROME, Ga. - A Floyd County man who has COVID-19 may have accidentally exposed others after originally being sent home from the hospital without being tested.
Clay Bentley said he felt feverish and had a cough when he showed up at Redmond Regional Medical Center on March 2. He said he was told he didn't fit the profile for a coronavirus patient. So he went home.
"By Friday, I was so bad I called the hospital back," he said from his hospital room. "And I said I felt like you sent me home to die. And I said, 'I'm not better. I'm worse.'"
He was admitted that day and tested positive, five days after he said he was sent home.
"They said I'm not answering the right questions," Bentley remembered. "They were asking me if I've ever been out of the country. You know, I'm retired. I live here in Rome. I said no, I've never been out of the country. My wife is a flight attendant. She works for an airline. She ain't been out of the country. She flies up and down the coast. That don't mean she ain't been on with someone who has been out of the country."
A hospital spokesperson would only confirm that Bentley was being treated for coronavirus.
Where did he get the virus? Bentley's not sure. The day before he felt sick, the retired cop was in his usual place at the Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville. He sings tenor in the choir. The church confirmed two members of the congregation are being treated for COVID-19.
"My heart goes out to all of those affected by this illness and any illness going around," said senior pastor Jacob T. King in a written statement. Wednesday services were canceled while the church is sanitized.
During the time he was back home last week, Bentley attended Wednesday services at another church, Full Turn Church in Hiram. A church spokesperson said the church has been deep cleaned and no one has become ill.
"I thought I was going to die on my floor."
"Thursday night I tried to climb my steps," he said. "I sleep on the third floor. I took my time, but by the time I got to the top of the steps I couldn't even breathe. And I thought I was going to die on my floor."
He's upset that his son was sent home from work and his grandson's school was closed, even though he hasn't had any recent contact with either.
"My whole argument with this whole thing is I feel like we're not dealing with the problem the way we should be dealing with it," Bentley complained. "My wife hasn't even been tested for coronavirus." He says she's been advised by the state to report her temperature twice a day. So far, she has no symptoms.
He does advise people to stop shaking hands. And he suggests limiting the size of crowds until the virus is under control.
Bentley is being treated for double pneumonia brought on by the coronavirus. He is feeling better. But until his lungs clear and he shows no signs of the virus for two consecutive tests, his home is a locked hospital room visited only by people wearing protective gear.
"It's worse than being in prison," he said.