OC firefighter back to work after recovering from COVID-19

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- A family's routine was turned upside down when their father, an Orange County firefighter, tested positive for COVID-19.

After recovering and returning to work for his first shift back, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Paul Holaday, his wife Melissa and their daughter, Nicole, shared their experience with Eyewitness News.

"I developed a fever and a headache. At that point, the department through the county health got me tested and I tested positive," Holaday said.

Captain Holaday was one of two dozen firefighters sent home in late March after one of their own tested positive for the virus.

The Holadays were homebound and split up.

"He sat on one couch with a mask on and I sat on the other," Melissa Holaday said.

Recovered, and back to work after two weeks in home quarantine, the family can laugh about Dad's guest room quarters, his side of the room, the constant wiping down with disinfectant and their dog now expecting attention - always.

"We've created this monster," Melissa Holaday joked about their pet. "Wherever we are, he must be,"

Still, they admitted, living through it lets those unknowns linger.

"We don't know what it is and we don't know what it was going to look like and how sick he was going to get, how his body was going to react. There is a lot of apprehension like, is it going to get worse? Every day waiting for the shoe to drop," Melissa Holaday said.

"I've seen the emotional toll it takes on family and on you, with just the unknown, so it is real and it's hard for people to see that from a distance and all they're hearing is stay home, stay home. But I've seen it up close and the precautions, they're going to work. That's what's going to keep it from spreading," Paul Holaday said.

Back on the front lines, the fire captain said he knew he was lucky his family didn't catch it and that his symptoms were mild; he said some of his friends weren't faring so well.

Holiday asked everyone to do their part taking into consideration the wellbeing of first responders and those waiting for them back home.

"I don't want any of my other fellow firefighters to get this. As mild as my symptoms were, it's not fun. It's scary. There's a lot of unknowns," Holaday said.

According to an OCFA spokesperson, as of Tuesday afternoon, nine firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19 and four of those had returned to work.
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