Andrais Stetson was doing everything right. The Burr and Burton Academy senior wore his mask all the time, even when he didn’t really need to. A healthy respect for COVID-19 limited him to home and school with almost all social interactions online.
But when he noticed he had a couple of symptoms, he took himself to Manchester Medical Center where he first tested positive with the antigen test, Oct. 16. Two antigen tests were both positive, he said.
BBA sent out a press release that it had a student that had a presumptive positive test as Andrais Stetson, his family, and the school waited for the results. Oct. 18 the PCR test result came back positive as well.
Andrais Stetson, and his parents, Felipe and Nicole Stetson, agreed to talk about their experiences and have their names used for this story because they want people to understand it’s not always someone being careless who contracts the illness.
The Stetsons also want people to understand how rumors and careless comments can affect a person already dealing with a highly stressful situation and perhaps unfairly paint a person who has seemingly done everything right, with the brush of suspicion.
Andrais Stetson normally works Sundays as a dishwasher at Bonnet & Main coffee shop and cafe. He said he occasionally runs food to seated patrons who often take their masks off. He said that is one potential source, but there’s really no telling where he may have been exposed.
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint the source,” Andrais Stetson said. “It could be anyone in my life.”
He said his fellow BBA students wear their masks all the time other than when outside and distanced 6 feet or more, or while eating and spaced out.
“At school, we’ve all got our masks on,” he said. “I don’t see any concerns there. Everybody follows the rules quite strictly.”
Off-campus and in the community, however, he said there are people who “are still having a hard time with accepting this.” He said there are some people who just don’t get it.
He shared a recent stop at a convenience store where, despite signs on the store requiring masks, he walked in to find four different people without their mask. He said he stayed away from them, but the risk is out there.
Andrais Stetson said he is doing OK with the illness.
He said his symptoms are kind of like a cold or the flu but they change. He said he’ll be stuffy and then a headache will come on and he is dealing with a sore throat, which he said has been the worst of it for him.
He had a fever at first, which is why he decided to get tested about 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16.
He described his symptoms as moderate but said his doctor told him not to worry.
“The doctors told me I’m going to get through this just fine,” Stetson said. “I’m a young, healthy teenager. It’s not been too awful. I’m fine.”
Andrais’s mother, Nicole, said her son showed bravery to be tested.
“It was very courageous,” Nicole Stetson said. “If you do get tested you risk being ‘that person.’”
Nicole Stetson said her son does nothing to bring this kind of attention to himself.
“He doesn’t go to parties,” she said. “He goes to school, he goes to work one day a week and he goes home.”
She said she gets that coronavirus pandemic is “an anxiety-producing epidemic,” but she said, “the culture around this isn’t about looking out for each other.”
She pointed out that Manchester “has been wall-to-wall with people from out of state.
“There’s an assumption we did something,” Nicole Stetson said. “That’s just not true.”
Andrais, who said that fighting the stigma was why he wanted to be named and not remain the anonymous subject of rumors that were swirling despite a plea from BBA not to do that.
“There is a stigma around it,” Andrais Stetson said. “When I first got the antigen test and it came back positive the first thing [I felt] was this irrational guilt. The doctor gave me this talk about ‘it’s not my fault and we’re all in this together.’ It’s just a fact of life. We’re probably all going to get it at some point.”
At Bonnet & Main, owners Fiona Morton and Suzanne Fontaine said they found out about the positive test after closing time Friday and immediately announced the cafe would not reopen Saturday morning.
They had all staff members tested Saturday with PCR tests.
“Nobody has symptoms,” Fontaine said Monday.
Those test results came back negative Wednesday for all other employees, which means Bonnet & Main should be reopened Thursday.
Morton said Bonnet & Main takes the health risk seriously and the business refuses service to anybody not wearing a mask.
“We have zero tolerance and we’ve been verbally abused for it,” Morton said. “We’re doing all we can there and adhering to all the rules. We want to stay healthy and keep our staff healthy. It’s a responsibility we take seriously.”
Morton said the rumor mill is “really unfair.”
She said they’ve heard that the whole staff was sick and other untrue tales.
“If anybody knew what it was like to keep a business open during this pandemic, and keep everybody safe,” Morton said. “Every time something like this happens, it costs us thousands of dollars and we’re doing everything by the book. It could happen again next week. That’s the nature of this virus.”
But, they both said they absolutely didn’t blame Andrais and added he is the last person they would have expected because he always has a mask on and he always seems to be doing the right thing they said.
“Of all the people to get it, he’s the least likely,” Fontaine said.