"I was super ill for a while there. I was sleeping all the time. First two weeks, it wasn’t real pleasant. I can’t really describe what was going on. I know I was miserable. I know I was sleeping a lot."

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FORT WALTON BEACH — When Anita Kroha wakes up today, it will mark the beginning of her fourth week in isolation at a local long-term care facility. Four weeks of seeing the same masked, shielded and gowned staff members, all of whom look alike in their protective equipment.

One of the small things she mourns is not being able to recognize her favorite nurses and aides at the facility she’s called home for six years.

Kroha, a 77-year-old resident of Fort Walton Rehabilitation Center, has nothing but good things to say about the staff members at the facility. She’s lucky, she says, to have them.

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She is less complimentary about COVID-19, even though, in her opinion, she has a mild, almost asymptomatic, case.

“I was super ill for a while there,” she said. “I was sleeping all the time. First two weeks, it wasn’t real pleasant. I can’t really describe what was going on. I know I was miserable. I know I was sleeping a lot.”

One day when she was still feeling very ill, a group of nurses came to her window and waved, a gesture so sweet she cried.

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Last week, she was feeling well enough to enjoy a visit from her goddaughter, who sat outside her closed window and talked with Kroha on the phone.

Otherwise, her contact has been limited to a handful of staff members and online conversations with friends.

But she has adapted, she says, to being in solitary, as she calls it.

She found out she had COVID-19 before she even felt ill. She said she would have argued with anyone who told her she had it, until the positive test came back. She was tested along with everyone at the facility in mid-April.

The tests, of which she has had four, are almost as bad as the disease. She calls them excruciating, each worse than the one before, and there are more in her future. All of the tests have been positive and she can’t leave isolation until she tests negative twice.

The rehab center, located off North Beal Extension, has had more than two dozen cases, including 17 patients and 10 staff members. At least three have also died of COVID-19.

In her cocoon of isolation, Kroha wasn’t aware of the extent of the disease’s spread in the facility. She knew, or guessed, that about 12 to 15 had tested positive.

The day the first positive test came back, staff members hastily packed up what they thought she’d need and moved her to a single room. They didn’t bring her books, which she misses. But she’s grateful because it’s not clear to her what she can bring with her when she eventually leaves isolation.

Any gifts or mail she receives have to be quarantined for three days, she says.

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She’s on a regimen of three medications -- Hydroxychloroquine, Choloroquine and Remdesivir-- as well as something for the pain she downplays.

“I appear to be responding well to treatment,” she says, referring to herself as somewhat asymptomatic.

But at her worst, she knows she could have died and she knows how it would have happened.

“People with COVID die alone,” she emailed pragmatically at the height of her illness. “It can’t be any other way.”

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