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COVID diaries: This Colorado state senator has rare status — immunity from coronavirus

Jim Smallwood is the only publicly identified member of the Colorado legislature to test positive for the coronavirus

State Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker. (Provided photo)
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Jim Smallwood was waiting for a call from Children’s Hospital Colorado to find out his blood type. It’s something he should know, he figures, since his blood is in high demand now. 

The father of three and state senator from Douglas County has a rare status, not that he asked for it. Smallwood is among the select few who got a mild case of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic, and a positive test. His blood contains the antibodies that defeated COVID-19. He has immunity, or at least doctors hope he does. 

But Smallwood — who has already donated his plasma to Children’s blood bank for hospitalized coronavirus patients and plans to do so every few weeks — isn’t taking any chances. 

State Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, talks about his life after recovering from the coronavirus. (Provided by Jim Smallwood)

He wears a mask when he goes shopping. Washes his hands multiple times each day. He’s isolated at home with his family. And when he returns to the Capitol next month, he will remain vigilant. Immunity doesn’t feel like a superpower, he says. 

“It’s too new to have reliable data behind whether or not anybody has an immunity to it,” the Republican lawmaker said. “And just because I may have some immunities, nobody else in my family has been told they had a positive result that they have come out on the other side of.” 

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.

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Smallwood, 49, first felt sick soon after arriving at the family’s time-share condo in Encinitas, California, for spring break. He had a mild fever March 16, and the next day, fever and chills that made him feel like he needed to stay in bed. 

Smallwood and his wife went to a testing “cabana” outside a local hospital March 17. By the time a health care worker called to let him know he had tested positive, five days later, Smallwood already felt back to normal. His wife tested negative and none of his three kids — two in college and one in high school — ever felt sick. They quarantined in California for 14 days, staying twice as long as planned.

He vowed to spend the next several months encouraging Coloradans to donate blood, which is in short supply, and pushing others who have recovered from coronavirus to donate convalescent plasma. It’s “easy and painless,” he said, despite the swab up the nose that “literally feels like they are tickling the back of your brain.” 

“I feel really blessed,” he said. “Seeing people go through the worst of COVID-19 makes you really grateful that your symptoms were mild.”


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