County Commission Chair Matthew Swain tests positive for COVID-19


ALBEMARLE — “The worst of it is behind me,” Matthew Swain, chair of the Stanly County Commission, told SCJ on April 7 on how he is fairing after testing positive for coronavirus. “The worst part was last week. I’m well on the road to recovery and am just walking on the farm today.”  

Swain said he had flu-like symptoms for about a week and a half, and by April 1, his fever began to break. By the time the test returned positive, he had already turned the corner. 

“It was very similar [to the flu], but the difference was the difficulty breathing,” Swain said. “That was the scary part of it. Just walking from one end of my house to the other, you’d get so out of breath you’d have to sit down.”  

There was never a point where Swain thought he needed to be hospitalized, because every time he lost his breath, he was able to recover it within a few minutes.  

“If it had gone any longer than just a few minutes, I would have tried to figure out a way to get to the hospital.” 

Swain is not sure where he picked up the virus, which has infected people around the world and caused unprecedented economic disruption. But in the time before he was sick, he had taken a couple trips to and from work and had some meetings in the county. All of these, he said, required “very little interaction.” His wife also had symptoms, but she tested negative for coronavirus. As a volunteer firefighter and medical responder, he said he also, “very well could have gotten it on a medical call, before our county stopped volunteers from responding to those.” 

While Swain’s symptoms were mild, he said he is relatively healthy, and for those in higher risk categories, “I could see that being an issue, a severe issue really… It was tough there for a day or so to catch my breath or do little basic things around the house without getting so tired. So, I could really see that folks that have some other underlying problem would have a really hard time with it.” 

With symptoms varying greatly from person to person, Swain said he’s talked to people who have had it but have had no fever, or have had very minor symptoms. The data he and the county commission have received show nine people in Stanly have tested positive, but he said, “The symptoms are so varied that a lot of people have likely had it that didn’t even know they had it.” 

Beyond the health concerns, Swain said the economic indicators he’s seeing are also very concerning to him. He said the county and all of its municipalities rely heavily on sales tax for funding, and this crisis “could have a devastating effect on the sales tax.” He is also concerned about how small businesses will come back after being forced to shut for so many days.  

“I hope that some of these small business loan programs that are coming out of Congress right now, that those are going to be able help some of these small businesses get back on their feet. Because to me, small business and local business in our county is a big driver of economic success around here. And that worries me quite a bit.”  

Overall, Swain says he is lucky, and that “there are a lot of people worse off than I am.” He asks that people pray for those who are affected, saying he appreciates all the prayers and concerns that have poured out to him since his positive test results have been made public. 

His parting advice to the community during the coronavirus pandemic is, “Do everything you can to be safe: Wash your hands, stay away from folks if you can, and when you can, just stay home.”