‘I was the guinea pig. I was the statistic.’

Faith Fullmer, 23 | Circleville, UT

We were introduced to Faith at the Piute High School Promenade, a community wide event that celebrates the rising senior class. She graduated from Piute High in 2016. “My graduating class was 16, smallest in the school’s history. It’s usually between 20 to 25.” For most of the pandemic, Faith lived at home with her brother Gates, father Rog (short for Roger), and fiancé Johnny. She was the first person in Piute County to test positive for COVID.

Since Faith was the first to get COVID, her experiences, as chronicled through social media, shaped Circleville’s perception of the virus.

If you Googled “Utah counties that have COVID” back in May, it would bring up a chart, and you’d scroll down to Piute County. Confirmed cases, one. That was me. I was the only one for a month and a half before someone else got it. So... I was the guinea pig. I was the statistic.

I was working in Cedar City five days a week. It was during that time that I got it from a coworker and was sent back home. When my result came back positive May 19th, the health department lady told us “I have to tell the EMTs and the sheriff just in case they get called to your house, but I can’t tell anyone else. I would be cautious because it’s super new and people don’t know how to react. So just keep it on the down-low.” And I said okay.  

People can be very judgemental around here. I don't think I can name somebody that hasn't had a rumor spread about them. At school, a student might see someone get in a car and a story automatically starts. Like, if you told one of your friends “Oh, I went and made out with this boy last night, it was so much fun.” Somebody else might be listening in on it and then telephone starts. All of a sudden, there were five boys in the car and one girl, and you’re like when did this happen? [Laughs]. Where was I?

Viruses are also a game of telephone, the story gets twisted and everything.

Faith (right) catches up with a friend at the Piute High Prom.

I knew people were gonna have stuff to say about my family. Word started getting out because we had someone drop groceries off for us. We’d get texts saying “We didn’t know that your dad had it.” “You’re on oxygen?” Like, how did this blow up?

I just needed to tell people what was going on. So I posted on Facebook:

On Twitter, I would tell people that I just feel like I have allergies. My whole outlook on it from the get-go was that it’s just another flu. It's just another cold. Everyone's gonna get it. Nobody can avoid it.

Let me see… on that Facebook post I had 144 comments, 190 reactions, and 23 shares all from people in this town and the surrounding areas. It got a lot of clapping emojis and comments saying “You rock for putting this out here! Screw COVID! It’s not that bad!” Another said “Thank God, people needed to hear that it’s not as bad as the news is making it seem.” People here trust each other more than what they see in the media.

But since nobody else had it, nobody could relate to us. Even after my quarantine ended, people would walk around us in the store, hold the door open by like a fingertip, you know? I told my dad I felt like we were repeating history. Like I’m Black and everyone else is white. And we’re in the ‘50s and ‘60s again. It kind of made you feel like something was wrong with you. People tried to play it cool like “Oh yeah, we wanted to come over and drink off your drink to get COVID,” but they were like 10 feet away from me while they were telling me this. You really found out who was your friend at that point.

The second or third day out of quarantine, the sheriff came up to me at the gas station and gave me the biggest hug. He was like “Nice to see you’re alive.” I said “I know, I was dying of boredom in there.” It was so nice he gave me that big ol’ hug like he didn’t even care. And after that, people realized she’s not going to kill us.

People started asking “Well, did any of your family get it?” I was like, no. And like… Okay, I’m an open book. So sorry if this is TMI, but Johnny and I had sex every night during quarantine and he didn’t get it. So like, if it was so contagious, why didn’t he get it? He slept by me every night, gave me a kiss every morning, my brother would take sips off my drink. And they said it’s sooo contagious. My dad, with his compromised immune system, should have gotten it. Especially since we were in a house for 14 days together. So after they didn’t get it, my whole outlook on COVID remained exactly as I thought. It’s just a different type of virus that affects people that have underlying conditions more than other people. The elderly people that started getting it here, it would knock them on their asses. But they’re like 80 and on oxygen. I’m not 80 and on oxygen. I’m not gonna stop living my life for this virus.

My wedding was scheduled for June 19th, exactly one month after I tested positive. Some people were skeptical. They’d say “You can get it again. You really need to wear a mask and quarantine away from people.” But I didn’t want to do what everybody else was doing: a small ceremony with like 10 people and a postponed reception. My dad told me to consider it and I did for half a second.

But one night, I was sitting with Johnny and I said, “We’re having this wedding exactly how we planned.” If 10 people show up, we will have the time of our lives with the thousand plus dollars of alcohol that’s going to be there. We’re all gonna need to have liver transplants, but it’ll be fine. [Laughs]. We’re gonna gorge ourselves because we bought so much food; puke and rally ten times, get the munchies. We’re gonna light all the sparklers, put on music, and have a great time.” And good old Shutterfly – The more you buy, the cheaper it is per invitation. So we bought like 500. We posted a picture of the wedding announcement on Facebook and I was like, “If you didn’t get an announcement, consider this your announcement. Please come!”

That’s the outlook we had. Those who want to come will come. And those who don't, they’re gonna miss out on a good time. And, to our surprise, people just kept coming and coming and coming.

Faith and Johnny celebrate their wedding. Image courtesy of Faith Fullmer. 

It was almost like a party to start living again. People that we didn’t even invite to the ceremony came with camping chairs because we didn’t have enough. We made pulled pork the night before and stored it in giant crock pots to warm it up gradually. But there were just so many people! We didn’t think we’d have to warm it up so fast. 500 people probably showed up; definitely way more than the gathering guidelines of 10 people. In this town you’re lucky to get 200 people to show up to a wedding reception. I think we were the only ones that had that big of a wedding over the summer.

A lot of my family missed my wedding. My sister-in-law had just had a baby on June 4th, so she was afraid to come. I don’t blame her. But it still sucked because my brother didn’t make it to my wedding. He called me crying, and I’m pretty sure I called him a redheaded pussy. It’s not like I’m planning on having my wedding again.

COVID cases went up here at the end of June into July. I don’t think it was because of the wedding… although Johnny’s originally from Vegas and a lot of his family flew or drove here. Honestly, I thought people were gonna blame me and say, “That goddamn Faith gave us COVID. We shouldn't have gone to her wedding.” But no one did. And so – I was like, hell yeah. I mean, if they did get COVID, and they didn't ever say anything, I'm gonna go with it and say no one got it.

Circleville, Utah
Interview Date: May 2, 2021