Christine Hallquist Recovering From COVID-19: 'It Was A Brutal Illness'

Apr 14, 2020

Over 750 people in Vermont have now tested positive for COVID-19. One prominent Vermonter who’s contracted the disease is former Democratic nominee for governor, Christine Hallquist. She ran and lost to Governor Phil Scott in 2018, and made national headlines in the process for being the first transgender person to become a major party’s gubernatorial nominee.

Hallquist says she tested positive for the coronavirus last Friday, but her symptoms started more than a week earlier. She’s isolating now at her sister’s apartment in Syracuse, N.Y. She'd been in that city taking care of her mother at a senior living facility, where she believes she may have picked up the virus.

So, despite being one of the more prominent Vermonters to get COVID-19, her case is not counted among the numbers the state releases daily regarding its proliferation in Vermont. She says she’s feeling much better now, but she described what the disease felt like when she began to notice symptoms.

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Christine Hallquist: I had no strength at all, but I didn't feel sick, so I didn't think twice about it. I thought, 'Well, maybe I'm just burned out.' The next day, not only did I not have any strength, I had a fever. It didn't occur to me that I had COVID-19 at that point because it was just a slight fever. And the next day, Thursday, I felt better. Friday, I felt pretty good. And then Saturday, I decided to go for a four-and-a-half mile run. And immediately when I got home from the run, my fever was high: it was 101.1. So at that point, I said, 'I bet you I have COVID-19.' And I called my doctor's office and, you know, basically the recording said, if you're in good health, don't worry about it. But the fact that I was in a retirement community had me very nervous. So I called the Onondaga County Health COVID-19 line and they were immediately concerned and scheduled me for a test the next day in their drive-through testing facility in Syracuse.

Henry Epp: And so you got tested and got the results back a few days later?

Yeah, that was the part that I thought was really kind of screwed up on. I actually got tested on a Sunday and didn't get the results until Friday. And of course, by that time, it had been a brutal week. Every day I would get up and my fever would be over 101. It would range between 101 and 103. And I just couldn't move. It was a brutal illness. By the time I got the test results, I had started to recover. So I got the test results on a Friday, five days later. And then this past Saturday, I got the court order to isolate in place. So if you look at that, there were six days of severe illness where I didn't have an isolation order and it was an unknown whether I had it or not.

And so during that time, before you had the order to isolate, were you isolating or were you in contact with anyone?

Oh, no. I was very much in isolation in this apartment, by myself.

I saw that you received some well-wishes on social media from your former gubernatorial rival, Governor Phil Scott. I'm curious just what you think of his performance, watching as he's led as governor during this pandemic here in Vermont?

I've been very impressed with the governor's leadership, with state to the crisis. Being the former CEO of electric utility, we followed the national incident command system. And in the national incident command system, you know, you really turn over your your incident command leadership to the experts. And the governor has done exactly that. You know, he's listened to the medical professionals. He's listened to the science. He's carried out his statewide orders with the best advice.

So I think Vermont should be proud of how the governor and the state is handling this. I'm proud of how the state of Vermont is handling this. I  just can't say enough good things about what the governor is doing.

If things had gone a different way two years ago, there's a reality where you would have been in his place as Governor of Vermont. Do you ever think of how you might be handling this differently if you were governor right now?

Well, I don't think I'd be handling it much differently than the governor is handling it. I think when you get into a crisis, you want to use crisis management procedures that have been developed during what we call 'blue skies.' You develop the protocols during blue skies, you test them during blue skies, and then when you have the crisis, you execute according to the plan.

And in your opinion, that's that's been followed pretty well.

I think he's following it extremely well, yes. So I know that I don't think I would be doing anything much differently.

Are you considering seeking public office again at any point in the future?

Yes, you know, I think that what happens in 2020 is critical. You know, I'm not sure who America is right now ... but I'm more than happy to help rebuild this country into a more compassionate and caring and considerate country.

Yes, you would consider?

Yes, I would consider. Yes. That's the short answer.

And so you're, of course, quarantining in New York. You're taking care of your mother there. Do you have plans to return back to Vermont when you can?

Oh, yes, I'm going to return back to Vermont as soon as I can, because I love Vermont. And that's my... that's my home.

You mentioned that you're open to running for public office. I mean, what would that look like? What office would you be seeking?

Well, you know, I'm not sure. It could be a run for the governor again. You know, it could be a run for U.S. Congress or U.S. Senate. It depends where things are at that point. Certainly, I wouldn't run against Governor Scott right now.

Do you feel like he has a pretty solid lock on the governorship for another term?

Yes, I think he has a very solid lock on the governorship. In fact, you know, I'm happier with his performance the past two years than when I ran against him before. And, you know, as I said before, he's a decent person.