Singer from popular Alaska band speaks out about COVID-19 diagnosis

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The last time Alaska band Blackwater Railroad Company performed was a show in Fairbanks over the summer solstice. Days later, one of the lead singers was diagnosed with respiratory virus COVID-19.

Blackwater Railroad Company band member Tyson Davis announced his COVID-19 diagnosis in June. (Photos courtesy of Tyson Davis)

Tyson Davis, a vocalist and guitar player for Blackwater Railroad Company, announced his positive COVID-19 results on Facebook June 25. While he was worried about the stigma it could place on him, he thought it was important to put a face to the virus and encourage residents of Seward to seek testing.

Davis said the band and their venues had been taking recommended precautions. At their last show at the Boatel, Davis said social distancing measures were in place, there was a 20-foot barrier between the band and the crowd and capacity had been limited. Even when he wasn't performing, he was taking precautions and wearing a mask.

“I feel like there’s a bit of a stigma that if you did test positive, that you’re not doing enough,” Davis said. “I feel like I was trying my best to be safe… I was a bit afraid but I felt like I owed it to my community and to the people who are fans of my music, that if they were around me in the timeframe that I had put out there, I felt like I owed it to them so they could stop it.”

When he began experiencing symptoms he first thought he was having a normal response to seasonal allergens. Then the symptoms progressed — fever, loss of taste and smell, soreness in his lungs — so he scheduled a COVID-19 test. Seeing the positive test result was surreal, Davis said.

“It’s definitely something that had always been in the back of my mind, but now it’s in the forefront of my mind,” Davis said. “Having had the virus now, it changes everything. It changes your outlook and how I would move forward.”

Blackwater Railroad Company canceled all of their upcoming shows, Davis has been quarantining and the community of Seward has rallied around him, combating fears Davis had about receiving negative attention for going public.

While Davis deals with the virus, the community of Seward has begun its own battle. The Department of Health and Social Services began urging Seward residents to get tested last week and had opened up a drive-through testing location to deal with the expected uptick in demand. As of Tuesday, DHSS was reporting Seward had a total of 22 resident cases and six nonresident cases of COVID-19.

[RELATED: ‘Testing recommended’: for patrons of Yukon Bar and Seward Alehouse, DHSS said]

“Even in a place like Seward where we had only had like three or four cases and it had been months since we’d had them… even we were feeling like maybe we had dodged a bullet,” Davis said. “And as soon as you start to get comfortable, here it is, at your doorstep.”

One of the more difficult parts of this experience is Davis said he likely will never know where he contracted the virus, but he said making a list of people you have come into close contact with has been really helpful in aiding the health care professionals who trace the virus.

“No matter what you think you’re doing, I think there’s always more that you can do,” Davis said.

Davis says he’s one of the lucky ones with mild symptoms and a good support system. Though he faces shortness of breath when he exercises, he hopes the virus will have a minimal impact on his singing ability. While quarantining with his two dogs, he’s been doing breathing exercises and taking fever suppressants to aid his recovery.

More than anything, Davis says to be kind to one another as everyone deals with the stress of the pandemic.

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