By Lisa Hughes

BOSTON (CBS) – Dr. Monica Bharel assumed that her muscle aches and fatigue were the result of long workdays. Who could blame her? The state’s Public Health Commissioner had been working side-by-side with Governor Charlie Baker on ways to slow the spread of coronavirus while working to educate the public on the seriousness of the disease.

In a stressful time, Dr. Bharel became a steady presence in Governor Baker’s daily news conferences. Then, on March 26, her husband told her that their daughter had a fever. Bharel began to wonder if her own symptoms might reflect a coronavirus infection.

She took a test that night which came back positive the next day. Her husband—also an essential health care worker—also tested positive.

Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH (Image credit Mass.gov)

She says they worried what would happen if they both had to be hospitalized. “It’s really frightening. I understand why people are scared,” she said.

Her symptoms got worse. “I went from a phase of fevers and muscle aches—very much like the flu—to then having severe exhaustion and fatigue,” Bharel explained.

She also experienced eye pain so severe that it woke her up and she lost her sense of smell. She was sick for three weeks. “It was something else to experience it firsthand,” she said. “I’m just glad to be OK and that my family’s OK.”

Dr. Bharel says, when she felt well enough, she worked from home. Grateful for the support of her colleagues, she also commends the people of Massachusetts for following social distancing guidelines and staying home.

“What we’re seeing now is the impact of people coming together as a community.” She told WBZ’s Lisa Hughes, “It makes me as proud as ever to be a resident of Massachusetts.”

She encourages people with questions about COVID-19 to visit Mass.gov for information.

Dr. Bharel confirms that the state is in the midst of a surge in cases. She says we will know that the “peak” has passed when testing is at a high level and cases and deaths decline.

To date, more than 2300 people in Massachusetts have died of COVID-19. “We talk about numbers a lot. But I really do want to pause and send my condolences to everyone who has lost someone,” Dr. Bharel said. “And for people who are sick, I wish you the speediest recovery.”

Lisa Hughes