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Nevada’s COVID-19 ‘Patient Zero’ out of hospital

Ronald Pipkins, Nevada’s first patient to test positive for COVID-19, left the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center on Monday, April 20.

Nearly two months after testing positive with the virus, and three weeks since awakening from a coma, Pipkins is transferring to a local medical rehabilitation facility after leaving the hospital to cheers from the staff.

“It feels fantastic,” Pipkins said. “I hate to leave, I made a lot of friends, but I’ve got to go and see my family.”

Pipkins has inspired staff and veterans alike with his strength and perseverance, even receiving recognition during a phone call from Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“I never thought I’d be famous just for being alive,” Pipkins said. “But I hope that I can make people realize how serious this virus is. I wish no one would get this disease. This is a terrible virus because once it gets hold of you, it really tries to take you out.”

The 55-year-old Marine Corps veteran was admitted to the VA hospital March 2 for pneumonia. After developing a fever, he was tested for COVID-19, and within 24 hours his results came back as a presumptive positive. He spent much of the past month on a ventilator in a medically induced coma while battling the illness.

Since regaining consciousness and two consecutive negative COVID tests in early April, Pipkins has undergone intense rehabilitation with physical and occupational therapists.

“My recovery has been really strong,” Pipkins said. “It’s all coming together and once I get to rehab, I know that I’ll pick up the pace.”

And while Pipkins is excited to continue on his road to recovery, he appreciates the life-saving care he’s received at the VA hospital in North Las Vegas.

“I’m grateful I’m at the VA because the people here have waited on me hand and foot,” Pipkins said. “The staff here are very professional, and I’m really proud of the service I’ve received here.”

Pipkins urged Americans to not take COVID-19 lightly.

“Listen to the health professionals,” he said. “A lot of people think it won’t get them, but if it gets you, you will feel some very painful things happening to your body. So I tell you, ‘Put on the mask. Going to work is not as important as living. It’s better to be broke and alive than to have money and be dying.’”

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