JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A couple survived COVID-19, only to be refused service as they tried to return to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Noah Battle Sr. said he and his wife, Pat, said they were denied service at a garage when they went to get their oil changed.
Noah Battle, a veteran, was the first documented case of the coronavirus in Clay County. His wife also tested positive for COVID-19.
Noah Battle spent 47 days in the hospital, and during some of that time, he was in an induced coma. He had to undergo dialysis while at UF Health Shand Hospital in Gainesville. On April 24, he arrived home to a community homecoming.
“I am doing wonderfully," said Noah Battle.
But the couple said they are now faced with new challenges, such as being refused service at a garage for an oil change.
Pat Battle explained that when she arrived to the garage, they asked her questions she didn’t know the answers to.
“So I put Noah on speakerphone and he was asking Noah all of these questions, and Noah said, 'Sir, I am sorry I don’t know. I have been in the hospital for 47 days. I have been in a coma, and somethings I just don’t remember," Pat Battle said. "When I came back into the store, the young man asked me, ‘So your husband was in the hospital for 47 days?’ ‘Yes.’ “Was he in a car accident?’ ‘No, he had the coronavirus.’ ‘So are you guys clear now?’ ‘Yes, we are both clear. We do not have the coronavirus.’”
Later in the day, Noah Battle said, he spoke with the manager.
“He said because my service technicians refused to get in the vehicle because you had corona disease, that the virus stayed in the vent of the AC 30 to 60 days, and that he has to protect his employees and other customers," Pat Battle said. “But his employees did not have on any kind of protection or offer any protection to other customers.”
The garage, which News4Jax has chosen not to name, sent the following statement: “While we cannot comment on the specific details of this customer’s concern, safety protocols at all (our) retail locations remain in alignment with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.”
News4Jax reached out to Dr. Mohammed Reza, an infectious disease doctor and medical director at Community Health Jacksonville and Daytona Clinics.
“You can find the virus, but it doesn’t mean it is going to infect anyone. First, you want the people providing the service to be safe and use proper precaution and distance. But people should not be denied or discriminated for having the infection, and having been properly tested and confirmed not to be shedding the virus anymore, to be denied services, that doesn’t seem fair," Reza said.
Pat Battle said she does not regret telling the garage that she and her husband had COVID-19.
“He asked me a question. I am not a liar and I have nothing to hide,” Pat Battle said. “I will probably say, ‘We had COVID-19 and we survived it.’"
Reza said the virus can live on porous surfaces up to 72 hours.
The Battles said they got their oil changed at another nearby garage on Tuesday.