HOUSTON (AP) - In Deputy Ravin Washington's squad car, risk rides shotgun. The threats she faces on her solo patrols are usually more immediate than reports of some new unseen virus.
But last month, she was following up on a robbery call when it suddenly felt like someone was sitting on her chest. By the time she navigated her cruiser to her sister's apartment, she could barely keep her hands on the wheel. She had no idea what was wrong.
An administrative assistant checks Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Ravin Washington's temperature, Spring, Texas, April 17, 2020. Washington tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March and returned to patrol on April 15. (AP/David J. Phillip)
Certainty came a few days later after a nasal swab that felt like it poked her brain. On March 25, Washington tested positive for the coronavirus — one of the first of about 180 Harris County Sheriff's Office employees to be sickened.
In lonely isolation, her temperature spiked. Her stomach roiled. She lost her sense of taste and could barely rise from bed for days.
"People don't want to be around you," she said. "People don't want to touch you."
When she finally healed, she worried about getting sick again — about whether her colleagues would want her back.
Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Ravin Washington wipes down the inside of her patrol car, Spring, Texas, April 17, 2020. (AP/David J. Phillip)
She returned to patrol this month and found the situation suddenly reversed. Her colleagues gave her hugs. "People feel like, 'Hey, you have the antibodies. You're the cure,'" she said.
Back on patrol, Washington has the familiar weight on her hips of a Taser, handcuffs and gun. But her safety also depends on gloves and a mask.
"It's like you're risking your life even more now."
Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Ravin Washington next to her patrol car, Spring, Texas, April 17, 2020. (AP/David J. Phillip)