JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ark. – A growing number of young people are testing positive for COVID-19, including a rise in cases of the highly contagious Delta variant. 

One young Central Arkansas man has been fighting the virus for nearly a month. He had already received one dose of the COVID vaccine when the symptoms began. 

22-year-old Matthew Cooper started feeling ill just about a month ago, sometime in between his first and second dose of the vaccine. Cooper had previously worked as a patient care technician at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, experiencing firsthand the signs and symptoms of COVID. 

“It really does take a toll on you,” Cooper remarked when remembering the COVID unit and ICU. “It was about the same as it is now.”

Cooper had no idea that a year later, he would be the patient. 

The symptoms first appeared in late June; nausea and stomach issues prompting Cooper to believe he had a stomach bug. After his second dose, the symptoms got worse. 

“I didn’t want any of my clothes touching me because it was that bad,” Cooper remembered. The body aches were accompanied by a splitting headache, fever above 102 degrees, and trouble breathing that only worsened in time. 

Having worked with COVID patients, Cooper says he knew right away what this was. But it took 4 false negatives on rapid tests and a PCR over 4 weeks to confirm the news; that not only was Copper COVID positive, but it was also the Delta variant. 

By July, he had developed pneumonia and has been fighting the virus ever since. 

Cooper is currently on his third round of antibiotics. The symptoms won’t go away, but doctors tell him the vaccine still made a difference. Without it, Cooper could have ended up in the very place he worked – a COVID unit or even the ICU. 

“The vaccine really took a toll and did the job that it was supposed to do,” Cooper said.