As It Happens

French doctor under self-quarantine after he and 18 family members get COVID-19

Dr. Jonathan Peterschmitt says he and his family aren't suffering too much under COVID-19 — but they're staying under self-quarantine for the sake of others. 

'We're getting tired not because of the virus; we're getting tired because of the kids'

Doctor in France self-quarantines family after getting COVID-19

2 years ago
Duration 5:09
Dr. Jonathan Peterschmitt and 18 family members are in self-isolation near the Swiss and German borders after testing positive for COVID-19.


Dr. Jonathan Peterschmitt says he and his family aren't suffering too much because of COVID-19 — but they're staying under self-quarantine for the sake of others.

The French doctor and 18 of his family members have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus that's been rapidly spreading around the world. 

France has over 1,600 cases of coronavirus, but French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday the country is "only at the beginning" of the outbreak.

Peterschmitt, a family physician, is under self-quarantine at his home Ammerzwiller in the northeast of France, along with his wife and their four children, ages one, three, five and seven.

He spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on their eighth day at home. Here is part of their conversation. 

How are you and members of your family ... doing?

For me and my close family — my kids, four kids, and my wife — we are very well. Very, I would say, healthy now.

But my extended family — my brothers and their kids — we are all infected. And I have two members of my family that have been a little worse than us, but they are stable and they are very conscious.

How did the virus enter into your family?

We all went to what we called the praying and fasting week in our church. ... First case I heard of was someone that was close in the area, and then I heard that some kids of the church were infected too. 

Peterschmitt's children are doing well under self-quarantine. (Submitted by Jonathan Peterschmitt)

You're a doctor. You decided to stop seeing patients even before you tested positive for COVID-19. What were your suspicions?

After the fasting week, I was a bit sick. Because I felt very tired. I [had] some muscle pain. 

So I thought, OK, don't go back to work the first week. So I didn't. And when I heard of this possible case, I was, like, thinking maybe it could be that.

Then I [tested] positive. So I was very surprised, because really I didn't expected it. I did a test just to be sure for my patients.

So you quarantined yourself. And then what about your kids? When did you decide that everyone would be under quarantine?

When I heard that I was positive, my family was ... encouraged to stay home and they were tested the day after. So when we almost all went positive, we automatically stayed at home for the quarantine.

For people who might have to stay home under quarantine and are wondering, "Gosh, how am I going to do that?" — what's your advice? How are you managing with your kids?

Kids in young ages, they need to change activities a lot. So we tried to have games with them, to explain [to] them the situation. We do a lot of homework that school sent to us.

We try to live normally, but inside of the house. And when it becomes a bit long for them, we go back to the basics and we explain, "OK, we don't do that for ourselves. We do it for the others."

So they understand that very well.

Peterschmitt is pictured here with his immediate family, all of whom have tested positive for COVID-19. (Submitted by Jonathan Peterschmitt )

So the kids, you're keeping them entertained. What effect is that having on you and your wife that you have kids at home, and you're home all day with them?

I think we're getting tired not because of the virus; we're getting tired because of the kids.

They're full of life. And sometimes I try to keep ... the three big kids with me so she can stay alone or just with the [youngest] one. And sometimes when [I've] got some some discussion or [an] interview, I am alone.

We try to balance that that way. And we try to put them ... early to bed so we have the nights. 

As more and more people are going to have to live with this with a kind of quarantine, what do you say to them? I mean, there are those who regard it as their civic duty. It's a responsibility for themselves and for others. And others who regard this as something that's imposing on their personal freedom. 

What is important for all of us now ... is to get this common intelligence, what we say is the collective intelligence, to think, "If I do it, it's not for me only. It's for everybody."

And when you do it for someone else, you do it for yourself too. Because when it's like, you know, vaccines. When too few people get vaccines, the sickness will spread. 

I don't live it like something that has been imposed to me. For me and my family, it doesn't change now anything. We got the virus. We live with it, and we will get better, and we will be healed very soon I think.

But I don't go outside for the others. Because some people will get very, very bad. And it's for them that we will have to do it.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.