The COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus has been an ever-present specter in all of our lives the last few months, but as we have dramatically altered our lifestyles to try to kick the virus, only about one in 300 Americans have tested positive for coronavirus.

The virus hit close to home for MASL fans this week when Utica City FC goalkeeper Matt Perrella disclosed on Facebook that he had tested positive and was recovering at home.

Perrella, who lives in Philadelphia, was already all too familiar with the virus. His father and three uncles had the virus and his girlfriend Gina works in harm’s way at Jefferson Hospital.

“You have to keep in mind my family is all from Central and North Jersey where things were really bad,” Perrella says. “Luckily, everyone has pulled through.”

His father is recovering after spending the last three weeks in the hospital. “My dad lives in Staten Island,” said Perrella. “He initially did not go for a test but was experiencing severe symptoms and an ambulance was called when his breathing became extremely impaired.”

Then it literally hit home. “Gina came home last week and mentioned a co-worker had it and this person sits near her,” Perrella said. “It was then mandatory for everyone to get tested in her office. Once she told me about her co-worker I knew that her and I were in line to get it as well.

“My symptoms first popped up about five days ago but it was pretty easy to get a test once Gina came back with a positive result and I noted that to the doctor. It took them two days to get me the appointment to go and I got my result back two days after going.”

Perrella had been spending the lockdown helping out a family restaurant in Philadelphia and doing morning workouts and occasional runs. Not so long ago he was playing for Utica and got the start in what turned out to be the last game of the MASL season. He only allowed four goals in that game on March 11, but City lost to the Harrisburg Heat 5-3.

“I absolutely understand the league closing down,” Perrella says with new hindsight. “We really didn’t have a choice on it either but I certainly think it was the right decision regardless, especially now that I’m experiencing being sick. This is definitely the worst I’ve ever been hit with a sickness and at times the migraines and chest pain have been some of the worst pain I’ve had from a sickness.”

The MASL hasn’t officially canceled the 2019-20 playoffs, but most players think the season is effectively over. “In terms of playoffs I think it’s a long shot at this point,” Perrella says. “We would love the opportunity to continue to play but everyone is on standby. We have to be realistic about what’s happening here and what’s important, and to me, it’s still health and safety of everyone — and I may not have felt that way before getting sick but after experiencing this firsthand I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through it.”

Perrella said his doctor prescribed Azithromycin to help fight off congestion in his chest. He doesn’t know of any other MASL players who may have contracted coronavirus.

While Matt and Gina are quarantining together, they are being careful of their roommate who has not yet gotten sick.

With states starting to re-open businesses Perrella urges caution and vigilance. “I would just say that through my own experience with the virus it’s certainly not something you want to downplay,” he says. “It’s worse than any flu I have experienced, so please stay safe and don’t put yourself in any unnecessary risks.”