New York City actor Elliot Lazar flew home to Winnipeg to be with his family in a safe environment and ride out the pandemic in a country where he had access to health care, if he needed it.
And when he started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, he was directed to a testing site in Fort Garry. It took an entire week for Lazar to learn that he had tested positive for the virus.
"While it was a little frustrating, I understand why it took so long," he says. "There are so many tests being conducted every day and it makes sense that the health system would be overwhelmed."
After watching the situation deteriorate in New York, where he's been living since August, Lazar flew back to Winnipeg March 16 and began self-isolating in his childhood bedroom in his parents' home.
He got a phone call Sunday telling him he tested positive for COVID-19 and then notified WestJet, even though he was told he didn’t have to.
"I erred on the side of caution," he says.
Lazar provided public-health worker with information on his flights from New York to Toronto and then to Winnipeg.
WestJet does not notify passengers, says Morgan Bell, the airline's media and public relations adviser.
"The public health authority has jurisdiction, and a process, for notifying guests on board the flight," says Bell, "and we provide all necessary information as required."
He adds WestJet is doing its best to keep the public informed about flights that have been affected on a regularly updated coronavirus page on its website.
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokesperson Paul Turenne said he couldn't comment on specific circumstances or cases.
Lazar doesn't know where he was infected. He did not have any community contact in Winnipeg beyond the airport, where he got into his father's car and went directly into isolation. None of his roommates in New York are exhibiting symptoms, and because WestJet is not selling the middle seat on some planes, he wasn't seated to anyone on either of the two flights he took to get to Winnipeg.
While the delay in test results was frustrating, he says the response afterward was swift. He was contacted immediately by a public-health worker who provided instructions for him and his family.
"Everyone in my household has been instructed to take our temperatures twice a day and someone from Manitoba Public Health calls once a day to get our temperatures from us," he says. "The idea is that if any of my family members' temperatures rise and they become symptomatic, it will be arranged for them to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible."
Lazar’s symptoms were mild, so the week-long waiting period to find out results did not put his health at any further risk, but he is aware that not everyone who contracts the virus will be as lucky.
As of April 2, Lazar has made a complete recovery and his case has been officially resolved with Manitoba Public Health.
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Updated on Friday, April 3, 2020 at 8:42 AM CDT: Updates to add that Lazar has made a complete recovery