A Winnipeg man in his seventies is recovering from COVID-19 at home after contracting it during a recent trip to the Caribbean.
But the man, who was listed as the province's fifth positive case this past weekend, considers himself "extremely lucky.
"After one day of flu-like symptoms, I have had minimal discomfort," he said while recovering at home in isolation on Thursday. The man did not want to be identified.
"Other than the occasional sporadic cough, which is normal for me after a cold, I have been symptom-free for a few days... yes, I have had colds (and) flu worse than what I’ve experienced with COVID-19, but that’s not true for everyone.
"I’ve been lucky."
"Other than the occasional sporadic cough, which is normal for me after a cold, I have been symptom–free for a few days... yes, I have had colds (and) flu worse than what I’ve experienced with COVID–19, but that’s not true for everyone... I’ve been lucky."
The man said he and his partner returned from the Caribbean early on March 8. At the time, the Manitoba Public Health directive for people returning from international travel was to self monitor for symptoms and, if any developed, to self-isolate and call Health Links-Info Sante immediately.
He said he was symptom free that day, as well as Monday and Tuesday of that week, but suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, March 11, "at my workplace I felt the onset of flu-like symptoms.
"I immediately went home into self-isolation and called Health Links."
The man said the next morning he went in for testing and, other than that, he has been in "self-quarantine since.
"The test was reported to me as positive on March 15," he said.
The diagnosis has changed daily life for both him and his partner. She has tested negative but because she has flu-like symptoms both they, and health officials, believe that result was false negative.
"It is unlikely that having travelled together, dined together, shared desserts together, that I would be positive and she would not be," he said, adding she was just re-tested earlier Thursday. But, just in case she really doesn't have the virus, they are following health protocols and are doing what they can to self isolate from each other.
"We do not come within seven to eight feet of each other and communicate over that distance or between rooms on FaceTime. Most often we just talk from separate rooms... we are careful with hand washing and wiping down kitchen surfaces with the anti–bacterial wipes after every time we are in that room."
"We are in separate bedrooms," he said. "Ideally we would have separate bathrooms but that is not feasible.
"After every use we wipe down all surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectant wipes. In fact, door knobs, light switches and anything else we both touch are wiped down every time either of us touches them."
And, even in the four walls of a residence, the pair have to follow even more social distancing.
"We do not come within seven to eight feet of each other and communicate over that distance or between rooms on FaceTime. Most often we just talk from separate rooms... we are careful with hand washing and wiping down kitchen surfaces with the anti-bacterial wipes after every time we are in that room."
"I was sick on the Wednesday afternoon (March 11) with flu-like symptoms - low-grade fever, low-grade headache, coughing, shortness of breath, temperature running between 100.2 to 100.8... I felt considerably better on Thursday, but still not back to 'normal'... not in any real discomfort or distress.
"After Friday, I had only a residual sporadic cough and shortness of breath when I exerted myself — stairs."
Initially, reports of the man's symptoms caused the landlord of two downtown buildings to order extra cleaning to the buildings and a popular eatery once they were notified he had been there.
"Public health seems to be changing their advice to the community as their own information evolves (so) stay current as to the latest public health directives, and don't take chances with your own health or the health of others in the community."
Colliers Canada, in a memo sent to tenants of 300 St. Mary Avenue and 175 Hargrave Street earlier this week, said Oscar's Deli would close for a few days "out of an abundance of caution" while areas inside the two buildings would undergo "intensive cleaning of affected office spaces and communal areas".
The voice mail on Oscar's Deli indicated the eatery is still closed.
However, the man said that even before his diagnosis was confirmed, and since then, he has been "relatively symptom free.
"I have had flu episodes in the past that have made me much sicker and have lasted longer - as I say, I have been very lucky.
"My glass is half full."
The man said a public health nurse has been checking up on him daily.
"(She) has been attentive, available and empathetic," he said. "I am appreciative of the efforts of the public health nurse assigned to monitor me. She has been terrific."
The man said he doesn't know when he will be told he can leave his residence to go back to work - or even just to go for a walk.
"Public health will decide when to award me their 'Get Out of Jail Free card'," he joked.
"They are being extremely, but appropriately, cautious. My family is, of course, adhering strictly to every directive issued."
But the man does have some advice for Winnipeggers who are wondering what they could be facing in the next few weeks.
"Public health seems to be changing their advice to the community as their own information evolves (so) stay current as to the latest public health directives, and don't take chances with your own health or the health of others in the community.
"No great wisdom there, but just some common sense."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 5:58 PM CDT: Updates layout for edition.
11:15 PM: Fixes typo