By Connor Lynch
OXFORD MILLS — When Kemptville-area market gardener and meat producer Luke Swale landed in his native New Zealand in mid-February, people were still making “the bottle of beer jokes” about COVID-19 and the coronavirus, he said. A survey reported as many as 40 per cent of Americans wouldn’t buy Corona beer because of the name association.
“When we left (New Zealand), people still had toilet paper,” he said. It was his first trip to New Zealand in over eight years and one he’d spent over a year planning.
After a few weeks on holiday, the 40-year-old and his wife and two kids, ages 9 and 13, were on a 24-hour trip back to Canada on March 12.
They had hand sanitizer and were washing their hands, but in hindsight, contamination signs were obvious during the several hours in busy airport: An Air Canada lounge in Vancouver had a fill your own beer tap; he bought a treat for his daughter from a vending machine; his wife was in a washroom as a woman next to her was “hacking and coughing up a storm.” Swale started coughing on the Vancouver flight to Ottawa that day.
Those initial symptoms and signs weren’t enough to convince him he was sick. His wife and the kids bounced back from symptoms within two days and were never tested.
But after a week at home, he had a whole constellation of symptoms: Aching joints “like somebody had wedged something in there;” soreness in his chest and reduced lung capacity; fatigue; headaches that could last all day; and even a touch of diarrhea. He spent two days trying to get through to Telehealth, then reached out to his local health unit, which directed him to his family doctor.
He was impressed that after he was sent to Ottawa’s Brewer Park COVID-19 testing site on March 23, he was in and out in 30 minutes (Ottawa Public Health cautions that wait times could be as long as several hours). A long swab wielded by a health care worker in full kit, mask and gloves, went into the back of his nose. It didn’t exactly hurt, he said, though it was uncomfortable. “Wouldn’t want to take my kids to get it done.”
Confirmation came nine days after the test: He had COVID-19. The family was under quarantine anyway after getting back from New Zealand (though the federal government didn’t introduce mandatory quarantining until March 25). They home-school their kids and Swale and his wife both work from home.
Swale was clear of symptoms by April 6. As of April 29, 49 people aged 40-59 had died of COVID-19 in Ontario, out of 1,082.
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