UVic student with symptoms, in direct contact with a positive case denied COVID-19 testing

Campus Local News Uncategorized

After hearing their classmate tested positive for COVID-19, the student spent hours on the phone with 8-1-1

Graphic by Darian Lee

At least one student in class with the first UVic student to test positive yesterday is experiencing significant symptoms of COVID-19. However, due to CDC restrictions, she was unable to qualify for testing to confirm if she has the virus.

“I have all the symptoms of COVID-19 and preexisting asthma, so I’m not feeling well to say the least,” Rebecca*, who spoke with the Martlet on the condition of anonymity, said.  

This follows shortly after the news of UVic’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. According to Island Health, students who attended Psych 300B, Psych 351 B, and Biol 367 on March 12 may have been exposed to COVID-19. Students in the classes have been asked to self isolate and monitor their symptoms for 14 days. 

Rebecca has been calling 8-1-1 and her family physician ever since she was informed by UVic last night around 6 p.m. that her classmate had tested positive. She completed the COVID-19 online self-assessment tool, and was told to isolate for 14 days.

She did not get through on 8-1-1, but was able to reach her physician at 11 a.m. the next morning. Rebecca’s doctor informed her that she did not qualify to get a COVID-19 test but should self isolate, and was prescribed another inhaler for her asthma. 

Rebecca started isolating on March 16, when the symptoms started. On the morning of March 20, Rebecca said she would rate her health at a six on a scale of one to 10 — with one being healthy and 10 needing to be hospitalized immediately. 

“I don’t need to be in the hospital because I am a relatively healthy individual,” she said. “But I am definitely sick.”

Testing and isolation measures currently in place in the province have limited access to the test. At the moment, B.C. is only testing for COVID-19 if people are hospitalized or likely to be hospitalized, health care workers, residents of long term care facilities, or are part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak. Because of these restrictions, CTV news reported that it is impossible to know how many cases of COVID-19 there are in B.C.

“The message for any other student who has symptoms is to monitor yourself closely and, even if you have mild symptoms, self isolate immediately for 14 days,” said Cheryl Bloxham on behalf of Island Health in an email to the Martlet. “Assume that any signs of respiratory illness may be COVID-19 at this time and take immediate action to protect others by self isolating and practicing social distancing.”

Everyone in B.C. is requested to follow strict social distancing measures by the Provincial Health Officer, including keeping one to two metres away from anyone and restricting social gatherings to only one or two people or family. 

“The risk of this virus is everywhere in B.C. and everywhere in Canada and around the world,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a press conference on March 20. “The reasons that we’re doing this is so that we can build a firewall and prevent transmission of this virus between us so that we can prevent the people who are most susceptible to dying from this disease from being exposed to it in the first place.”

Another student conveyed a similar experience with 8-1-1 and is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, but was not in any of the classes with the student who tested positive. 

“I only felt that I had a cold, so I continued to do my normal school routine until Friday when I was so sick that I had to stay home,” Sam* said. “Seven days later, I constantly feel like I have just smoked six cigarettes.”

Both Sam and Rebecca don’t know if they actually have COVID-19, but they have self isolated out of caution. Sam’s main symptoms are chest pains and a cough, which have both gotten worse since Monday. 

“Both times that I have called the health offices, the people that I spoke with were incredibly kind, patient, and caring,” Sam said. “Huge thank you to them for keeping this situation calm.”

Although cases in other countries have suggested that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly, new numbers out of France and the U.S. are warning that young people are not immune. In Toronto, CBC reported a 25-year-old is recently recovering after being hospitalized and experiencing “the most incredible pain” from COVID-19. 

At the time of writing, B.C. has confirmed 348 total cases, including 30 on Vancouver Island of COVID-19. The province is now in a state of emergency. 

Health officials are encouraging people to wash their hands and practice social distancing, and for anyone exhibiting symptoms to stay home. For more information, please visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.