For Danielle Kraemer the worst part of her COVID-19 diagnosis has been the mental toll.
Worrying what people will think, feeling guilt for forcing her roommates into isolation, feelings of alienation, rejection and worry of who she might have passed the virus to, have been major stressors for her.
A recent study by UBC surveyed 3,000 adults across Canada found that mental health has generally worsened with the pandemic but people who spent time in isolation or mandated quarantine were impacted more.
Those who quarantined due to contact with someone with symptoms experienced the highest rates of recent suicidal thoughts and those in isolation because they had COVID-19 symptoms themselves were at greater risk for recent self-harm.
Kraemer first felt symptoms on Nov. 22. It started as a sore throat, a couple days later she developed a dry cough and a day after that a sore lower back and low energy.
At first, Kraemer said she thought it could be premenstrual syndrome, it was so mild.
Seven days later, at the time of this interview, she said she is feeling full of energy and optimistic, although there is pressure in her head, like a head cold and she cannot smell or taste anything.
“It comes in waves when I’m feeling fatigue but definitely has been better since the day I posted [on Facebook],” she said. “My sore throat and cough have gone away.”
Another struggle for Kraemer is that she lives in a house with three other roommates.
“We’re struggling with the rule of ‘negative people must quarantine 14 days from the last day you were in contact with someone that tested positive’,” she said. “Being in a shared house, it is impossible to not be in some sort of contact. They all tested negative, although it’s still a risk being in the house with my partner and I (who tested positive).”
She said while in the house they stay six feet away from everyone, always wear a mask and sanitize and wear gloves if they are touching common surfaces.
“The nurse I talked to yesterday said that is fine and the roommates would have to quarantine 14 days from when I was not doing that–Monday the 23.”
Chief Medical Officer at Interior Health Dr. Alberta De Villiers said the cluster in Revelstoke could be partly impacted by its housing situation, where many people live in shared housing, which can expose more individuals to the virus. He said there is nothing Interior Health can do to help, however De Villiers said if one member in a household gets the virus, everyone should get tested and isolate.
On Nov. 30, the Banff-Lake Louise area had 196 active cases of COVID-19, which translates into the second-highest number of cases per capita in Alberta.
In response, Banff recently announced it’s opening up a facility with 23 isolation space rooms for those who test positive and need somewhere to get out of their shared accommodations.
Kraemer took to social media on Nov. 28 to share her experience with the community of Revelstoke.
“I hope I helped some people in Revelstoke from my post to know they aren’t alone,” she said.
While the mental stress of COVID-19 is difficult, Kraemer said she is also feeling loved and supported by strangers online, her roommates, family and friends. She is also grateful her symptoms are mild.
As of Dec. 1, there were 46 positive tests in Revelstoke, with 32 active cases and 14 people recovered. Interior Health declared a cluster in the city. Prior to Nov. 1 there were only three confirmed cases in Revelstoke since the beginning of the year.
Interior Health said most of the cases in Revelstoke are in people in their low 30s and social gatherings appear to be responsible for some of these transmissions.
However, Kraemer asked the community not to point fingers and instead look at the situation for many in the community: living in groups to be able to afford housing and working multiple jobs in the service industry.
“It’s easy to blame the boogeyman of ‘social activities’ with young people because then we can all be at home feeling like it’s our own faults for disregarding the rules rather than looking at the bigger issues of poverty, housing, job insecurity and conflicting messages about tourism,” she said.