Lunenburg man with COVID-19 urges all recent travellers to self-isolate

A Lunenburg, N.S., couple who tested positive for COVID-19 hopes speaking out about their diagnosis convinces other Nova Scotians who have recently travelled that it's imperative to self-isolate completely and immediately — even if they don't feel sick.

Duncan and Pam Crowdis returned home early from a convention in San Antonio, Texas on March 15 because, "we just knew that things weren't looking good, and we needed to get home," Duncan Crowdis told CBC's Mainstreet on Thursday. 

They both felt fine and weren't showing any symptoms upon arrival, but Crowdis said they didn't want to take any chances, so they went straight home from the airport.

If they hadn't done that, he said, "I don't know how many people we would have been infected because I felt perfectly fine."

On March 18, Crowdis developed a cough and then a low-grade fever that felt like a flu. 

On Friday, he called 811 and was sent for testing on Saturday. The next day, a nurse called with the news that he'd contracted COVID-19.

"As long as I lie down and I'm not moving, it's not bad, but as soon as I start any kind of physical activity, it starts to rear its head," said Crowdis, who is 67 years old and generally healthy. "So I'm just trying to stay quiet and see if I can get rid of this thing."

On Thursday, public health officials announced what could be the first case of community spread of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

One of the province's 73 cases can't be linked to travel or other known cases, and may be tied to a gathering on St. Patrick's Day involving about 50 people.

Duncan Crowdis

Crowdis said his wife, Pam Crowdis, has only mild cold-like symptoms at this point. She was tested on Sunday after his results came back positive.

Crowdis believes the two contracted the virus while travelling, and not at the convention itself, even though he said they were meticulous about wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes both on planes and in airports.

"We had three planes coming back from San Antonio, so that wasn't the easiest run," he said. "And we wiped down all the … surfaces — trays, buckles, seats, headrests, armrests."

Why he's speaking out

Crowdis, who has been attending the same convention in Texas for nearly 40 years, said he reached out to several friends who were also there, but none have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. 

"I'm pretty comfortable that it happened on the way home, but obviously I can't be certain," he said.

Crowdis wrote a post on Facebook on Monday sharing his diagnosis and urging his fellow Nova Scotians to listen to public health advice and self-isolate when they return home.

"I just heard so many anecdotal stories about people saying, well yeah, I'm going to self-isolate, but I'll ... get my mail at the post office, pick up some groceries," he said.

It's now been eight days since he started feeling ill, and Crowdis said he still has a cough and a temperature that's hovering around 38 C. 

He and his wife have been assigned a public health case worker who calls them every day.

"They give us ideas on what we can do, and what we should be looking for, so for anyone who gets this thing, the support is phenomenal at this point at least," he said.

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