My alarm went off at 5 a.m. as usual and I was getting ready to go to work when I noticed the message on my phone. My aunt’s son who was my classmate and also living with me in the same house, texted me at 5:30 a.m.
He had just found out that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
When I got to know this bad news in the early morning, I was shocked and upset. I didn’t know what I should do. We were both living together in the basement suite, which had two bedrooms but one washroom. How was I going to stay safe, and how was I going to take care of him?
Taking care of my cousin, the son of my mother’s sister, was sort of my job. We both came to Canada together as international students in 2019. His parents sent him Canada to study specifically because I would be there to take care of him. In India he never lived away from his parents and that is why we planned come to Canada together. We had even chosen the same program of study in the same institute.
I knew it wasn’t my fault that he had become infected, but I still felt responsible and I was worried for his health. At this time, people in India were dying from the virus by the thousands. What would his family back in India feel?
I was supposed to be at my job by 6:30 a.m. I work at SAIT as a Student Safety Ambassador. I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling ok, Should I go? I was little confused. But my duty stopped me and I realized I must not go there. As a Student Safety Ambassador at SAIT, the safety of students and staff was my number one priority. If I had gone there knowing, I had been a close contact of someone who had tested positive, it would have been against my job policy and it would also be a violation of Alberta’s public health orders. I called to say I couldn’t come into work and explained l the situation.
A few hours later, I received a phone call from an Alberta Health Services official asking me to stay at home and to not even go outside. AHS considered me as a close contact because I was using the same washroom that my cousin was using.
I made an appointment to get a COVID test immediately. I got an appointment for that evening, at 3:00 p.m. AHS told me not to use public transit to get the test done. I had to walk and it took me nearly an hour to get there from my house.
After coming home, I sanitized the house and made dinner for my cousin. At this point, he was isolating in his room and he was coughing and had a runny nose.
My whole night passed in worry. I was thinking, if I get positive for COVID, and get really sick, who would care of us? I was worried about getting my groceries. I was worried about how I would pay my rent because if I did not have a job, it would be really hard for me to manage my expenses.
The next morning my test result came at 5:30 a.m.
My relief was enormous. But also, my worries returned. I was negative, but for how long? My cousin and I were still sharing a washroom.
From that day on, I started wearing a mask at home.
I put on my mask on while making food for myself and my cousin. When the meal was ready, I put it outside my cousin’s room and knocked on his door, then walked away before he opened it. As I ate my own supper, I thought about my day, and the next days: I would be stuck at home, sanitizing the house, and doing my school assignments and wondering when I’d get COVID.
AHS called again later that day and suggested that I move to a hotel if I was worried about getting the virus. I packed my bag with lot of clothes, some snacks and few books that I love to read and got ready to move to hotel. I made some food and packed it to take with me.
Income Support Centre booked a ride to get me to the hotel. ISC is providing services to those who need assistance to find accommodation for their isolation. They are responsible for providing transportation and food at the hotel. Upon the successfully completion of quarantine, they provide $625 in financial support to quarantined individual.
The gentleman from ISC was waiting outside my house at the scheduled time. He was so nice. He helped me to put my luggage into the car. He introduced himself to me his name was Andre. He gave me a visiting card, which told me he was Andre Roy. He offered me a coffee.
I could hardly believe it was only three days since I found out about my cousin’s test results. As we drove, I observed the weather was so nice outside, it was raining lightly and the wind was blowing. On the way to hotel, we talked about the stunning weather outside, which I could not enjoy.
“The Government of Alberta hired us to help with the quarantine,” Roy explained.
“Working with this job, I have learned how to deal with people who are scared, confused and unsure what to do when they have to quarantine or had COVID and I could see the fear in their eyes because they had to leave their houses, their loved ones and even their kids,” he said.
I was really grateful for Roy and this service, because I did not know how I would get to the hotel otherwise Alberta Support Centre called me and booked a ride for me. I am an international student, which means I can work only 20 hours a week. After getting this free service I could able to save some money.
Roy said, “COVID does not care, it didn’t matter which income backet you are. We had all sorts of people in all areas that needed to go for quarantine and I have noticed virus really affected people differently and it didn’t matter what age group. Some people were healthy and had mild symptoms and others were in rough shape.”
His stories made me feel better, because he made me feel that I was not alone. Other people were going through similar experience too, and worse ones.
“I was seeing certain families and they really wanted that person out of the house, out of fear. I had one lady in tears because of her family and it was scared they just said get out of the house,” he said.
When we said goodbye at the hotel, I was very grateful to have met Roy.
My hotel was the Ramada Plaza, located in the centre of downtown. The hotel had a nice pool and a clean and big hallway. A cart was available at the hotel entrance to get the luggage upstairs into the room and there were two elevators straight to hotel entrance.
My hotel room was on the seventh floor. I took the key to the room and went upstairs. The room had a microwave and other necessities. The food in the hotel was also free. They delivered my breakfast, lunch and dinner outside the room and knocked on the door as I had been doing for my cousin.
Being a vegetarian, I didn’t have many options. Most of the food they served me, I put outside for garbage the next morning. There was no problem with the food. It was, I’m sure, very good food. I was just not used to that kind of food.
For two or three days I ate just bread and fruits, and drank coffee. Back in June 2, 2021, I had lost my job because of COVID and even though I was working now, I thought ordering food from a restaurant would be expensive so I didn’t order anything.
After three days, one of my friends delivered home made food for me at the hotel.
The food was so delicious and I felt so satisfied after eating that food. It fulfilled my appetite for two three days.
While eating that food made and delivered with love, I thought about my father. When I was in India, my dad used to say that we know the value of money only when we start earning ourselves, and we know the value of food only when we have to go hungry.
Valentine Ogoke, an on-duty crew member at Ramada Plaza hotel who is responsible for setting up rooms for visitors, explained the hotel provided free food and menu options to encourage people to follow AHS safety protocols.
Violating the protocols would put others, including hotel staff members at risk.
“We have isolation on a different floor, away from people who are visiting the hotel. In order to maintain safety, we have staff members cleaning every surface in every 15 minutes,” said Ogoke.
Ogoke stressed that people who are in isolation have to pay a fine to the Alberta government If they leave their room for any reason whatsoever during the quarantine.
I kept myself busy doing school assignments. I also talked to my family in the morning and evening. My hotel had a view of the indoor swimming pool, so when I got sad sitting inside the room, I looked at the children playing in the swimming pool.
On day seventh of my isolation, I had a second COVID test scheduled. Roy picked me again from the hotel to take me to the test centre.
I was really happy to see him again. We had only met once before, but he felt like a friend
The test results Negative! – came a day later. My cousin was also well now and my quarantine was over.
I packed my few things and got ready to come home. I was excited to go back home but I was also a little upset on the day I finished my quarantine because I was already missing my hotel room. I was not unhappy at the hotel, and spent a lot of time getting to know that room. The room had two nice beds, a landline phone and lamp on a table with a chair.
I do attach to little things in a short time. I made a short video of my room to keep this memory with me in future.
As I traveled home, I thought about the conversation I had with Andre Roy. One time, he quoted Epictetus: “Circumstances don’t make the man. They only reveal him to themselves.”
I was seeing certain families and they really wanted that person out of the house, out of fear. I had one lady in tears because of her family and it was scared they just said get out of the house. – Andre Roy
It’s really true, especially in this pandemic. It’s how you react to the situation that makes a difference.
My quarantine was not fun but it kept the people safe whom I loved and care. I talked with my family and ate the food my friend prepared for me. I felt loved and safe too.
And that’s what matters, isn’t it?