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Kingston couple who contracted COVID-19: ‘Don’t (just) trust rapid tests’

Joanne, 64, and Dave Gervais, 66, were diagnosed with COVID-19 in October. Submitted photo.

Editorial note: For information on different types of COVID-19 testing and which is appropriate for different circumstances, please read ‘Understanding COVID-19 rapid antigen tests: local experts share guidance.

A fully-vaccinated Kingston couple who both contracted COVID-19 are warning people not to just trust rapid detection tests, after a negative result gave them “false confidence.” They found out they had COVID-19 after taking a polymer chain reaction (PCR) test three days after testing negative for the virus through a rapid detection test.

“In my view, (the rapid test) is not a suitable substitute for the PCR test. It gave me false confidence that I didn’t have COVID. I went out to the world again,” said Glenburnie resident Dave Gervais.

Dave, 66, was exposed to the Delta variant for a very short time at Maple Country Home and Farm in Inverary on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021.

A retired teacher who has owned a construction business for the past three years, Dave said that he was inside the hardware store for less than 15 minutes.

“They had a shield, a washing station. I went in, masked, (but) I wasn’t religious about washing my hands,” he said.

“This [virus] is something you can give to somebody so easily.”

“It’s frustrating that you do everything right and one person didn’t—and they made you sick. We should trust our scientists, stop believing false news, wear the mask, wash our hands.”

JOANNE GERVAIS
Dave Gervais contacts clients for his business ‘Old School Builders’ on his laptop. He is now fully recovered from COVID-19. Photo by Joanne Gervais.

Dave was impressed by the store’s contact tracing, and the way they complied with COVID-19 protocols. “Everybody was following protocols, that really helped limit the spread. Everybody at Maple Country was vaccinated, but somebody in the list was not… so it was a customer (who had the virus),” he said.

Surprised and shocked that he contracted it there, Dave said, “if you had asked me where I got COVID, I would have guessed a million different places. I would never have guessed that it was Maple Country”.

“It’s just one of those things that happens—it could be anybody’s business, anybody’s restaurant,” he expressed.

FALSE CONFIDENCE

None of Dave’s work contacts contracted COVID-19, even though he met with electricians, plumbers, and clients, some of whom were older, he said, noting, “I travelled with my business partner in the car for an hour. During the week, I was contagious and didn’t know it.”

He did spread the virus a few days later to his wife of 42 years, Joanne Gervais, a professional artist, who has designed over 1,000 commercial logos and drawn over 7,500 paintings. The couple, who has lived in Glenburnie since 1985, had their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2021.

Dave didn’t start feeling symptoms—he felt “clammy”—until Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. He had the rapid test done that morning, but it came back negative.

Confident that he didn’t have COVID, he met with an elderly client the next day, but cut the meeting short because he still felt unwell.

“The symptoms hit me on Friday like a ton of bricks. I never felt anything like this before. I had thought the symptoms would be different. My (sense of) taste was fine, my (sense of) smell was fine. I was not stuffed up.

“What I had was chills, a cough, (and) my eyes felt like there was pressure behind them, pushing them out. I was sweating underneath my eyes,” Dave said.

His daughter told him to take a PCR test on Sunday, October 10. “It was the easiest thing to book online”, even though it was Thanksgiving weekend. “The people there (at the health unit) were so professional,” Dave said.

When the results came back positive for COVID-19, Dave was shocked.

“I didn’t think I had COVID — I didn’t seem to have a lot of the symptoms. I’m 100 per cent thankful that we had the vaccine. We avoided hospitalizations,” Dave said.

When Joanne found out they had COVID-19, “that was the moment (our) world stopped turning. Full stop. No work, no getting groceries, no contact with anyone. Just moaning and groaning in bed, praying the vaccines would stop symptoms from getting worse,” she recalled.

Joanne Gervais shows the homemade hot tub that her husband built for her a week before she contracted COVID-19. Photo by Dave Gervais.

DIFFERENT SYMPTOMS

While Dave’s symptoms lasted only a few days, Joanne, who has arthritis, had symptoms that were a lot more serious, with “up and down fevers” going as high as 43.7 C (110.66 F), dry mouth, dry eyes, sore muscles that were “tenfold” in intensity, coughing fits and, sore eyes.

Joanne describes her eye pain as “like somebody putting their thumbs to your eyes”.

“I listened to my wife coughing at night. Without the vaccine, she might have been one of those people ventilated. Her cough was deeper in the chest,” Dave revealed.

Joanne attributed the chills she started feeling on Saturday, October 9, to the cold weather outside. When she got home from a full day at work, she said she felt really tired.

“By mid-morning (on Sunday), I was beyond tired. When you’ve got people thinking it’s just a cold, people have to be aware (that it might be COVID-19),” Joanne said.

There were nights when Joanne had to stay upright the whole night. “You’d have a fever, and then three hours later, it’s gone, and then it comes back,” she said.

Joanne alleviated some of her symptoms and lingering COVID-19 side effects by taking dips in a custom-made small hot tub in her home, created by her husband to help her with her arthritis, and finished a week before she was diagnosed with COVID.

During Dave’s bout with COVID, he experienced loss of appetite. “The only thing I recall eating was a couple bowls of soup. I didn’t feel like eating.”

After about four days, his energy came back. Joanne said that she “was crying looking at [Dave]. I’m propped up on a pillow and he’s hauling wood.”

COVID TIPS: RICE KRISPIES AND HUMIDIFIERS

Joanne Gervais at her studio. She still suffers from chronic weakness, respiratory problems, and eyesight issues from COVID-19.
Photo by Dave Gervais.

Joanne said that some of the things that helped when she was sick include having a humidifier by her bed, a touch-less thermometer, and eating homemade Rice Krispies squares.

“When your mouth gets really dry, (the Rice Krispies squares) lubricate your throat, it stops you from coughing,” she advised, saying that it’s “better than cough syrup”.

She’d like everyone to keep their masks on, and to develop a strong support network. “Keep your friends—you never know when you’ll need them.”

While Dave has made a full recovery, seemingly with no lingering side effects, Joanne said that she is still having trouble with her eyesight and her breathing.

“I’m still having trouble focusing. The re-focus is really slow. I’m still having eye issues, breathing issues, still coughing when I lay down. I go to bed half an hour early to cough myself to sleep,” she said.

As an artist, Joanne is afraid the lingering effects of COVID-19 will affect her work permanently.

“It’s frustrating that you do everything right and one person didn’t — and they made you sick. We should trust our scientists, stop believing false news, wear the mask, wash our hands,” she voiced.

“I’m angry… It didn’t have to happen.”

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