Canadian Olympian Kelly VanderBeek reflects on COVID-19 stigma after testing positive

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While waiting for the second round of their covid tests, my seven year old son tells his dad, “I hope I have COVID, so I can kiss mom.
This statement, so simple, so sad, shows the climax of what midlife looks like.

And we are the lucky ones. Those with a comfortable, large and well-equipped house. With friends delivering food and, most importantly, an asymptomatic COVID case.

I have COVID-19.

A statement I was afraid to ever say, and not for the right reasons. I was afraid to say it not because I was afraid to get it. I was afraid to say it because of the social judgment that I expected to accompany it and for fear of spreading it to more vulnerable people.

Now, in what I hope is the height of Wave 2, I reflect on the social stigma of COVID-19.

Now I speak (or rather I write)

I am a very public figure. Still, I didn’t want to write or talk about this positive test.

We are supporters of wearing masks, with hand sanitizers stashed all over the place. Still, my son goes to school and we played sports and small socially distant gatherings.

So where / how did we get it?

WATCH | VanderBeek wants women’s sport to be a priority in his son’s life:

On International Women’s Day, we ask you to join us and retired alpine skier Kelly VanderBeek in making a commitment to supporting girls in sport. 0:55

Hockey… most likely.

While the effects of the pandemic have been felt everywhere, our community has been largely spared from the disease itself. For the most part, our numbers were well below 10 cases in a valley that includes Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise, Alta. Considering that hundreds of thousands of tourists continued to flock to this region during the summer months, this fact was a source of pride.

Then Halloween arrived and way too many people celebrated. The numbers have since skyrocketed and we are now one of the highest (if not the highest) positive per capita test rates in Alberta.

Scary stuff

My husband and I both volunteer on the ice with my son’s U9 team. After a Monday night practice, we learned late Wednesday night that someone on the ice had tested positive. We had to go through 14 days of quarantine – all three.

First, we booked for testing the next day, although we knew this wouldn’t shorten our quarantine period. Fortunately, we did.

The test results returned (much later than expected). First for my son and my husband on Saturday morning, then mine late in the evening. They were negative, I was positive.

I wear a full visor on the ice. It makes it a little harder to hear and be heard, so I get closer to the kids. Also, we were told more or less that masks are not welcome on the ice, although they are mandatory everywhere else in the building.

Fortunately, I am asymptomatic. However, this fact also shows why contact tracing is so vital. I would never have been tested if I had not been told I had been exposed.

From what I can tell – and I called everyone I came across when they were potentially contagious – I did not transmit the disease. Which makes me even more grateful for practicing social distancing and wearing a mask.

Now what?

For now, I sit in my basement, largely on vacation, while my husband looks after my son and delivers my meals.

I write, grateful for the care I receive and for being the luckiest of the COVID patients – asymptomatic.

Yet I am well aware of the impact of isolation on my family. My son’s emotions are frayed and my husband is exhausted from both the workload and the unknown. Have I passed COVID to them? Will our quarantine be extended? And most notably, the fear of knowing the symptoms can be imminent.

Now, panting, we await our second set of test results. Fortunately, we have a breath to take.

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