A COVID-19 outbreak in a small town brought the pandemic closer to home for a University of Saskatchewan student.
In the days leading up to the new year, Wakaw’s long-term care home, Lakeview Pioneer Lodge, had a fast-spreading outbreak where all 44 residents tested positive for COVID-19. Six residents have since passed and several have been transferred to hospitals nearby. In addition, out of the 70 staff members, 45 were infected and have been isolating at home.
Fourth-year linguistics student Madi Kuhn is one of the continuing care assistants quarantining at home along with her mother who also works at the care home. Kuhn was shocked at the spread of COVID-19 at the facility.
“It spread like wildfire,” Kuhn said.
She says she did not anticipate getting COVID-19 because she was confident in all of the measures and precautions the care home was taking.
“I felt like we were doing everything right. We wear PPE, gowns, masks and face shields, so it was shocking when I got that positive result,” Kuhn said. “It was just overwhelming.”
Fortunately, Kuhn is finding her case to be non-debilitating with only mild symptoms. However, hearing the updates about residents passing away has been devastating for Kuhn, after working with many of them on and off for two years.
“It really is heartbreaking. I’ve only been working there for two years, but I still had this connection with them,” Kuhn said. “That has been more emotionally tolling than actually having COVID since my symptoms weren’t too severe.”
The town’s community has been helping each other out. Kuhn found her neighbours dropping off meals, and many community members offered to buy groceries or grab mail for her family as they remained isolated.
“It’s been really nice to be here in such a tight community,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn is planning to return to work once she is feeling better, hoping that she will be alongside her coworkers as many of them became infected around the same time. The seven residents currently in the hospital are planning to return to the care home as they are showing signs of recovery.
“I want to be there for the residents,” Kuhn said.
Prior to the outbreak, Kuhn gave her notice to quit her position due to difficulty balancing her work and academics, but she is hoping now to stay on as a casual employee and pick up shifts when she is available.
Overall, Kuhn has found her experience “eye opening” as she never anticipated getting COVID-19 and seeing its devastating impacts so closely. She explains that the situation has “made everything seem so much more real.”
“I hope that people realize that it can hit so close to home and that it is so easily transmittable,” Kuhn said.
“I know this is all stuff that we’ve been told over and over again, but once it does hit close to home, it just hits a whole new level of realization.”