After Sherissa Plett and her mom got sick last week and decided to get tested for COVID-19, they were both surprised to get positive results.
Even more surprising, though, was that her two sisters also tested positive — though at that point, neither had any symptoms of the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
“I know a lot of people were saying that people my age don’t get it, but when I got my results back, I think that really opened my eyes,” said 21-year-old Plett, who lives in Steinbach, about 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
She said her family’s experience shows just how differently the virus can affect people: she had a range of constantly changing symptoms, including a fever, sore throat, coughs and body aches.
“The first couple days were definitely the worst,” she said.
Her mother faced symptoms so serious that she was taken to Steinbach’s emergency room and is now recovering in a Winnipeg hospital.
As of Thursday afternoon’s update, there were nine other people in hospital in the province with COVID-19, including five in intensive care.
Since testing positive, both of Plett’s sisters had relatively minor symptoms, she said: one had a slight headache one day, and the other briefly had a bit of trouble breathing.
Their dad, meanwhile, is still self-isolating in a Winnipeg hotel to be near their mom as he waits for his own results to come back, though he wasn’t symptomatic either, she said.
And while the rest of the family now have their results back, Plett said, there are still those nagging unknowns.
No one in her family is aware of being in contact with anyone known to have COVID-19. So who got it first? When did it happen? And where?
“They really haven’t been able to trace it completely, so that’s been kind of hard, not really knowing where we got it from or how it happened,” Plett said.
“It caused me to feel really confused and really distressed, and I was focusing more on that — trying to figure out where I got it — than getting better. And it was starting to take a really big toll on me emotionally.”
Facing stigma online
In a family full of essential workers — Plett and her sisters all work at businesses in the area, and both her parents are truck drivers, though her mom hasn’t been on a trip in a month — the possibilities feel virtually endless.
Though he’s still waiting on test results, “there definitely is a possibility that it did come from my dad,” said Plett. “But there’s also a possibility that somebody from a store that I went to coughed on me and gave it to me. It’s really hard to keep track of where it has come from.”
A spokesperson for the province said Manitoba’s communications team was unable to break down the Steinbach transmission links on Thursday, since the province’s public health teams are working to investigate and manage the cases just announced.
WATCH | Steinbach woman on mom’s hospitalization, stigma after positive COVID-19 tests:
Plett said the hardest part has been the stigma coming from other people in their small southern Manitoba community. She’s trying to stay off social media, where rumours and accusations can spiral.
“It’s just been really hard because I know that people will have their opinions about it and people will try to point fingers as a comfort as well,” she said.
One small relief, though, has been hearing from other people in her community who also tested positive.
“It was good to know that there have been other people who have gone through it and have gotten through it,” she said.
For now, she and her sisters are focusing on getting better together and, where they can, finding the good in a tough situation.
“Instead of just being in our rooms, we try to spend time together in the living room and just interact with each other,” she said.
“I can definitely see that me and my sisters have gotten a lot closer through this, and it’s actually been really amazing getting to spend so much time with them.”
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