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Castlegar COVID-19 sufferer comes forward to warn public

What is a beach movie night without Lysol, face mask, gloves and hand sanitizer?

A local woman is telling her COVID-19 story in an attempt to underscore that a) the virus is, in fact, in our community and b) young, healthy people are not immune.

Kit LaTigre is in her 30s, and now is in self-quarantine at her home in the Arrow Lakes Marina condos. Her COVID-19 diagnosis is a ‘presumptive positive’ – her recent travels, combined with the fact that she’s exhibiting all the symptoms, are enough for authorities to consider her positive without putting other patients and LaTigre herself at greater risk by making her come in for testing.

‘I don’t get sick very often – maybe a cold or flu every couple of years or so,” LaTigre said in telephone interview from her home. “I have no health problems, no issues at all, and I took all the precautions while I was travelling. I did everything I could have possibly done, and I still got sick.”

LaTigre is sole proprietor of a luxury leisure travel company online, and was already in northern Italy when the virus hit the fan, as it were.

“I was on my way to a travel conference in Germany on the third,” she said, adding this was one of the largest travel conferences in the world drawing more than 100,000 people. “When they cancelled that on the first, that was when I started thinking that maybe this was more serious than I thought.”

She flew from Milan to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Vancouver, then from Vancouver home to Castlegar – all the while talking to her family at home to prepare for quarantine when she got home on March 15.

“I was starting to get sick (on the way home), I had a sore throat, but I didn’t realize yet – I thought it was the dry, recycled air in the plane, allergies, and having been at a smoky gathering the night before.”

She said she had to fill out a questionnaire in Italy, and a police declaration about her reasons for travel, but faced virtually no controls (like taking temperatures before allowing flight boarding, as other countries are doing) in either Germany or Canada.

She said airline chaos caused her to miss her connecting flight to Castlegar, so she was stranded in Vancouver for two days, being forced to stand in line for hours to rebook her flight as the website and phone lines were down.

There is no way to know how many people she came in contact with in her efforts to get home and self-isolate.

She contacted IHA while in Vancouver, and received a call from the Interior Health Communicable Disease Unit upon her arrival home, at which point she provided them with a detailed itinerary of her travels – and got days of mixed messages about testing before she was finally told to just stay home.

“How long will I be contagious for? They don’t have any answers for me,” she said, adding that her significant other is in quarantine with her. “I’m trying very hard not to make him sick – he’s self-quarantining as well.”

LaTigre spent weeks quite ill, but seems to be very much on the mend – she said it was unnerving that it lasted so long – but she and her honey, Michael, are doing their level best to make the most of the situation.

“I’ve posted a quarantine sign on my door, so no one’s come a knockin’, and it’s actually been really nice,” she said. “It’s easy to stay away from people way out here, and we have people bringing us deliveries when we need them.

“When do we get this kind of downtime?” she said. “I’m really enjoying the quality time with my sweetheart.”

They’re trying to have as much fun with the situation as they can – the drink of choice at LaTigre’s place is Corona (ironic vengeance) and the night of this interview, they were gearing up for a “beach” movie night: beach towels, margueritas, flip-flops … and Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves and masks for that extra helping of romance.

Making the best of it does not translate to a cavalier or flippant attitude regarding COVID-19 – while it’s looking like LaTigre will survive, her fledgling travel business may not, and she has no way of knowing how long it will be before she is fully recovered.

“In Italy, doctors literally have to decide who gets to live because it’s so bad, and they’re so overwhelmed,” LaTigre said, adding the same could happen here if we don’t flatten the curve in time. “It’s important young people take this seriously – you can be the reason someone around you lives or dies. Also, don’t brush off just a little cough or sniffle, or even just allergies. It’s hard to tell at first, so it’s better to be safe and self-isolate.

“We have to be our own support system to protect everyone’s health – everyone has to take care of everyone.”