A screen shot of the statistical map on covid19stats.alberta.ca on March 27 shows zero cases in Ponoka, six in Wetaskiwin County, two in Camrose and Camrose County, two in Lacombe, and one in Stettler and Stettler County.

Ponoka resident’s negative COVID-19 test not ‘all that reassuring’

There are no confirmed cases in Ponoka as of 12 p.m. on March 27

A Ponoka resident, who works at a local trucking company, concerned he may have contracted COVID-19 received a negative test result on March 25, but says he doesn’t feel very reassured.

During the whole process, with the situation changing daily, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions.

“It’s a weird feeling,” said Mark Olsen, 33.

After receiving his negative result, he did feel relieved, but the whole situation was stressful, and he still feels it’s “looming” over him and his wife, Deborah.

“I was super concerned (at the beginning) that we had COVID-19 going around work and I’m glad that it probably wasn’t.”

Olsen says himself, his wife and his co-workers were exhibiting symptoms he believes were indicative of COVID-19 as early as March 12.

At that time, the only ones being tested were those who had recently travelled, but the rules changed by the weekend.

READ MORE: Province announces change in COVID-19 testing

Two co-workers were diagnosed with bronchitis within a day of each other and since then were allowed to return to work, he says.

“When I became ill with symptoms I called 811 and was told to return to work but to try to avoid contact with anyone and to call back the next day if my symptoms got worse.”

The next day Olsen says he was unable to reach a person at 811.

After that, his wife also become sick with symptoms including shortness of breath, acute fatigue and a cough.

Because him and his wife hadn’t travelled recently and weren’t directly linked to a confirmed case, the AHS self assessment tool still didn’t recommend testing or contacting AHS.

Because of this, Olsen was concerned the reported numbers of cases were potentially “wildly inaccurate.”

When Olsen went into self-isolation on March 17, so did his wife, to ensure she couldn’t potentially spread the virus in her workplace.

“We live in a very small house and it would’ve been impossible to not share air.”

On Saturday, March 21, he got through to 811, and he was tested at a testing station in Red Deer the next morning.

However, Olsen says it took so long to get in to be tested that most of his symptoms were gone by then.

The nurse who referred him told him a test may not produce an accurate result if you don’t have symptoms as it’s hard to get a positive if the “viral load” isn’t high enough.

“She also mentioned that the script/rules for referring people for tests changes up to three times a day and that they’re frustrated, too,” said Olsen.

“We can only be sure that I wasn’t sick with it when the test was taken so it doesn’t feel all that reassuring and it leaves the door open to getting sick,” he said.

His wife was called in and went for testing on March 24.

“It would be nice to believe I had it and my wife and I both just had an easy time. Instead it’s still looming like an inevitability and that’s stressful.”

Awaiting his results was difficult too, as he wasn’t given a clear timeline on how long it might take.

“The best I got was at the testing station they told the person in the car next to mine that it would be up to five days but the nurse said it probably would be in the next day or two if it was positive.”

Olsen says the stress while waiting was two-fold.

“On the one hand, it felt pointless,” he said, as he wasn’t sure it even mattered if he had COVID-19 or just a regular cold, as he didn’t self-isolate until the 17th.

“On the other hand a week ago I really would’ve liked to have been able to prove to fellow Ponoka residents that the disease was here and that they ought to take it seriously.”

Now, Olsen is hoping at least getting tested may be helpful in the long run.

“Considering how long term this crisis is supposed to carry on that sort of data will be important,” said Olsen.

”It feels like at least I’ve contributed to the data even if we aren’t sure exactly how accurate or meaningful a test is.”

What Olsen is really interested in is seeing if or when antibody tests are rolled out, which would show how many people had the virus and never even knew it.

Olsen is currently awaiting his wife’s test result.

As of mid-day on March 26, there were 37 confirmed cases in the central zone, but zero cases in Ponoka and Ponoka County.

As of March 25, 36, 660 tests for COVID-19 had been completed in Alberta, with 486 positive results and 36,174 negative.

Current recommendations and information related to COVID-19 can be found at alberta.ca/COVID19.

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