Inside the isolation hotel: Blogger writes about his experience and gives tips for others

When Calgary artist Michael Dargie found out his partner tested positive for COVID-19, he had nowhere to go to self-isolate, so he checked into a local hotel and blogged about isolation.

Calgary artist Michael Dargie says those checking in should pack lots of books, movies

Calgary artist Michael Dargie is one of 687 Albertans who will have stayed in a designated self-isolation hotel since the province launched the free program last May. (Michael Dargie)

We've all gone through some type of lockdown the last 10 months, which has led to some common anecdotes — baking bread, Zoom calls and bingeing the latest Netflix doc.

But life for those that need to quarantine by themselves looks a little different, especially if it's done in a hotel room.

Calgary artist Michael Dargie found out his partner tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 14 and since he had nowhere to go to self-isolate, he checked into a local hotel.

He is one of nearly 700 Albertans who have stayed in a designated self-isolation hotel since the province launched the free program last May. There are seven such hotels in Calgary.

Dargie says you can't leave the room or open the door, unless you're getting meals or putting out dirty dishes. (Michael Dargie)

"I ended up calling 811 after I got my negative test. My girlfriend tested positive. I tested negative and I couldn't go home," he told  The Homestretch.

So within an hour, Dargie grabbed his things and vacated to the Ramada Plaza Downtown, where he has been for 10 days. 

He was supposed to be released Wednesday, but says he will be staying a few more days due to his partner having prolonged symptoms. 

What's it like?

Pretty much the only rule during the stay is that you can't leave your room or have anyone over, says Dargie.

However you can still feel close to your friends by receiving care packages and letters.

"Deliveries can be made to the front desk of the hotel if you arrange it with them ahead of time," he said.

"If you get here and you discover you've forgotten something, you can call somebody.… The front desk has been trained specifically to get stuff to use safely up in your room."

And in terms of food, Dargie says you order through the hotel's kitchen. 

"They've got a pretty good menu here at the Ramada and I get to choose sort of my meals for the day before. And they're healthy," he said.

He says the hotel offers a decent menu and that you get to choose what you want the night before. (Michael Dargie)

But he says make sure you really think about any dietary restrictions when you come in to isolate.

"It will affect how you get fed during the course of your quarantine. So, for example, I wish that I had mentioned perhaps low-sodium," he said.

How do you keep busy?

Something that has come out of the experience, was the inspiration to start blogging again, said Dargie, who is also the owner of creative agency, Make More Creative.

He now posts about his isolation journey, which is called "Camp Covid." 

"Just finding the ridiculous situation I find myself in and exploring the characters that, you know, exist in my head. I found it was a lot of fun to sort of rekindle that," he said.

Dargie says he has been blogging about his "Adventures at Camp Covid" and finds it helps stave off boredom. (Michael Dargie )

And readers have been keeping up, which Dargie says he appreciates.

"I guess it makes me feel good that people are enjoying the humour I'm finding in this situation, because I think all too often, especially lately, it's been doom and gloom," he said.

And besides writing about a desk lamp named "Brad," he says the situation has also rekindled his love for art.

"I've started drawing again, so I used to draw a lot and over the course of my career, and that's sort of gone away more as I've hired it out for people," he said.

"I've got some tutorials online that I'm following just to get the skills back up."

Advice for people entering?

He says tip number one is to bring more than you think you need — like books, movies and toothpaste. 

"If you have hobbies, bring them with you because you've got nothing but time. Or if you want to learn a new hobby, you know, be prepared for that," he said. 

"You cannot leave the room, so you've got to sort of make your own fun."

And most importantly, Dargie says to have fun and try to enjoy your time there. (Michael Dargie )

He also says those who have to isolate shouldn't worry and that his experience has been great.

"You can have a lot of fun with it. The hotel people are so nice and Alberta Health is amazing and they call regularly for mental health check-ins," he said. 

"I mean, we have to do everything we can to take the pressure off the health care system, and this is just a great way to do it." 

With files from The Homestretch.


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