Nova Scotia

Family gets COVID for Christmas, but 'it still feels like a little party'

Owen O'Sound Lee is one of thousands of Nova Scotians who's tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. He recently shared his family's COVID-19 Christmas story on Twitter, hoping to destigmatize contracting the virus.

Owen O'Sound Lee says he hopes his story reduces stigma over virus

Musician Owen O'Sound Lee, pictured here at a rehearsal in 2020, said he's not sure where he contracted COVID-19 given how widespread the virus is in Nova Scotia. (Robert Short for CBC)

On Christmas morning, musician Owen O'Sound Lee could hear the familiar sound of his children's excited footsteps overhead, but that's as close as he could get. 

The Toronto-born songwriter and producer, who now lives in Nova Scotia, tested positive for COVID-19 using a rapid test on Christmas Eve and quickly retreated to his basement to self-isolate, hoping his wife and five kids wouldn't get infected.

He experienced the magic of Christmas morning from behind his cellphone screen.

"My kids are opening [gifts] and running to the camera screen to say, 'Daddy, look!'" Lee said. "It was so different, so awkward … it made me feel like I'm away but I'm not."

Lee is one of thousands of Nova Scotians who's tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads. He suspects that's the version of the virus that he caught.

About 15 people are in hospital for COVID-19 in the province. 

Over the weekend, Lee shared his family's COVID Christmas story on Twitter because he wants to destigmatize testing positive. 

"I just feel like there's a lot of stigma and a lot of fear around COVID … especially for those who may not have had to deal with it within their own home," he said. 

Felt lethargic and lightheaded

Lee, who is double vaccinated, said he started feeling ill on the evening of Dec. 23.

At first, he was shivering and within a few hours was feeling unusually tired. He didn't have an appetite and went to bed much earlier than usual.

The next morning he felt even worse so he took a rapid test.

"I saw the two lines and I picked up the phone," he said. "The first person I called was my wife. The second people I called were … coworkers and co-performers and just saying, 'Hey, guys, here's the situation.'"

Next, Lee said he notified Public Health and was told to isolate. The province has been advising anyone who receives a positive result using a rapid test to treat the result as a confirmed positive case of COVID. 

He spent Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day alone in his basement, but then his wife and two of his kids also tested positive.

His oldest son, who is nine, didn't experience many symptoms, but one of his triplet daughters, who just turned five, was lethargic, congested and lost her appetite.

Thankfully, Lee said she was feeling more herself within 24 hours.

"By the next day, she was up and about jumping around the house once more," he said. "So she bounced back a lot faster than my wife and I."

Lee realized he could no longer isolate in the basement since the virus had already spread, so he moved back upstairs. The family has been taking special care to wash their hands a lot and disinfect surfaces, he said. 

A very different Christmas

Before the pandemic, Christmastime for Lee's family was a big deal, complete with lots of food, family visiting and church. 

This year, the closest Lee got to his extended family was waving to them from the doorway.

"I'm a stubborn guy. I forced myself to eat," he said with a laugh. "We had family drop food off at our front porch and then ring the doorbell and run … By the time we opened it, they're standing in the middle of the street, saying 'Merry Christmas!'"

It's been five days since Lee's positive test, and he said he and his wife are beginning to feel better. They've booked PCR tests and will spend the next little while isolating. 

"I'm functional now. I can walk around," he said. "The biggest thing for me now is congestion."

On Tuesday, the provincial government announced that most students will have a couple extra days at home before in-person classes resume on Jan. 10. They were previously scheduled to return to classes on Jan. 6. 

It's welcome news to Lee, who's thankful his kids get more time to fully recover and isolate from others. 

"To see that the province also understands the value of the children being in the classrooms, it's very comforting," he said. 

Lee's triplet daughters turned five on Monday without the fanfare of a typical birthday party.

But there was still pizza, cake and lots of family time. 

"Our kids understood that we are ill and that we are not allowed to be around other people," Lee said. "But I think the beauty of my household specifically is there's seven of us here, so even when we're home by ourselves, it still feels like a little party."

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