Nova Scotia

N.S. nursing home worker with COVID-19 urges taking physical distancing seriously

Hughena Gear is a continuing care assistant at Magnolia Continuing Care in Enfield, N.S. She's not sure how she became infected with COVID-19, but her greatest fear is that she's made a resident sick.

Hughena Gear works at Magnolia Continuing Care in Enfield, N.S.

Hughena Gear is a continuing care assistant at Magnolia Continuing Care. She's not sure how she contracted COVID-19, but her greatest fear is that she passed it on to a resident. (CBC)

An employee of Magnolia Continuing Care in Enfield, N.S., who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 is urging all Nova Scotians to take physical distancing measures seriously — for the health of seniors.

Hughena Gear, a continuing care assistant, is one of two workers and two residents at the home who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and Monday. 

"It's crazy to me, the attitudes I've seen from some people — not within my workplace — that just think they're not going to get it," Gear said. 

The 49-year-old, who has a heart condition, began feeling feverish on Thursday and was sent home.  On Saturday she went to the Cobequid ER for what she thought was a sinus infection.

"The doctor came, spoke to me for probably four or five minutes and said that he believed that I should be tested for COVID, so he asked my permission. I gave it to him," Gear told CBC News. 

"While I wasn't in denial, to tell you the truth, I was surprised because ... I really thought it was a different line of symptoms that I would have been looking for."

Magnolia Continuing Care is in Enfield, N.S. (Magnolia Continuing Care)

Magnolia is a collection of cottages, and about a dozen or so residents live in each building. Gear works primarily in the cottage where two residents were infected with COVID-19. Her job entails helping residents with everything from meals to bathing. 

Gear, who hasn't travelled, and took precautions such as not seeing her children or grandchildren in weeks, doesn't know where or how she caught virus. Her greatest fear is that she may have made a resident sick.

"We worry constantly … it would be an awful thing to live with if something happens to them," Gear said.

Gear said workers were screened twice a day before shifts, which involved having their temperatures taken. She said workers had to leave lunch bags, cell phones and jackets in their staff room.

She said everyone was constantly washing their hands and sanitizing surfaces.

"Just every precaution you could possibly take, we took," she said.

Tracey Tulloch is a spokesperson for Magnolia Continuing Care in Enfield, N.S. (Tracey Tulloch)

Tracey Tulloch, a spokesperson for Magnolia, said COVID-19 precautions began early. 

Some of those measures included limiting deliveries and cancelling group activities.

Tulloch said there are concerns a third resident might be getting sick.

"We have another resident who today presented with symptoms of a cough," Tulloch told CBC News on Tuesday.

Tulloch said staff have been experiencing "more notable symptoms" than the residents. None of them has been hospitalized.

"So considering their ages they're doing quite well," Tulloch said.

Magnolia has tested all 70 of its residents for COVID-19 and is in the process of testing all of its staff.

Seven other employees who worked alongside the infected workers have tested negative, but they're staying home as a precaution.

Magnolia has hired the Victorian Order of Nurses to help. And in addition to earlier precautions, staff are now using personal protective equipment.

'Like an extremely bad flu'

Gear said she's been resting a lot and taking Tylenol. She said she has no appetite and feels worn out.

"It's just like an extremely bad flu," Gear said.

"The last couple of days, my chest is a little tight and if I over-exert I get short of breath, so I'm really trying to maintain resting because I don't want to put myself into the next category."

Gear said her workplace has called every day to check in on her wellbeing.

"Before my manager hangs up, she says, 'Is there anything that you need or that I can do for you?' I mean, you can't ask for any more that that."