Point of View

After positive test, Canadian Olympian Kelly VanderBeek reflects on stigma of COVID-19

"For now, I sit in my basement, largely on vacation, as my husband cares for my son and delivers my meals," says retired Canadian skier Kelly VanderBeek after contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Retired skier makes candid announcement fearing social judgment, spreading virus

Retired skier Kelly VanderBeek is seen above in a photo with her son Cooper. The Canadian Olympian is speaking out after contracting COVID-19. (Kelly VanderBeek)

Awaiting round two of their covid tests, my seven-year-old son tells his dad, "I hope I have COVID, so I can hug mom."

That statement, so simple, so sad, shows the culmination of what quarantine feels like.

And we're the lucky ones. The ones with a comfortable, large and well-equipped home. With friends who deliver food and, most notably, an asymptomatic COVID case.

I have COVID-19.

A statement I dreaded ever saying, and not for the right reasons. I feared saying it not because I feared getting it. I feared saying it because of the social judgment I expected to accompany it and for the fear of spreading it to more vulnerable people.

Now, in what I hope is the height of the second wave, I reflect on the social stigma of COVID-19.

Now I'm talking (or rather, writing)

I am a very public figure. Still, I didn't want to write or talk about this positive test.

We are supporters of mask wearing, with hand sanitizers stashed everywhere. Still, my son goes to school and we've partaken in sport and small, socially distanced gatherings.

So, where/how did we get it?

WATCH | VanderBeek wants women's sports to be a priority in son's life:

Kelly VanderBeek commits to making women’s sports a priority in her son’s life

3 years ago
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For International Women's Day we're asking you to join us and retired alpine skier Kelly VanderBeek in making a commitment to supporting girls in sport.

Hockey… most likely.

Although the effects of the pandemic have been felt far and wide, our community had been largely untouched by the disease itself. For the most part, our numbers were well under 10 cases in a valley that includes Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise, Alta. Considering that hundreds of thousands of tourists continued to pour through this area over the summer months, this fact was a source of pride.

Then, Halloween came and far too many people partied. The numbers have since skyrocketed and we're now one of the highest (if not the highest) rate of positive tests per capita in Alberta.

Scary stuff

My husband and I are both on-ice volunteers with my sons U9 team. After a Monday night practice, we received word, late Wednesday evening that someone on the ice had tested positive. We were required to go into 14 days of quarantine — all three of us.

First things first, we booked in for testing the following day, even though we knew it wouldn't shorten our quarantine period. Thankfully we did.

Test results came back (much later than expected). First for my son and husband on Saturday morning, then mine late that evening. They were negative, I was positive.

I wear a full visor on the ice. This makes it a bit harder to hear and be heard, so I get extra close to the kids. Plus, we were, more or less, told that masks weren't welcomed on the ice, even though they are mandatory everywhere else in the building.

Thankfully, I'm asymptomatic. However, that fact also showcases why contact tracing is so vital. I would never have gotten tested had I not been told I was exposed.

From what I can tell — and I called everyone I crossed paths with while potentially contagious — I didn't pass on the disease. Making me extra thankful I was practicing social distancing and mask wearing.

Now what?

For now, I sit in my basement, largely on vacation, as my husband cares for my son and delivers my meals.

I write, thankful for the care I'm receiving and for being the luckiest of COVID patients — asymptomatic.

Still, I am acutely aware of the impact isolation is having on my family. My sons emotions are frayed and my husband is exhausted, both from the workload and from the unknown. Did I pass COVID onto them? Will our quarantine be extended? And most notably, the fear of knowing symptoms may be just around the corner.

Now, with bated breath we wait for our second round of test results. Thankful, we have a breath to take.