A Calgary man staying at one of the province’s self-isolation hotel rooms says he’s thankful for the government-funded lodging and hopes others in need take advantage of the program.
Michael Dargie’s girlfriend tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 13. He tested negative but wasn’t able to properly isolate because they live in a small home.
“I called 811 and they did a little interview with me and said, ‘We have a program where you can stay in a hotel for the duration of your quarantine if you don’t have another place to go.’ And I said, ‘Sign me up!’” Dargie said from his downtown hotel room on Monday.
Within a day, Dargie was staying at what he calls “Camp COVID.” It’s one of 851 hotel rooms in Calgary the province has secured for people to self-isolate, free of charge, with meals provided.
“The regular food is amazing. It’s really good,” Dargie said.
Alberta Health said Monday that while the isolation hotel program is typically meant for those who have tested positive for the virus, “the criteria is not restricted to the individual who is COVID-positive.”
“When an individual in a household tests positive for COVID-19, Alberta Health Services assesses who would best be able to isolate outside of their home. This could be residents who’ve tested positive or potentially residents that have still test negative,” the health authority said.
Dargie is grateful for the place to stay and sees it as provincial money well spent on preventing further spread of COVID-19.
“Particularly if you compare it to what it would cost to be in a hospital and what it would cost to have people that can’t get help and the care that they need, and the stress we are putting on the health-care system,” Dargie said.
“So it’s a very small amount and I just think it’s such a great program to help everybody in this whole situation.”
Anyone self-isolating at the hotels are not allowed to leave their rooms unless they have a medical appointment. Dargie said he’s been catching up on a lot of reading and he is still able to work with clients from his laptop.
He’s also been documenting his stay through a blog.
Dargie will finish his quarantine period on Wednesday but he’s not sure where he’ll go as his girlfriend is still recovering. She was hospitalized as a result of her COVID-19 symptoms but is on the mend.
“I’m mostly looking forward to being able to get back to her and help her through this, that’s really the biggest thing that’s on my mind right now,” he said.
“When you’re separated from your loved ones during this thing, it’s so hard to not be able to be there for them.”
The province said as of Friday, 687 people in had used self-isolation hotels since May of 2020. That’s up from just a few dozen reported in December.
Interim Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver attributes the recent increase to an awareness campaign launched in December.
“The uptake has increased. As the radio broadcasts got out and the door knocking to the homes got out and the care packages with the multi-language information got out, there is better uptake now,” he said.
The outreach campaign was designed to raise awareness in communities with high rates of COVID-19 transmission.
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