Salmon Arm residents Brent and Rose-Marie Kowk, with dog Winnie, have been in government-enforced quarantine in France since mid-March. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm man offers insight, advice from quarantine in France

“People will be sent home to die and they’ll die alone because none of their family will be able to go and be with them.”

Currently living in one of the country’s worst hit by COVID-19, Brent Kowk has this advice for anyone questioning the seriousness of the virus or measures in place to prevent its spread: stay put.

Brent and wife Rose-Marie left Salmon Arm for France at end of January for a three-month visit with family. Around the same time, France’s first five cases of COVID-19 were identified in Bordeaux.

On March 16, the nation went under lockdown for 15 days, which has since expanded to May 11. Meanwhile, the nation, as of April 17, had recorded about 165,000 cases of COVID-19; 17,920 people were reported to have died from the virus, while approximately 32,900 had recovered.

With borders closed, flights cancelled and the lockdown in place, the Kowk’s are staying put themselves in a small rural community south of Nantes.

Read more: COVID-19: Internationally renowned virus specialist raised in Salmon Arm provides hopeful news, warning

Read more: World update: Orange exports surge; Nations pan U.S. decision to de-fund WHO

Brent, who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital in maintenance, said when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for Canadians to return home while they still could, Rose-Marie, who is from France and is also a Canadian citizen, was in the process of renewing her passport.

“So I’d have had to leave her here and come home on my own, so I said no, I’ll stay,” said Brent.

While the number of COVID-19 cases is higher in France’s more populated urban areas, Brent said restrictions are being enforced throughout the country.

“For us to go out we have to print out an ‘excuse form’ I will say, fill it out and then go and do what it is,” Brent explained, adding the form must also include how long you’re going to be out. Only one person can be out at a time and, if you’re caught by police without the form, you could be fined 135 Euro (about $206 Cdn.)

Brent said the quarantine was put in place after the nation was unable to control the spread of the virus through physical distancing. Kowk suggested that the mandatory quarantine might have to do how friendly the French are, greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek or a handshake.

“You can meet a person three times in a day and they’ll shake your hand every time…,” said Kowk. “That’s the way they are right, so it spread pretty fast once it caught here and it didn’t seem to slow down at all, and that’s when the government had to finally step in and then pretty much quarantine us in our homes.”

However, from what he has seen in the news and through social media, Kowk said efforts to flatten the curve through physical distancing and other restrictions appear to be working in Canada.

“It looks like you could maybe end it a lot earlier than we’re going to end it because of the big, big numbers here,” said Kowk. “There’s still more than 500 people a day dying here in France from this. And that’s dropped dramatically from last week when we were having more than 1,000 a day die.”

Read more: Limited data on ventilator use for COVID-19 patients: respiratory therapist

Read more: #TellThemYouCare portal launched to send B.C. seniors in isolation messages of love, support

Kowk said he and Rose-Marie, who is diabetic, have felt unbelievably stressed by the virus and how it has spread.

“Of course, I happened to get a cold, and it’s running through my mind that I’ve got this damned virus and the thing is, it’s not the fact that you get it, it’s the fact of who you give it to,” said Kowk. “My wife… if she gets it, I don’t know if she’d survive it. I probably would, but you never know right. That’s the thing with this, you never know.”

Adding to their stress was the impact of COVID-19 in Italy and some of the decisions being made on the front lines regarding the more severe cases of infection.

“They would look at… people and say, I’m sorry, there’s no room for you, and you’re 85 years old, you have kidney disease, you’re probably not going to survive anyway…” said Kowk. “That’s what they had to do there because they didn’t have room. They didn’t have ventilators, the hospital filled with people immediately. And of course, the people in France are seeing this so it made everyone a little more scared… because it’s just down the road from here.”

Kowk said those difficult decisions and related stories of sacrifice and loss, are what really impressed upon him how serious the virus is. He advised those who question efforts to stop its spread, or who think what’s happening in France couldn’t happen in Canada, to think again.

“If you take a town, say like Salmon Arm, with 20,000 people, if 50 per cent of the people get sick with this and 20 per cent of them need to be on a ventilator, there are two ventilators in Salmon Arm hospital,” said Kowk.

“What’s going to happen, right? People will be sent home to die and they’ll die alone because none of their family will be able to go and be with them.”

“And once you start seeing that, it makes it easy to sit in your house and watch TV and drink beer.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSalmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

ChargerQuest expands its EV charging network into Kelowna

The new stations can be found at Manteo Beach Resort and the Eldorado Hotel

Kelowna resident warns North Glenmore community of active thieves in the area

Two thieves stole a pontoon boat from a residence on May 23

Summerland once had Old English theme

Design guidelines were introduced in late 1980s

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Penticton Search and Rescue airlifts injured mountain biker near Naramata

The Penticton Fire Department initially took the call and attended to the injured biker.

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Vancouver Foundation grants benefit Okanagan-Shuswap residents

Grants of up to $500 available for ideas that connect people socially or involve sharing skills

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Water quality advisory rescinded for Central Okanagan system

Turbidity levels improve enough to rescind advisory issued for Killiney Beach system May 11

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

UPDATE: Two sent to hospital following Okanagan highway accident

Drivers in head-on collision air-lifted to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries

Most Read