REGINA -- Monday marks the final day of self-isolation for a 20-year-old Regina man who tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home from New York.

Mayson Sonntag is a theatre student at Ithaca College in New York. After his in-person classes were cancelled and the case numbers in New York started increasing quickly, he decided it was best for him to come back to Regina. He landed on March 15.

“The next day I started feeling symptoms, and I thought it might have just been a cold or something,” Sonntag said. “It had been a stressful couple of weeks and I hadn’t been sleeping much, so I thought it was just a sore throat.”

But the symptoms worsened.

“I started getting a bit of tightness in the chest and my sinuses really stuffed up,” he said. He also had a headache, a cough and plugged ears.

He decided to call the HealthLine, and the nurse he spoke to told him to get tested.

The next day, he went for his test, which he described as quick and easy.

Sonntag said waiting for the results to come was nerve racking.

“I was worried since I got back because I know, New York City especially, has been such a hot spot for the virus,” he said.

An added stressor was the fact that he has asthma. While he hasn’t needed medication for it for several years, he knew the virus could potentially be more harmful for him.

On Thursday morning, he got the call that said he tested positive. He was immediately concerned about his mom and his sister, who he lives with.

“I was more so worried about my family than myself,” he said. “My mother is a little bit older, and I didn’t want to infect her and cause her any harm.”

His mom, Virginia Wilkinson, said Mayson’s diagnosis came as a surprise to her.

“It was shocking actually,” Wilkinson said. “Even though he went out for the test, I was 98 per cent sure he was fine. I just wanted to do it to make sure that, if he was ill, everyone else would be protected.”

A new normal

Sonntag said he contracted the virus despite taking extra precautions while he was in New York.

“I was very careful with what I was touching, and I was making sure I was washing my hands before I was eating anything,” he said.

He believes he got the virus at a school concert he attended while in New York, because several others who attended have also tested positive for COVID-19.

Since his diagnosis, Sonntag has been self-quarantining in his bedroom, which is in the basement of the home he shares with his mom and sister.

“It’s definitely been a hard shift from when I was at college two weeks ago,” he said. “It’s been very weird going from so much artistic stimulus and so much stimulus with friends and being in contact with so many people, to go to total isolation and not evening seeing my family, over such a quick period.”

He’s been keeping up with his theatre classes online, which he admits can be difficult in the small space he’s confined to. He’s also been doing workouts in his bedroom, and playing his keyboard.

For meals, his mom has been leaving food outside his door on disposable dishes, which was a step recommended to them from health care professionals.

“It’s all in terms of making sure I don’t spread anything back to them,” Sonntag said.

His mom said they’ve been keeping in touch over the phone, and she’s been making sure he’s eating healthy, getting lots of sleep and exercising.

“I’ve been worried about him being on his own down in the basement,” Wilkinson said.

His mom and sister have not shown any symptoms of sickness, so have not been required to be tested. But they have been isolating at home since they’ve been in close quarters with someone who has tested positive.

Moving forward

Sonntag said his symptoms lasted about a week and a half.

Because he is now symptom-free and has been completely isolated for two weeks. Sonntag will be able to roam his house starting on Tuesday.

“I’ll be able to go upstairs. I’ll be able to see the sun, which is awesome. And I’ve been missing my dog a lot,” he said. “I’ll just be able to be with my family more, as opposed to being in my bedroom.”

He said he doesn’t need to be tested again since he is showing no symptoms, but he still plans on staying in the house to be extra cautious.

“The last thing I’d want to do is potentially transmit it to someone who’s at a much greater risk than I am,” he said.

His mom said the whole family has been staying positive, and added it will be nice to be reunited face to face with her son again.

“We’ve found ways to find the silver lining in it. I think Mayson will be happy to get out of the basement,” she said.

As he comes to the end of his sickness and isolation period, Sonntag is urging the public to follow the rules and guidelines put in place by medical professionals including physical distancing and staying home as much as possible.

“Especially because this disease is so asymptomatic. I had it for a week and a half and I didn’t even know,” he said.

“If we all self-quarantine or self-isolate, this will be over sooner rather than later and we can go back to our lives as normal, which is I think what we all want,” he said.