A fully vaccinated Ontario woman says she and her son were “crammed like sardines” inside the Toronto airport after returning from a trip and have now become infected with COVID-19.
Maya Castle travelled to Fort Myers, Fla., earlier this month with her seven-year-old son so she could visit her parents, but says they took many precautions to stay safe.
She said they completed a COVID-19 test before leaving Canada, double-masked while out in public and rarely left her parents’ home.
“They live in a gated community with very high vaccination rates,” Castle told CTV News Toronto on Thursday. “We pretty much stayed to ourselves the whole time.”
Before leaving Florida last weekend, the 42-year-old and her son both completed another COVID-19 test, which she said came back negative.
But on the flight home, Castle said there were times when she didn’t feel completely safe.
“On the plane, there was a gentlemen who had his mask off and kept coughing up a lung,” she said.
When they arrived in Toronto, Castle said the pilot notified passengers they would have to sit on the plane for an extra hour because customs was too congested.
“It turns out we were in the plane for three hours,” Castle said.
Castle said when she got off the plane, they proceeded to customs but couldn’t find any space to distance from other people.
“I couldn’t believe how sardined everyone in customs was,” she said, adding there were people in that line who weren’t wearing masks. “People were squeezed in closer than even personal space would want in pre-COVID times.”
Toronto Pearson has warned in recent weeks that due to increased safety protocols, international passengers should expect lengthy delays when arriving in Canada.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto on Thursday, a spokesperson for the airport said the international arrival process may take up to three hours.
As the int’l arrivals process can take 1-3 hours, baggage may be proactively removed from carousels and organized in the baggage hall to keep carousels free for other flights. For questions about baggage delivery, passengers should reach out directly to their airline. pic.twitter.com/nH1BbwjX4U
— Toronto Pearson (@TorontoPearson)
It was also noted that in some areas of the airport, physical distancing may not be possible.
After a few days, Castle son started to feel better but, after becoming symptomatic, she was tested for COVID-19 as well and received a positive result on Tuesday despite being double-vaccinated.
“He had two days of high fever and then two days of low fever, but then it kind of changed.”
Castle said her son developed a cough that, at times, was scary.
“He didn’t feel like he could get air in,” she said. “He looked afraid. The fear in his eyes, that was very scary. There were a couple days where one of us was always in a room with him because we felt he needed to be watched.”
For Castle, it started with a tickle in the throat, but she then had tightness in her chest, congestion and headaches.
“I was almost convinced I would get it,” she said. “But I am surprised by the fact I really felt crappy.”
She said she worries that many Ontario families will have to go through the same experience when children head back to school in September.
“I’m really worried that families are going to be blindsided once again,” she said.
Meanwhile, Castle said she and her son are slowly getting better but don’t feel like they’re out of the woods just yet.
Her husband, who didn’t travel to Florida and is also double vaccinated, has not developed COVID-19 symptoms and tested negative.
“I feel like we’re starting to see the path out but I don’t want to assume anything because the virus is so unpredictable,” she said. “The scariest part is not knowing. The mental stress of it has been equally as exhausting as the virus itself.”
Castle said she has now cancelled plans to visit her parents again in Florida at Christmas.
She admits there is no way to know where her son contracted COVID-19, but does believe it happened during their experience flying home.
Data from Public Health Ontario showed breakthrough cases, like Castle’s, accounted for less than one per cent of all COVID-19 infections in the province from Dec.14, 2020 to Aug. 7, 2021.
Though it doesn’t happen often, some fully vaccinated people have either required hospitalization or intensive care or died following a breakthrough infection.
With files from The Canadian Press.