Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Northland woman speaks out after coronavirus diagnosis

Rosalina Puhi was nervous yesterday about the response she’d get when she decided to reveal to her rural Far North community that it was she and her daughter who had tested positive for Covid-19.

“I was ready to defend myself,” she told the Herald, explaining that even though she did everything right she was afraid there might be a stigma attached to the diagnosis.

Instead, though, the community has rallied around her family and she, in turn, has tried to support them by answering questions on social media from people who might not have had the confidence to ask had she not shared her story.

“It’s really given me a lot of energy to get through the day,” she said on Saturday while isolating with her husband and adult daughter at their home near Kaikohe.

She spoke through occasional coughs but said she’s suffered mild flu-like symptoms at worst. Her daughter didn’t have any symptoms, she said.

The Government confirmed the two cases Friday afternoon – just days after Northland returned to alert level 2 following a snap lockdown. That lockdown was prompted by an unrelated case involving two women accused of travelling across the Auckland border with falsified documents, then not cooperating with contact tracers.

Puhi emphasised on her Facebook post to the Mangamuka community page that the facts of her case are very different.

She had received an exemption to travel to Auckland on October 16 to drop off her 11-year-old daughter, who had stayed with her during the school holidays. On the way back, she picked up her adult daughter and grandchildren to move back in with her.

Everyone tested negative before leaving Auckland, she said. But then on October 19th they learned that a family member in Auckland had tested positive and they immediately began isolating.

While she could have remained relatively anonymous, Puhi said she felt a duty to ease fears.

“I saw a lot of elderly people really worried about it and I didn’t want people to be afraid to leave their house,” she explained.

But her own fears about revealing herself crept in as she composed the post.

“It was really an embarrassing thing for me to go through,” she explained. “You think every little thing you’ve done you could have done a little bit better. But this is the new reality of the world we live in.”

It turns out putting a face to her Covid-19 diagnosis has helped humanise the virus for people in the community. The encouragement and support she has received since had meant a lot, she said.

“I think it just hit really close to home,” Puhi said. “I think a lot of people have been in disbelief about it because names didn’t get released and they didn’t think they knew anyone who had it.”

Her openness has given people the confidence to bombard her with their own questions, like whether a place of interest should be avoided. (The answer is no, but you should contact the Ministry of Heath if you were there at the same location at the same time as a case.)

“I had no idea this was going to happen,” she said of the support and conversation the post has opened up, well beyond what she referred to as her “one-dairy town”.

“I was really just informing our community but it’s gone huge.

“I find that since I’ve posted that, people are getting treated like humans again and not a virus.”

It’s not Puhi’s first time using social media in an effort to battle misconceptions about Covid.

One month ago, she posted a video to the same community page showing a metal spoon stick to her chest – mirroring similar videos that had become popular with anti-vaccination groups, but with an entirely different message.

“I am posting this on our community page because I think it’s very important that videos do not mislead our community to think vaccinations are causing this magnetic effect,” she said. “I am not vaccinated – yet. Not even the first one.”

Since then, Puhi has had an opportunity to get her first dose.

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