By Jason Starr
Dana Pontbriand is resting at his home in Williston.
His newborn son is 25 miles away at his parents’ house in South Hero. They have yet to meet.
His business, Williston’s Vermont Meat and Seafood Market, is temporarily closed. Pontbriand is quarantined.
Except for video phone calls, he still hasn’t seen his wife since she gave birth Sunday at the hospital in Burlington.
To receive news that you have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially for someone who co-owns a food market, is life-altering. To come down with the illness simultaneous to your wife going into labor as a first-time parent is hardly fathomable.
“It’s been the most exciting and painful 36 hours of my life,” Pontbriand said in an email Monday to the Observer.
Pontbriand said his symptoms came on mildly Friday. It had been an extra busy week at the Cornerstone Drive business as customers stocked up in reaction to the spreading virus, and he thought his tiredness could be from the extra busy work week.
But his symptoms progressed to body aches and chills, and he stayed home from work Saturday. At 2 a.m. Sunday, Pontbriand woke up to find he had a fever, and that his wife was starting to have contractions. She made plans to go to the hospital for the birth, but her doctor advised Pontbriand not to come. Instead, he would be contacted by the Vermont Department of Health and sent to the Fanny Allen facility in Colchester, where he would be tested for COVID-19.
Awaiting the result from home Sunday afternoon, he watched his wife give birth through a video phone call. A short time later, he received a text that he was positive for COVID-19.
“I then realized I would not see my wife and new child for the next 14 days,” he said.
Under quarantine, Pontbriand has two main concerns: the health of his wife and son and the impact on Vermont Meat and Seafood staff and customers. Pontbriand said he was feeling better as of Monday afternoon. His wife has no symptoms, and Vermont health officials are not worried about his newborn son.
Pontbriand is one of 12 people to have tested positive for the virus in Vermont, according to the Vermont Department of Health’s Monday update.
“One thing I want to make clear,” he said, “is that I called my on-call doctor’s office at 4 a.m. Sunday. I told him all of my symptoms and was not believed to have COVID-19. I only was given a test because my wife was having a baby.”
He has no idea how he contracted the virus.
“At this time my wife and I are asking for privacy and for understanding,” he said.
Pontbriand’s business partner, co-owner Eric LaVigne, has taken on the task of a deep sanitization of the store. All employees have been asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“Health officials feel as if customers are an extremely low risk,” Pontbriand said. “Employees and family are at a medium risk.”
Closing the store was voluntary, LaVigne noted, not a health department directive. None of the store’s employees have shown symptoms, he noted.
“It was a very difficult decision, but it’s in the best interest of our employees and the community,” LaVigne said.