Alex Lawrence had been trying to return to work as a car salesman at O’Brians Automotive at the Circle Drive location after being on disability following the death of his newborn son in January.
He said he had a fever, a COVID-19 symptom, got a note from a doctor and messaged his employer on the morning of March 18 with regards to the fact that he still wouldn’t be in due to sickness and was consequently fired.
“I was actually really shocked when their response to me was that I was fired. I wouldn’t even think it would be an issue,” Lawrence said.
The provincial government introduced amendments on March 17 to The Saskatchewan Employment Act, ensuring employees have access to job protected leaves during a public health emergency.
An emailed statement from O’Brians Automotive Group later on March 18 read, “the communications to Mr. Lawrence by an O’Brians Automotive manager were not in accordance with company policy and were regrettable.”
“We have attempted to reach out to Mr. Lawrence to the rectify the situation. O’Brians Automotive will comply with our obligations under The Saskatchewan Employment Act and law. Mr. Lawrence is still employed with O’Brians Automotive and is able to return to work when he is healthy.”
Lawrence said he was contacted by his previous employer who offered his job back and apologized.
“I do intend to probably go back… after the two weeks [for the fever],” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said he didn’t get tested for the novel coronavirus as he didn’t come into contact with anyone with it and hasn’t been travelling.
In the meantime, he and his fiancée Krystal Prior are stuck in a Saskatoon hotel after their apartment flooded due to a water main break. Asbestos was also found in their drywall and is now part on the ongoing renovation.
To make matters worse, Prior has severe asthma which makes her vulnerable to the virus.
“This whole COVID-19 thing has been insanely scary because it would definitely — that would kill me,” Prior said.
“[Doctors] would like all asthmatics to do a voluntary quarantine on themselves for 12 weeks. Because our immune systems are really compromised when it comes to something like COVID-19, because it’s a respiratory attacker… We can’t handle that,” Prior said.
All this while the couple grieves the loss of their newborn baby, Hunter Hurricane Lawrence, on Jan. 11.
“Well, unfortunately, there’s not as much to tell as we want to. I mean, he definitely had a personality, even [while] in the womb. Anytime my fiancé was starting to feel a little anxious or sad or anything like that, he’d give her a little kick, just to give her a little bit of reassurance that he was OK,” Lawrence said.
“[Hunter] had had five different problems with his heart. It was called Pentalogy of Fallot and he, unfortunately, was born two and a half months premature and he only survived for 98 minutes. He died in my arms,” Lawrence said.
“We got to hold him for his entire life. That means that his entire existence, he didn’t feel any pain and just our love. And then he just went to sleep and he didn’t wake up. And then we go on,” Lawrence said.
Prior said it was a rollercoaster of emotions coupled with the hardest thing a mother can ever go through.
“We went to the funeral home and instead of bringing our baby home, we had to go pick out an ashes box… we had a roomful of baby stuff, stroller and bassinetting and all of that. And no, baby, we just have a box of ashes. And now all the baby stuff that we did have got ruined in the flood,” Prior said.
“I even started like lactating. That was horrible. I had to go through things like producing milk for a baby I don’t have.”
Prior said they’re struggle with the loss.
“This is never going to hurt any less. I just have to figure out a way to manage that hurt. Just deal with that hurt being there,”
“We break down constantly over just little things. We were driving down the road and I saw Hunter Avenue and I started crying. So, yeah, it’s been non-stop this year. 2020 has not been a good year for us. Yeah. Just everything. All of this,” Prior said.
Hunter’s ashes were recovered from the flood.
“We have his remains,” Lawrence said.
“It has not been an easy year. I don’t think for anyone … [with] this whole coronavirus thing.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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