Calivil dairy farmer contracts COVID-19

By Sophie Baldwin

You can’t get much more isolated than the rural area of Calivil about 70km west of Echuca, so you can imagine the surprise when dairy farmer Dehne Vinnicombe tested positive for coronavirus.

Dehne began experiencing flu like symptoms which included lethargy and a temperature, something he normally wouldn’t worry about but when his parents Ron and Maree started exhibiting the same, he put in a call to Bendigo Health.

Dehne’s parents had been in Sydney while his dad received specialised cancer treatment. They flew home from Sydney airport March 19, around the same time as the now-infamous Ruby Princess passengers disembarked.

“We think mum and dad came into contact with the virus while they were away,” Dehne said.

After calling Bendigo Health Dehne was surprised when an ambulance was sent out to the farm to check on him. With a temperature of 38.5 he was told to either stay in self-isolation for 14 days or come into the hospital for testing.

“Initially they thought I had pneumonia because I had some fluid on my lung and they nearly didn’t test me. When it came back positive, I thought: 'shit', and they then tested mum and dad who were positive while my wife Sarah was negative,” he said.

Having now served out the appropriate isolation period and tested free of the virus - as did his parents - Dehne said it was a pretty scary time, not for him but for his parents.

But clearly they breed them tough at Calivil because the family were able to shake the virus off with limited side effects.

“I can’t believe they both made it through with no problems. Dad has cancer and mum has some breathing issues, so of course I was pretty worried,” Dehne said.

Dehne was able to self-isolate with his parents and, with a change in management, still able to go about daily life on the farm.

“I checked I could feed the cows while the workers did everything else including all the milking," he said.

“Freedom Foods arranged a special pick up time for milk collection and nobody else was allowed in the dairy. We had plenty of sanitiser on hand and everyone followed the appropriate social distancing rules.”

Dehne said the experience upset his eldest child.

“One of the hardest things about this experience was my daughter who had seen all the stuff on social media, and she thought we were all going to die, we had to keep reassuring her we were going to be okay," he said.

Sarah and the kids are now in self-isolation and Dehne is looking forward to everything returning to normal.