Claire: Okay, I’m ready.
Jordan: All right. Let me just, uh, put the mic in the right place and hit record and we’ll have a couple of conversations and, oops. No SD card? What do you mean no SD card? Of course there’s an SD card. **** I’ve been self isolating now for. About three days, and I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling very socially distant. Claire, are you there?
Claire: Hello again from my closet studio.
Jordan: You are socially distant as well.
Claire: I am.
Jordan: How many people, Claire, have you seen face to face in the last three days?
Claire: I’ve seen one person, my partner, who I live with, and I have a feeling we’ll be getting real sick of each other’s faces soon.
Jordan: You guys gone anywhere? Done anything?
Claire: So all we’ve done this whole time for the past four days is we go for walks. Usually in the evenings, we’ll take a 20 minute walk, just to, you know, get some fresh air and a bit of exercise.
Jordan: Yeah. We’ve been trying to, uh, take my daughter, who you heard at the beginning of yesterday’s episode, out. Just let her run a little bit, tire her out. But, uh, also keep her away from other kids, keep her away from the grandparents, and then we go back inside and I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time looking at these basement walls.
Claire: Yup. Get used to it.
Jordan: No kidding. It seems like every time I come home from one of those walks or put the kid down for a nap and pick up my phone, something else is closed. Something else is planning to close. We’re being told to self isolate even more and we’re going to do it. That’s why we’re here. But Claire, before we start today’s episode, which is all about how to cope with quarantine, why don’t you just run down what the last 24 hours has been like? What’s closing? What’s about to close? What’s the government doing?
Claire: A big announcement from prime minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, he says, Canada is closing the border to anyone who is not a citizen or a permanent resident.
News Clip: This measure will carve out some designated exceptions, including for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and at this time, US citizens.
Claire: Also, anyone who shows symptoms will not be allowed to get onto a plane going to Canada. So if you are a Canadian elsewhere in the world and you’re showing symptoms, you will not be allowed to board a plane to Canada. Only four airports will be receiving international flights. Those are in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal.
News Clip: Let me be clear. If you’re abroad, it’s time for you to come home. If you’ve just arrived, you must self-isolate for 14 days. And finally, all Canadians, as much as possible should stay home.
Claire: Canada now has 373 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Three more deaths have been confirmed in British Columbia, and that brings the nationwide total to four. All four of those deaths took place at the same longterm care facility. Still no cases of the virus in Canada’s North, but there are closures and cancellations in all three territories just to try to get ahead of the virus. Starting today, Tim Horton’s is closing all in store customer seating at most of its locations across the country. You’ll still be able to do, take-out, drive-through and delivery. And Rogers, the parent company of this podcast, is waving long distance and roaming fees along with data usage caps on home internet amid this outbreak.
Jordan: If it hasn’t sunk in yet, we’re either at or headed for a total lockdown, depending on where you live, that might be today or tomorrow, or maybe a week away. But it’s coming, soon. And that will mean essential work only. Essential business only grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, public services. That’s it. Even if you happen to be one of those fools who feels like rolling the dice with people’s health, very soon you’re not going to have anywhere to roll them. And this will create a lot of logistical challenges, of course, for all of us, but very quickly, I am betting it will create some serious mental challenges too. You heard Claire and I discussing exactly how stir crazy we’re going and it’s only been two or three days. There are some people though, for whom two or three days is nothing. There are people who aren’t in day one or day two or day three of self isolation, but who have been at this in one way or another for weeks. Our guest today went from a dream vacation, to a locked down cruise ship, to a locked down Canadian forces base. And soon if all goes well, she’ll be released and sent home and told to stay there. So what’s day seven of quarantine like? What happens when you get out of one quarantine, and into another? What do you do when all you have to look at is the walls and your phone? I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings and this is The Big Story. Melanie Sibbit owns a small business in Toronto and lives in Victoria, BC, and she joins us now from Canadian Forces Base in Trenton. Hello, Melanie.
Melanie: Hi, how are you this afternoon?
Jordan: I’m on just day three of self-isolation and I’m already going stir crazy. So I wanted to talk to someone who’s been there.
Melanie: I’ve been there. We’ve actually been quarantined here in Trenton now since last Tuesday, so we’re now on day seven. However, we were also quarantined on the ship for five days before we were able to leave the ship.
Jordan: Well, why don’t you start by just describing your surroundings. Um, what do they have you in? Are you just in a room, a bunk?
Melanie: No, no, no, no. They, uh, they have three buildings, I believe that they use for conferences and whatnot. So it’s actually a very nice accommodation, a very basic room, but very clean. We’ve got a microwave and a small fridge in here, which is really terrific. Um, I’m looking out over the, the yard where they have all of the supplies coming and going, so it’s a, it’s a good spot. I actually face west, so I get some really great sunsets while we’ve got some nice sunshine happening here in Trenton.
Jordan: Why don’t you take me back to the start of this Odyssey? Tell me how you ended up in quarantine at CFB Trenton.
Melanie: Well, on the Wednesday evening, I believe it was March 3rd, during the night, we were, um, we received a note under our door on the cruise ship on the Grand Princess that, uh, there had been four cases identified in Northern California from people that had been on the previous cruise. Uh, so the captain came on early, uh, Wednesday morning and identified that this had happened and they were waiting for directions from the CDC, uh, and that, um, we would get further updates, uh, as soon as he had them. Uh, later that day, he indicated to us that they would be sending in helicopters, with test supply kits for those people that were feeling ill. They asked that people contact the medical centre and let them know how they were feeling if they had had any of the symptoms that they were suggesting were part of the coronavirus. So, um, that’s how everybody started being identified that needed to be tested. Uh, on Thursday, uh, the army helicopters came in and brought in supplies. And I have to tell ya, that was an amazing thing to watch because the precision flying of those helicopter pilots. Bringing the helicopters so close to the ship and then lowering medical supplies to the ship and then medical personnel, and we were 50 miles out in the ocean. It was an absolutely phenomenal experience to see this happen. On the Wednesday, they also indicated to us that we would not be making the stop in Mexico that we were originally intended to do, that we would be heading directly back for San Francisco, where we left from. And then things started to unfold from there.
Jordan: What was it like for those few days on the ship? I mean, logistically, were you confined to your room? Were you told not to mingle with other passengers? What was happening?
Melanie: Absolutely, yeah. As of 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, the captain instructed all passengers to stay in their rooms for the duration of the cruise. So that started a whole series of events in that the meals were being delivered to our rooms, so all of the crew would bring them to our rooms and just knocked on the door. They were on trays, and then we would just slide them in the room. Um, and when we were finished, we would slide the trade back out to be picked up later. And there was also a room service available for coffee and tea and drinks. People were taking advantage of some of the cocktails that might’ve been available, and cookies. So the, that was available 24 hours, but, the staff, we’re bringing all of the meals to us.
Jordan: And how did you get off the ship? I guess things must have started to happen pretty rapidly.
Melanie: Well, it was interesting because we were held out 50 miles out from the San Francisco Bay from the port. Um, and of course everybody’s heard the reports about how the president didn’t want the ship coming into port because he didn’t want the numbers to go up, the coronavirus numbers to go up. So until the CDC and the federal government and the state government could figure out where they could get us into that was, I anticipate, the least risk. We were held out at sea. Um, so we were, we were supposed to dock on the Saturday, and we finally got into dock on the Monday, and the captain kept giving us updates. As he got updates, we got updates. So the update that we got was that, uh, the first people that would be disembarking would be the people that needed acute medical care. The next group that would be getting off would be all of the people that lived in California. The next group would be the Americans. And then they had no further information about any of their international travellers. So I anticipated being Canadian that I would be one of the last people off the ship because there was no word as to what was happening. But we, on Monday– funny enough, it was about 12:30 Monday afternoon, which was the day that we got into port– uwe got a letter through our door– uh, no, pardon me. The attendant delivered it to our door and it had luggage tags on it. When I read the letter, it said, have your bags in the hallway at noon. So, that indicated that we would be getting off the ship that day. And then within minutes of that happening, I got an email from global affairs identifying that they would be– they had made arrangements for a flight home for all of the Canadians. We were going to be repatriated back to Canada. And that we would start disembarking at 3:00 Monday afternoon.
Jordan: When you disembarked, I guess you went right to the airport and then flew right into Trenton?
Melanie: Correct. Yes. We came back on a cargo plane actually. It was really quite fascinating. This big, huge, huge tin can with seats in it. And, um, we were met by, uh, people in hazmat suits, uh, that were responsible for getting us back. Uh, we were– the temperature, our temperature was taken before we got on the plane, and then again when before we got off the plane. Um, and we were flown directly back to CFB Trenton. And we arrived here approximately 6:30, 7:00 Tuesday morning.
Jordan: And we’re talking now on Monday, and you’ve been there ever since?
Melanie: Yes, that’s right. We’ve been here ever since.
Jordan: One of the reasons we wanted to talk to you is just because we’re also doing the show from our homes in self-isolation to be safe. And we wanted to get some advice about what it’s like as it drags on. So, uh, what’s your typical day-to-day like? Describe a day, what did you do yesterday?
Melanie: Yesterday, um, I went for a walk. I did some exercises in my room. Um, the nice thing about being here is that there are three buildings that they’re housing us in and each of the buildings gets 4 one-hour time slots to go outside and walk. And they’re requesting that the people from each individual building just go out with those people and really pay attention to the times. So that was great. You know, I’ve been certainly posting a lot on Facebook and giving people updates. A lot of people are checking in with me, which is really wonderful because that’s a really key piece, as far as I’m concerned, is staying connected with the people that you love. Having– being able to support each other through this process is a really big piece of how we’re all going to get through this. Because truly we are all in this together. And we’re stronger together. So supporting one another through a phone call, through an email, through contact on Facebook, is a really important survival method through this whole scenario. You know, this is an extraordinary circumstance that we’re all in. Um, and, you know, I ask myself, how did I get here? But I’m obviously here for a reason, so I’m just going with the flow. I, you know, I continue to have a very positive attitude towards it and a very big sense of humour. There’s an incredible amount of laughter. My sister, Kim, is incredible. She, uh, she and I will get on the phone and be laughing about all kinds of goofy stuff. So, um, the laughter really helps a lot.
Jordan: How do you manage to do that when everything can seem incredibly scary? And obviously you’re on, or at least were on, the front lines of this thing. How do you manage to find the humour in this situation?
Melanie: It’s a decision that I made. You have to make that decision. I don’t get scared by what’s going on because we’re all gonna get through this together. We’ve gotten through everything else together, and I just choose to have a positive nature about it. And I choose to look at the lighter side of it. I think the most important thing is, is that we continue to love each other through it. And let go of any prejudice that we’ve had. Because this virus doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care what’s going on, you know, in the world. It’s just, we need to love each other through it. And that’s how, that’s how I look at this whole situation. You know, the self isolation, and the time that we’re going to spend. By ourselves is a really good time to connect in with your family members, or more importantly, to connect in with your own soul. To really take a look at what’s important to you. You know, maybe what are things that you’ve put off doing that you really wanted to do because you’ve been so busy doing everything else and you haven’t been filling up your heart? Maybe it’s time to start looking at some, some charities that could really, really benefit from the gifts that you have to offer them. That’s how I look at the whole situation.
Jordan: Have you been talking with fellow, uh, cruise goers who are in isolation with you? What do you guys talk about? Are you making those kinds of connections that will last beyond your isolation?
Melanie: There’s some people here that I’ve talked to. I mean, they encourage us to kind of stay in our rooms.
Melanie: There are people that I will stay in contact with, but really, truly, I mean, isolation. So I don’t get out talking to a lot of the folks and I also want to be safe. You know, I think it’s important, what they’re asking us to do, by isolating is a really important measure in containing this virus.
Jordan: Have they given you any idea of what will happen to you when your 14 days are up? They’ll just send you home. Will you have any further instruction or support?
Melanie: Um, we are expected to leave here on the 24th and we get daily updates from the Canadian Red Cross. Um, so CFB Trenton are housing us, but the Canadian Red Cross have taken care of all of the logistics, all of the food, getting us clothing, um, and they’re giving us daily updates, which is really, really phenomenal. So yesterday, one of our updates was, is that they’re starting to make preparations for people getting home. Um, and they will be coming back to us to ask further questions. So that’s starting, the process of starting now for that. I personally am choosing to self isolate again when I get home. Because I just want to be safe, because once I leave here, then I get back out into the public again. So, although I was tested the other day, I was tested on Friday and I tested negative. Um, although I’ve tested negative, I want to be certain that I am, uh, clear and safe to be able to go back into my community.
Jordan: When you get there. Has anybody done any stocking up for you? I mean, a lot of us have spent the last few days loading up at the grocery store and the pharmacy and making sure we have supplies to hunker down for a couple of weeks. You’ve been on vacation. I can’t imagine there’s a lot like sitting in your fridge.
Melanie: No, I’m really fortunate in that aspect. My sister Kim has taken very good care of that aspect. She’s filled up the cupboards and I live in a really wonderful community, uh, that I have kept them up to date as to what’s going on and how I’m doing. And they, uh, they’ve rallied and said, Hey, listen, don’t worry. We’ll make sure that, uh, meals are delivered to your door when you need them. And they’ll just bring them to my door and leave them outside and I’ll pick them up. So I’m very fortunate and I live in a really terrific community that supports one another. My sister, Kim’s been my rock though, through this whole process.
Jordan: How has the government and the Red Cross been? This is obviously a situation that’s putting strains on everybody’s resources, and I’m hoping that they have enough to take really good care of you. And it sounds like it.
Melanie: Oh, they’ve, you know, I gotta tell you honestly, the, uh, I was, I am so grateful to the global affairs group that got us out of, um, San Francisco so quickly. I was fully expecting to be there until Thursday or Friday of last week, on the ship quarantined in my room. But we, when we got the message on Monday that we were getting out of there on Monday afternoon, it was like, wow, that’s so phenomenal. So I’m very grateful to them. And then arriving here, um, was such an incredible pleasure, walking into the big hangar. And they were waiting for us and they were happy to see us, and it was like, welcome home and everything was ready for us. And, um, the Canadian Red Cross has just done an incredible job. They, um, you know, they work tirelessly. They’re constantly here. They’ve got, you know, crews that change. And some of them are volunteers, but there are from all across Canada. Uh, and they actually, I just found out yesterday afternoon, they actually just finished up in Cornwall with the people from the Diamond Princess, there was approximately 140 people from the Diamond Princess that were quarantined in Cornwall, and the Canadian Red Cross took care of all of those people, and they were at, they were mentioned, uh, on the, uh, Thursday afternoon, uh, that guys, you’re not going home. We got to go to Trenton because we’re going to start taking care of all the people coming in from the Grand Princess. So they arrived here on the Saturday, um, and started setting up and getting ready for us, and have been here nonstop.
Jordan: That’s really good to hear.
Melanie: I gotta tell you, I’m making a big donation when I get home. Cause they have just been phenomenal.
Jordan: I think a lot of people right now are realizing just how important those people, uh, doing that work on the front lines are. Melanie, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Do you have a final piece of advice for people who are entering self isolation right now and who might be scared or anxious?
Melanie: Just keep your right mind about you. Don’t get caught up in the hysteria and the fear out there. Follow the instructions of what they’ve recommended that we do. Stay away from, you know, close contact with people, wash your hands. Just follow the instructions and we’re all going to get through this stronger. And I’d love to add one more piece if I could.
Jordan: Of course.
Melanie: I would love to really commend the people from Princess cruise lines. They did such an incredible job, taking such good care of us on that cruise. Um, they had great cleaning and sanitation measures on the ship. Um, their crew worked tirelessly to take good care of us. They were happy. They were professional. Um, and they appreciated when people said thank you to them. Um, so I really want to, uh, say thank you to Princess cruise lines because they, they really handled this incredibly well and kept us informed and up to date and were very transparent. So I’m full of great gratitude for everybody that has taken such good care of us.
Jordan: As they say, look for the helpers. Thanks Melanie.
Melanie: Thank you.
Jordan: Melanie Sibbit, live in quarantine from CFB Trenton. That was The Big Story, but we’re not quite done yet. We wanted to end today’s episode with something a little lighter, kind of. It’s a song from an American who’s currently in quarantine in California. She’s been writing music to pass the time and she’s been posting it on Twitter. I will let her tell you all about it. Here she is.
Michelle: My name is Michelle Heckert and I’m currently in quarantine at Travis Airforce Base. I was a passenger on the Grand Princess, the trip to and from Hawaii, and I was cruising with my grandparents. To pass the time in quarantine, I think my grandparents and I are trying to entertain each other. For me, I turned to music and started writing songs with the ukulele that I had. So this is one of my songs, I call it Making the Most of It, and it’s about how we arrived at Travis Airforce Base and what we’ve been up to and how we’re trying to stay positive throughout this quarantine period. *song starts* Gotta roof above our heads, and our feet on solid land. Three times a day we are fed, and so I’m happy. I’m making the most of it, doing the best I can…
Jordan: And that was Michelle Heckert playing her song, Making the Most of It. You can find her music and her videos and the latest from her quarantine on Twitter at @whattheHeckert. If you want more big stories, they are of course thebigstorypodcast.ca and we want to hear from you and you can reach out to us right there. There’s a contact form. We’re reading every reply. You can also email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you know us by now, you know we’re on Twitter. We’re always there. You can reach out at @thebigstoryFPN, our DMs are open. Thanks for listening, I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. Stay safe. Keep isolating. We’ll get through this together and we’ll talk tomorrow.
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