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Mario’s Quarantine Diary, Day 1: A brief trip means a COVID-19 condo quarantine

Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel, his wife and their young son are self-quarantining and he’s writing about it
Oscar Bartel
It was nothing but blue skies ahead last Monday as seven-year-old Oscar Bartel prepared to depart for a late winter getaway to visit his granny and grampy in Arizona.

Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel is voluntarily self-isolating for the next 14 days after his wife and son returned Friday from a brief getaway in Arizona. He will be writing a daily diary during that time.

Day 1

It’s one thing to report a story, it’s quite another thing to become part of a story.

Our newsroom has been covering the COVID-19 pandemic for weeks as we chased stories about local residents stuck on quarantined cruise ships and members of the local Iranian community cancelling special events and adjusting their routines as the coronavirus landed amidst them.

As the story gained momentum, one reporter was assigned to check the regular reports from the provincial Minister of Health and its top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

But none of that was on the horizon when, several weeks ago, my wife floated the possibility of using her week respite from school to take our seven-year-old son to visit his grandparents, who are snowbirding in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

It wasn’t an easy decision. In a one-income household while she reconfigures her career from newspaper reporting to registered dietitian, finances are tight. And her week off didn’t quite align with spring break, so it would mean taking our son out of school early.

But after seven years of hard work, and with the end of her schooling just months away, she’d earned a break in the sunshine. When the trip coincided with a Vancouver Canucks visit to Phoenix, so our hockey-loving son could experience his first NHL game, it was a lock. And those news reports of a virus sweeping through China and other countries seemed so far away…

Then, suddenly, coronavirus was upon us.

Thursday morning, the NHL season was put on hold as all kinds of dominoes that comprise our regular North American life began toppling by the minute. In her afternoon press conference, Dr. Henry advised all incoming travellers they would have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

And so, upon their arrival at YVR Friday evening — after five flight delays through the day because of storms in the Phoenix area — our regular routines are now on pause.

My wife is scrambling to determine how her enforced hiatus will impact her practicum, but as a nascent health care professional, it’s the right thing to do. My son will miss out on his first Canucks home game, and a couple of day camps we signed him up for to occupy his school holiday.

But in other ways, we’re lucky.

I can do many elements of this job from home. And as I was holding down the fort while they were absent, I was able to make preparations to stock our fridge and pantry (fortunately, we had done a Costco run a few weeks ago, so we already have plenty of toilet paper). I even topped up the propane tank for the barbecue to ensure grilling continuity.

We also have a supportive network of friends and neighbours who’ve already offered to do supply runs for us when the milk, fresh fruit and veggies run low, as they will. Our condo also has a good-sized balcony that gets the afternoon sun, so we can spend some outdoor time when the temperature warms up a bit.

I suspect our biggest challenge will be keeping our son amused without relying too heavily on Netflix. But I’m sure other options will present themselves as the time passes.

Meanwhile, we’ll scratch off the days on our blackboard wall and hope our minuscule part helps mitigate this global crisis sooner rather than later.

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