Guest Spot: Home from Italy, and staying at home

Last month my traveling companion and I were in Milan when the first cases of the coronavirus were reported in northern Italy. We responded by modifying our itinerary to drive due south out of the area, thinking we’d be safe traveling in a rental car, isolated from crowds. 

In just a few days, the affected numbers in the north intensified from three reported cases to 30. We kept pressing south. When the first deaths were reported, fortunately our airline agreed to let us change our departure. On our fully booked flight to JFK, it was impossible to give others a wide berth, so my friend and I vowed to sequester ourselves at home and prayed we wouldn’t get quarantined at a Queens Airport Hilton. But when we arrived at JFK, we were shocked when the only question asked by Customs and Immigration was, “Had you been in China?” There was no questionnaire or screening because the CDC didn’t have guidelines in place for Italy yet. A bit stunned, we departed curbside, knowing that proactive caution was up to us.

I came straight home without any social contact and immediately phoned my doctor and the New York State Department of Health to notify them where I’d been. I was hale and hearty and my doctor confirmed I was not symptomatic with a series of questions. Since testing was not available, I agreed to keep a health log and self-quarantine for 14 days just in case. The Department of Health denied my request for testing and verified the 14-day protocol. My neighbor helped immediately, picking up groceries and a thermometer and leaving supplies on my porch.

What was it like to be in quarantine? I work from home so I’m elastic. As a seaman, I’m accustomed to provisioning for a long time and staying sane in captivity. So, being ashore in a cozy house with Wi-Fi and all comforts was not a hardship at all. I hit my house maintenance list, submitted my taxes early and generally kept myself occupied. I’m grateful for the kindness of my Greenport circle, which made it doable, because one doesn’t quarantine alone. It takes neighbors and friends and the bigheartedness of the community. Thank you everyone! 

My two weeks of quarantine is small potatoes compared to what the North Fork is facing now. Our local and county officials are responding well and medical response teams are ramping up, but preventing the spread is mostly up to us. We need to practice social distancing. We need to stay home as much as possible, keep six feet from others and avoid touching things. We have to make it possible to quarantine if necessary and we have to support the elderly and the fragile among us. I’ve offered to do the grocery shopping for some older friends and I’m going to buy gift certificates from local businesses. We will get through this thing if we support each other.

Pat Mundus is a retired ship’s officer, arranging local classic yacht charters with her Greenport company East End Charters.