My family and I were eating orange chicken and steamed dumplings in the middle of China when word about COVID-19 “social distancing” reached us. Granted, we were in Epcot in Disney World and not Wuhan, but honestly being in the most crowded park in the country made it all the more strange.
We left for our Disney trip just a few days after I’d turned in an article on COVID-19. As I was putting the article together the overwhelming information I got said “Don’t panic” and “Wash your hands.”
At that point no one was telling me to stay away from crowds. So I packed extra hand sanitizer, and I planned to follow those directions. Don’t panic. Wash your hands.
We got to Disney late Saturday night, and Sunday we went to see a movie with my husband’s aunt. She lives near Miami, but she drove up just to see my daughter for her birthday. We were pumped to see her because she just finished her cancer treatment, so it was nice to see her looking and feeling great.
Again, we had no idea that in a few days we’d be warned to stay away from everyone, but especially the most vulnerable.
By Monday we were having a blast in the parks. We thought the crowds would be lower, not only because of the virus threat but because Texas spring break is typically during an off time. But the parks were more packed than we’ve ever seen.
About mid-week we started seeing mobile hand-washing stations and signage going up in the park. But we still hadn’t heard anything about “social distancing.” I just figured they were being proactive about the “wash your hands” order.
Our mandatory technology break meant that I wasn’t glued to social media during the trip. If I had been I might have been tipped off about what was to come. Instead, I threw a few photos up each day on Facebook and I signed off.
In the afternoons while the kids swam I worked on a few non-virus related stories for The Star. And I did get wind that the H-E-B near my house had bare shelves. It’s one of the biggest H-E-B stores in Texas, so I was blown away that it had been cleaned out.
I also regretted not making my usual Sam’s Club run before I left because I knew good and well that we had only two rolls of toilet paper at our house.
On Wednesday, my 70-year-old father-in-law said his feet were hurting, so he and my mother-in-law took the day off just to chill at the hotel. I found out later he’d been watching the news all night and was starting to worry.
They met up with us Thursday, and my mother-in-law dropped a hint that they might head home a few days early. I still didn’t realize the state of things, but I told her, of course, they should head out. There was no sense in being worried on vacation.
That’s probably when I realized things had turned. I opened Twitter that night, and my feed was nothing but COVID-19. I checked the CDC website, and I saw that school districts were starting to close. I didn’t hear from our district until Friday afternoon.
The kids wanted Chinese for our last dinner in Disney, and we were watching the Chinese dancers light up the night sky when I got the notification that they’d be closing Disney World on Sunday. It was still strange to me that I’d never heard a single person talking about any of this in the parks. Disney “magic” I guess. They were masters of “don’t panic.”
We were set to fly out late Saturday night. Security was more packed than usual because there were several college softball teams headed home. I assumed their games had been canceled.
The entire time in Disney I hadn’t seen a single person cough. But it seemed like there were at least a half dozen people on our plane who had a tickle in their throats.
The captain made a vague comment about “the current situation” and we were off. I found out Monday morning that a security guard at that airport tested positive for the virus.
We landed in Austin at about midnight, and we headed on the long drive home. We rolled into the Walmart parking lot at about 2 am., and we had no trouble getting food for the week. However, the toilet paper would still have to wait.
It was strange to be in a bubble during one of the biggest news cycles of my time. It was even stranger to find out that a people-filled bubble was statistically the worst place for us to be. I’m already a remote worker, so “social distancing” is kind of my norm. But my husband had to go into work Monday morning, and with the kids out of school it’s going to be hectic if I have meetings.
I realize that’s nothing compared to parents who both have to be in offices full time.
I haven’t been able to find a sitter because all my sitters are teens whose parents want them to practice social distancing.
And I totally get that some people think this is being blown out of proportion. I actually hope that it is. But if all we’re being asked to do is add one thing to the list of “don’t panic” and “wash your hands,” I think for the good of society I can handle “stay home.”