In the early days of the pandemic, two Red Deer city councillors are hunkering down away from home.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes is self-isolating in Calgary at her niece’s house after the two women got back from a Florida vacation last weekend.
“It’s a relief to return to Canada,” said Wyntjes, who described a chaotic scene at the Florida airport on Saturday as hundreds of passengers dealing with cancelled cruises were scrambling to try and book return flights home.
Rather than coming directly back to Red Deer to potentially expose her husband to the virus (although Wyntjes is showing no COVID-19 symptoms, so far), she’s decided to stay in Calgary until March 29 to keep her niece company while the two self-isolate.
But Coun. Buck Buchanan, who’s in Arizona for a family wedding, said he’s content to remain in the United States for now.
He figures dealing with virus prevention measures in Arizona, rather than in Red Deer, is a no-brainer at this time of year.
“When I look out my window here, I see a swimming pool. When I look out my window back home, I see a snowbank,” said Buchanan, who’s not anxious to rush back from Phoenix.
If flights to Canada dry up before Buchanan is set to return on April 4 because of the border closure, he plans to extend his stay and visit other places he’s always wanted to see.
Buchanan knows he faces two weeks of self-isolation once he returns to Canada, so he figures why not make the best of a bad situation?
The former police officer is noticing shortages of staples such as bread and milk in grocery stores in Arizona.
In Red Deer, many local stores and restaurants have temporarily shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, as citizens are practising social distancing and staying home, except for necessary outings.
Buchanan doesn’t doubt the practicality of this for COVID-19 prevention. But he worries about the mental health affects of isolation.
From his time spent policing in Northern Canada, Buchanan knows that many suicides happen in early spring, when longer daylight hours are counteracted by repeat bouts of cold and snow, increasing rates of depression.
He hopes people are still reaching out to each other: “We’ve got to stop telling people what they can’t do, and start telling them what they can do.”
Wyntjes is filling her time by doing a lot of reading. She’s also getting some exercise by going for walks, while keeping a 100-metre distance from other people.
She said she’s maintaining social contacts by phone or through Facebook. And she’s teleconferencing to provide her input for municipal meetings.
“It’s important to have a routine, to sleep, to listen to music… I’m keeping occupied with crossword puzzle books to keep my mind occupied and I’m calling my mother, who is 95 years old…”
Both councillors praise Red Deerians for their collective efforts at trying to stem the spread of the virus.
“This is the biggest challenge our generation is facing,” said Wyntjes, who feels heartened that everybody is pulling together.
Buchanan plans to take his regularly scheduled flight back to Canada on April 4.