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Orillia family coping in self-isolation after Caribbean cruise

'Never in a million years did I expect we’d come home to what we did,' says Sheona Kloostra
2020-03-23 Kloostra family
The Kloostra family is shown, pre-isolation. From left, Sheona, Rob, Connor and Cameron are seen with a sloth in Honduras, one of the stops along their recent cruise. The family is now in self-isolation in Orillia. Supplied photo

A city councillor, a business owner and two teenagers together in self-isolation — that’s the current reality for an Orillia family.

Rob and Sheona Kloostra, along with sons Connor and Cameron, have been hunkered down in their home since returning from a cruise March 14. All four are safe and healthy.

Before setting off for the western Caribbean on March 7, “we waited and we looked at the situation,” Sheona said of what is now a COVID-19 pandemic.

After hearing the virus wasn’t expected to peak until April, they figured the timing was all right.

“I felt comfortable and so did Rob to go on this trip. Never in a million years did I expect we’d come home to what we did,” she said.

The seriousness of the situation and speed of its spread became more evident as the cruise went on. At one point, Sheona said, cruise officials “very quietly stopped anything that put more than 100, 150 people in one spot.”

The Kloostras took it seriously, donning masks and gloves and avoiding crowds. They made a point to have dinner together every night so the entire family could discuss the latest developments.

“We said, ‘There’s no point in panicking. We have to go home. We’re going to be safe,’” Sheona said.

When they got home, they immediately entered a 14-day self-isolation. It was a bit of a rocky start as their 15- and 17-year-old sons tried to both digest the severity of the pandemic and the fact they couldn’t hang out with friends.

“They’ve never experienced this before,” said Rob. “It’s been tough, but they’re coming around.”

“They’re keeping their rooms clean. They’re doing their own laundry. They’re really helping out,” added Sheona.

And, they’re doing what a lot of teenagers do with time off.

“They sleep a lot,” Sheona said with a laugh. “They’re up late, gaming. They’re often self-isolating anyway.”

While Rob and Sheona have caught up a bit on their sleep, it hasn’t been as easy. Sheona operates Happy at Home Support Services and Rob is a city councillor.

“There’s been a lot of tears. I’ve had to lay off some of my staff,” Sheona said, adding her company is continuing to see only its most critical clients.

City council and Orillia’s emergency management team have been meeting electronically, which has allowed Rob to participate, but it’s not ideal for the councillor.

“I’m usually at city hall pretty much every day. You can’t interact as much as you’d like to,” he said. “That’s what I miss. I’m a people person.”

Support from family, friends, co-workers and neighbours has made the trying time easier for the family. They’ve been checking in to see what the Kloostras need and have left it at the doorstep.

“They’ve stocked us up as best they can,” Sheona said.

“We put out a call for Kraft Dinner one night and there was Kraft Dinner at our door,” added Rob. “Everyone’s been great.”

When their self-isolation ends Saturday at 7 a.m., they look forward to helping out those who need it. With Sheona’s health-care training and Rob’s experience in grocery store management, they are ready to jump in to offer assistance.

“We’ll be healthy and rested when we come out of isolation, so we’ll be ready to pay it forward,” Sheona said.

For those who are, or might end up, in self-isolation, the Kloostras have some simple tips:

  • Take advantage of technology as a means to keep in touch with family and friends

  • Exercise

  • Step out onto your porch or into your yard to get come fresh air

  • Eat well

  • Keep up with proper hygiene practices