The Threat I Didn't See Coming
Let me begin by saying my mother-in-law and I were the last two people to visit our two Grand Cayman rental properties. We arrived on 10 March with plans for the rest of the family to arrive on 14 March and stay until 23 March. You know it was spring break, we were going to enjoy the breakfast buffet at Ave (Kimpton Seafire), soak up the sun, paddleboard, walk on the beach, dig our toes in the sand, go out to dinner at Calypso Grill, Casa43, Morgans, Bacaro, Edorado's, Regazzi, Tukka (to name a few), drink a pina colada at Bar Jack (Ritz Carlton), the guys were scheduled to go their first night dive with Indigo Divers and we planned to split our time between Villa SeaRenity on Spotts beach and Discovery Point Club 19 on Seven Mile Beach. It was going to be a wonderful, relaxing, vacation on our favorite island. Two weeks ago I was counting the days until we stepped off the plane, said hello to our friends at Avis, jumped in the rental car and headed "home." It seems like a lifetime has passed since I was counting the days until departure.
Our first full day was spent sitting on the beach and talking about this crazy thing called coronavirus, mean-while back in the US things were changing rapidly. As we sat there enjoying the sun and saltwater my husband and son worried if they arrived on Saturday what would happen if Cayman shut down her borders. By day three of our visit the US was alight was concerns about the rapid progression of the virus and the Cayman Government placed a ban on cruise ship arrivals for 60 days. The first case of Covid-19 in Grand Cayman was confirmed, it was a man brought ashore from a ship at the end of February with a cardiac event, he began showing signs of the virus after he started recovering from the cardiac event. Ultimately he lost his life to the virus. The hospital staff was put under quarantine and the Cayman Government began making plans to keep the island as safe as possible. By this point, we agreed my husband and son would not travel to Cayman and my mother-in-law and I would return early. After two-plus hours of waiting for American Airlines to return my call (enter your number and we will call you back, you won't lose your place in line) I reschedule our return flight and rebooked my husband and son for future travel dates. I must commend the American Airlines representative, in the face of what I'm sure was (and still is) an unprecedented number of calls to reschedule or cancel flights, she was kind, patient and helpful. In fact, she was a delightful spot in my day, she had a smile in her voice and she made sure every detail was taken care of. I don't remember her name but if she ever reads this I hope she knows how much I appreciate her kindness.
By Friday the Cayman government placed a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people, canceled school through 27 April and panic buying ensued. Just as here in the states people were frightened they would not have access to necessary supplies and started stocking up on food, toilet paper, and water. The government assured them the supply chain would continue to the island and grocery store owners assured everyone the warehouses were full. We went out to dinner on Friday night, business as usual, no 50 person rule that night, but by Saturday it was different. Dinner at Casa43 proved to be as wonderful as always and they were following the 50 person rule, same on Sunday night at Calypso Grill, fewer people, tables spaced farther apart and no hugging the people who work there that we enjoy seeing each time we visit. We boarded our flight at 1:45 on Monday; when the wheels hit the ground in Miami for our lay-over I checked the Cayman Compass for updates from the Cayman government press briefing that happened during our flight. It was big news, Cayman was closing their borders. Arriving passengers between that afternoon and Thursday afternoon would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of their health status. On Thursday there would be no more incoming passengers other than Cayman citizens and residents and on Sunday at 11:59 p.m. there would be no more flights (other than emergency air-lift) in or out of the Cayman Islands. Restaurants were instructed to close their doors and offer only take out, bars required to shut down completely, all sporting events, special events, meetings, and conferences were canceled. I commend the Cayman government for taking swift action to protect their people but my heart is heavy at the thought of empty hotels, restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions.
We didn't own property in Grand Cayman before Hurrican Ivan caused extensive damage and effectively wiped out the tourist industry for a long time. I've imagined what will happen in the future when the island is again in the path of a destructive storm. I've pictured the devastation. I've seen the images of the aftermath of Ivan but today there would be more damage because there is more to damage, more buildings, more boats, more...well more everything. I've wondered if I would be able to return to the island to help with the clean-up and I've wondered what our island friends would do to recover from another hurricane. A hurricane will come again someday, there is no doubt; after all, this is the Caribbean, hurricanes happen and you have no control over their path. You can't divert a hurricane around your island, you can't slow it down but you can see it coming and you have a pretty good idea of when and where it will make landfall. But this? Covid-19? I never saw it coming, maybe I should have but like many others, I didn't grasp the reality of how fast it travels, and the force with which it disrupts and destroys lives. Much like a hurricane Covid-19 is blowing through the world at record-breaking speed and leaving great devastation in its wake. I am hopeful the Cayman Islands will be spared a direct hit but in the long run, they will suffer until the rest of the world has the spread of this virus under control.
My wish is that by this time next year we will look back on these days/weeks/months and realize how much we once took for granted. I don't know about you but hugging friends or shaking hands is a natural part of my life....it's strange to not do that and it's strange to stay so far away from friends, heck it's strange to stay so far away from strangers! I've never walked into the grocery store and found the shelves empty and wondered what I would cook for dinner. I've always made dinner reservations and never thought twice about having access to the dining option of my choice...but thanks to Covid-19 those things have been taken away. Once this passes and it will, I am going to appreciate the hug from a friend, or enjoy bumping into a stranger and simply saying "excuse me" with a smile. I'm going to be happy my local grocery store is stocked with supplies and I won't get mad when my favorite restaurant is so busy I can't get a reservation at my requested time. I will relish the moment I put my feet in the white sand of Spotts Beach or Seven Mile Beach, I will take in the view of the turquoise water and splash in the ocean. I will eat, drink and be merry, in the Caribbean sun. Won't you join me?