Sheldon Dutes ’07 | April 16, 2020
I propped my iPhone on a bookshelf in front of a lamp, moved a stool to the middle of my living room, plugged an earpiece into a second phone to dial into the control room and, through the magic of television, I was on the air for WISN 12 News This Morning in Milwaukee. That was my life in self-quarantine for two weeks in March after a graduate school trip to the Czech Republic.
I never exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and I’ve since returned to work in the studio while so many Americans experience Zoom meetings and other remote replacements for in-person interaction — if they’re lucky enough to have a job in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. My extended stay at home happened only because I had scheduled a trip at an inopportune time.
When an opportunity presented itself to spend a week overseas as part of my graduate studies in corporate communications at Marquette University, I pounced. I would spend a couple days traveling alone in Paris before meeting my classmates and instructors for presentations and meetings with university students in the Czech city of Pilsen.
Coronavirus was top of mind when I left for Paris on March 5, but my class trip was still scheduled. The sight of fellow travelers wearing latex gloves and surgical masks was unnerving, but I tried to quell my fears by reminding myself that I was a germaphobe long before the threat of a pandemic. By the time I met my classmates at the Prague airport on March 8, news about the virus was ramping up. I received a daily avalanche of push alerts about cancellations and spiking numbers of confirmed cases. My parents and my boss urged me to cut my trip short and return home before life as we knew it unraveled any further. After three and a half days in the Czech Republic, I changed my travel plans to get back to the U.S. early.
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