‘I feel like I’m in a movie’: Victoria woman shares quarantine experience after cruise ship coronavirus outbreak

Melanie Sibbitt, of Victoria, is quarantined after a coronavirus outbreak onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship from Hawaii to San Francisco in early March. (Courtesy of Melanie Sibbitt)
Canadians are tested for coronavirus on their flight to Trenton, Ontario, after a coronavirus outbreak onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship from Hawaii to San Francisco in early March. (Courtesy of Melanie Sibbitt)
Melanie Sibbitt, a Victoria woman, is currently in quarantine after a coronavirus outbreak onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship from Hawaii to San Francisco in early March. (Courtesy of Melanie Sibbitt)
Passengers from Grand Princess cruise, docked in San Francisco, disembark the ship to get tested for COVID-19 after a coronavirus outbreak onboard. (Courtesy of Melanie Sibbitt)
Melanie Sibbitt, a Victoria woman, is currently living in quarantine in Trenton, Ontario. She will be released on March 24. (Courtesy of Melanie Sibbitt)

It was an overdue time to rest and relax, but now Melanie Sibbitt might need a vacation from her vacation.

The Victoria woman is one of 228 Canadians stuck in quarantine at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, Ontario after their Grand Princess cruise confirmed coronavirus outbreak onboard in early March.

“It’s been surreal,” Sibbitt said. “Many people think that it would never happen to them until it does. Now I’m the one that gets a first-hand look and I’m trying my best to stay upbeat and positive. For some reason, I wasn’t surprised because it’s possible anywhere.”

READ MORE: Princess Cruises pauses global operations, cancels four Victoria calls

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters that a “handful” of crew members tested positive for the COVID-19, although he declined to give specific numbers. There were 237 Canadians on board.

“We have certain crew members, a very limited number of crew members, which tested positive which are Canadian on the ship, and they will remain on the ship in accordance with the protocol that has been agreed with the CDC and local and state authorities in the U.S.,” Champagne said in Ottawa outside the entrance to a cabinet meeting.

Some other Canadians remained in California for health reasons unrelated to the virus, he said.

RELATED: Glenlyon Norfolk School closes campuses in Victoria, Oak Bay, due to potential COVID-19 cases

Sibbitt was told on Wednesday that the first Canadian cruise passenger case was confirmed while in quarantine. Officials sent a letter to each Canadian saying that the individual was placed on a separate floor.

The Canadian Red Cross is providing three meals a day and winter clothing, for those who only packed shorts and sandals.

Sibbitt spends time exercising, calling family members and watching TV. Anything that breaks the monotony of quietness is something she enjoys. She says besides meditation and journalling, her favourite time is spent in the brief moments of fresh air – each Canadian gets four one-hour time slots outside for a quick breather.

ALSO READ: First presumptive COVID-19 case reported on Vancouver Island

“The past 48 hours have been exhausting,” said Sibbitt on Wednesday. “I feel like I’m in a movie. The important thing to remember is to not give into the hysteria. The cruise ship industry is taking the brunt of it, and I would definitely cruise [with Princess] again.”

Sibbitt and the rest of Grand Princess’ Canadian cruisers expect to be in quarantine until March 24.

–with files from Canadian Press

aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com


@iaaronguillen
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