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VIDEOS: How Newfoundlanders and Labradorians Away are coping during COVID-19 times - Volume 2

From across the country, or the world, they're thinking of home. - Contributed
From across the country, or the world, they're thinking of home. - Contributed


Winooski, Vermont

818 confirmed cases; 21 hospitalized; 40 deaths in the state - Vermont Department of Health as of April 21

Tina Giangrande


Mount Pearl native Tina Giangrande (right) with her wife, Laurie O'Hanlon, live in Vermont. - Contributed
Mount Pearl native Tina Giangrande (right) with her wife, Laurie O'Hanlon, live in Vermont. - Contributed

Dragon boat racing is Tina Giangrande’s joy and while the Winooski, Vermont, resident is keeping up with an exercise regime, she understands any disruptions in this year’s events are for good reason.

“So far, the worst thing I'm facing is a shortened (or potentially cancelled) dragon boat season. Racing is my passion, and under any other circumstances, delays or cancellation would be crushing, but in this situation — if that's the price of keeping people safer until we've got better treatments, testing and vaccines, I'm happy to pay it, said Giangrande, who grew up in Mount Pearl.

She and her wife, Laurie O’Hanlon get outside as much as they can for a walk or a run, try to keep to their dragon boat training schedule, including new video workouts with their teammates.

With daily increases of new COVID-19 cases single digit for several days, Vermont started this week to ease restrictions for low-contact businesses while the stay-home order remained in place.

“No more than two people on site, masked, keeping their distance, and with sufficient sanitizing supplies,” said Giangrande, who works as a technical writer and scrum master for a software development team at a small insurance company in Middlebury, VT.

“Folks can put two construction workers on an unoccupied building project; open a non-essential retail outlet for curbside pickup or delivery (again, only two employees); and single-person operations (like appraisers, realtors, town clerks, lawyers, and pet caretakers) can deal with a single client at a time.

At the time she first spoke with The Telegram last week, about half of the cases and deaths from COVID-19 had been in Chittenden County, the most densely populated in the state.

She said clusters in nursing homes, a senior housing complex and a prison contributed to higher numbers, but the state acted quickly in early to mid-March to impose restrictions and close schools.

“I'd say our state government has handled things quite well, all things considered -- no one's scoring full marks on this exam, but they've performed well and communicated openly and honestly. There are challenges: the Department of Labor is struggling to keep up with unprecedented unemployment claim volume,” Giangrande said.

Tina Giangrande, like many people in Vermont, has displayed a hopeful message in her window.  CONTRIBUTED
Tina Giangrande, like many people in Vermont, has displayed a hopeful message in her window. CONTRIBUTED

Unemployment has skyrocketed from two per cent to heading for 30 per cent.

“Our population is older, on average, and our per capita hospital bed number is on the lower side; that's a scary combination, so we were pretty nervous about quick overwhelm. State government had the National Guard on top of setting upsurge sites pretty quickly, but thankfully, it looks like we may not need them. At least, not in this wave,” she said.

“Neither of my wife's two nursing jobs -- bedside in a hospice facility, and staff nurse in an agency supporting clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities -- have her on the front lines at the moment. That could change with time. She's been putting in some very long hours on the staff nurse job as her agency has developed individualized plans to provide proper care for their clients (and their employees), and they are doing their routine care through the miracle of videoconferencing, but there may come a time when she needs to make a physical visit. Likewise, the hospice facility is currently not slated as a destination for positive patients, but that could change if other facilities overload. I'm less worried for her safety now than I was a few weeks back when all of this was new. But it's still sobering.”

The couple have learned how to stagger their video conferencing calls.

“As for me, I am grateful and humbled to be able to work at home and to not experience direct significant negative consequences as so many others are,”Giangrande said.

“Oh, and it turns out that while I enjoyed my 38-mile one-way commute, I don't miss it much at the moment,” Giangrande said.

She said the couple are socializing more regularly than they ever have, with weekly Zoom dates with teammates, families and friends

They also try to keep a running list of the people and businesses we want to try to support, whether with a subscription, a donation, a purchase, or a gift.

“We can't make everything better for everyone, but we want to do what we can,” she said.


Bangkok, Thailand

2,826 confirmed cases; 425 hospitalized; 49 dead in the country- Government of Thailand as of April 22

Brian Aylward and Hollie Dawson 


In a city of close to 10 million people, social distancing is especially tough.

Brian Aylward and Hollie Dawson, who are from Mount Pearl but have been living and working in Bangkok for the past four years, have hardly ventured out of there apartment for more than a month, but when they have, they've abided by the city's temporary curfew and have submitted to scans by security guards with fever-detecting heat guns at the entrance to grocery stores.

Dawson, a teacher, has been able to keep working throughout the lockdown, her classes moving online every day instead of in person. Aylward, a comedian, has seen more of a career upheaval, but is taking advantage of the downtime to work on various projects and pen new material. He's looking forward to getting back on the comedy stage when it's safe to do so.

"We're going to need a laugh after this," he says.

Brian Aylward and Hollie Dawson, are from Mount Pearl but live in Bangkok, Thailand. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed
Brian Aylward and Hollie Dawson, are from Mount Pearl but live in Bangkok, Thailand. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed


Bordeaux, France

117,324 confirmed cases; 30,106 hospitalizations; 20,796 deaths in the country - French government as of April 20

Shaundel Blaix


Shaundel Blaix lives in Bordeaux and is originally from Little Rapids. Her husband Suibhne Blaix is originally from Galway, Ireland.

In response to a query from SaltWire Network about how life is now, she writes:

"One of the earliest measures taken by the French government amidst the COVID-19 pandemic was the announcement on March 12 that all schools would be closed. As a Grade 6-8 English immersion teacher, this meant big changes for me.

"Two days later, bars, restaurants, and other stores were ordered to close their doors. On March 17, President Emmanuel Macron declared a state of 'national confinement.’ This means that we can only leave the house if we have our passports and a signed declaration proving we’re outside for a good reason, staying within one-kilometre of our home and for no more than an hour a day. That was five weeks ago.

The Bordeaux City Hall Square in Bordeaux, France is deserted.  Contributed
The Bordeaux City Hall Square in Bordeaux, France is deserted. Contributed

"In a country where two kisses on the cheek is the systematic greeting for strangers and friends alike — or at least, it was until two months ago — it would seem that the French have finally realised the gravity of the sanitary crisis. The confinement has since been extended to May 11 — another four weeks.

"In the meantime, French schools have remained open — virtually. From K-12 to university, students have been engaged in distance learning for the past five weeks. It’s definitely had its challenges, but all parties involved — students, parents, and teachers — are doing the best we can."

Shaundel Blaix paints an Easter egg on the patio of her apartment in Bordeaux, France for an online video class with her students. Blaix is an English immersion teacher who is originally from Little Rapids. - Contributed
Shaundel Blaix paints an Easter egg on the patio of her apartment in Bordeaux, France for an online video class with her students. Blaix is an English immersion teacher who is originally from Little Rapids. - Contributed

"I post weekly homework lessons to the students’ online workspace; I host videoconference classes four hours a day; I spend countless hours sifting through umpteen different file names to correct homework and respond to endless emails.

"All of this, from the confines of my 39 m2 (420 ft2) apartment with my husband, who is also a teacher working from home.

"At least we’re lucky to have a small patio — here in Bordeaux, the temperatures are in the mid-20s, we have some of the best cheese and wine in the world, and most importantly, we’re healthy. Stay home and stay safe, people!"

•••

This article is part two of a series. 

VIDEOS: How Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living away are coping with COVID-19 - Volume 1

Are you an Newfoundlander and Labradorian living away and want to share your experiences about COVID-19?
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