I have been under quarantine in San Francisco and Kyoto about a month total since mid-March, 2020. I would like to summarize how I spent the quarantine month in the two countries, the US and Japan.
My original plan was that I would quit my job and travel around Europe for a few months. However, the European outbreak of COVID-19 occurred. As a result, I cancelled the trip and stayed at my Japanese home for a couple of weeks after I quit my job. Although the period of quarantine that the Japanese Ministry of Health specified has passed already, I will continue to stay at home as much as possible, for example, avoiding crowds when taking a walk and only going shopping when necessary.
February: Outbreak in Diamond Princess
One Japanese news story was reported almost every day. According to the news, a cruise ship Diamond Princess that departed Yokohama, Japan carried COVID-19 infected passengers. The pandemic seemed to spread disastrously on the ship due to the sloppy infection control and the ignoring of expert advice.
Honestly, in San Francisco, I felt like it was a problem for someone else at that time. I didn’t expect that the outbreak would spread all over the world, with lots of governments proclaiming a state of emergency and so many people experiencing quarantine for the long term. An ex-co-worker made a business trip to New York in February when the company headquarters gave masks to the employees. He brought them back to San Francisco, and we got three masks per person.
March 10th: Work from Home Started
My ex-company provided a direction of Work from Home to all employees. I haven’t commuted to the office since this week until I quit a job. The direction made me avoid going out except for essential groceries when needed. At this point, the infected patients were confirmed in Bay Area from this week onwards. Also, Grand Princess, which is a sister ship of Diamond Princess arrived at Bay Area. It became a hot topic in the news.
March 14th: Gave up Traveling in Europe
The pandemic of COVID-19 has already spread, especially in Italy, so I determined it would be difficult for me to travel in Europe from April. I cancelled the flight from Miami to Lisbon on April 1st, and instead, I booked a flight from San Francisco to Osaka via Honolulu on March 31st. I was so depressed because I gave up the plan I have been looking forward to for the past six months. By the way, one of my hobbies is fishing. I was also looking forward to fishing peacock basses in Miami.
March 17th: Shelter in Place Started
San Franciscan government announced a Shelter in Place order to non-essential workers. They defined the workers as those whose service is essential for sustaining life at a tolerable level i.e. essential workers such as medical workers, grocery store staff, delivery drivers and so on. Non-essential workers had to remain under quarantine at home.
My grocery shopping was accidentally on the same day the order was proclaimed. I went to a nearby Whole Foods which is a US supermarket chain, and I saw the stuff disappearing from the shelf. (The goods were back after that day though.)
People in San Francisco strictly followed the behavior of social distancing. For example, the customers had at least 2-3 meters space when they waited in line in front of the Whole Foods building. The grocery store’s staff wore masks and gloves, counted how many people were in the building at the entrance, invited the customers when someone finished shopping and left the supermarket, and sanitized basket’s or shopping cart’s handle by alcohol before handing it over. The organized behavior looked like each person did the practice with a proper understanding of the order from the government and the company.
March 24th: The Condition of Japanese Entry from the US Changed.
The epidemic of COVID-19 was rapidly spreading in the US, especially in New York. I supposed the condition of Japanese entry from the US could change anytime since the epidemic situation was fast changing day by day. Every day I checked out the official COVID-19 information of US and Japanese governments, the airports, and the airline company. A new condition was added to the website of Kansai International Airport on March 24th. You must follow the lines below if you enter Japan from the US from March 28th.
- Must not take any public transportations.
- Must stay at a hotel or the place Japanese Ministry of Health specified.
For condition 1, you can ask a friend or family to drive you to “the place”. (By the way, how can you rent a car in the situation which is better for you not to get close to the other people? What if you don’t have the driver’s license? Actually, I don’t have it.)
For condition 2, if you stay at a hotel, you have to pay your own expenses.
I didn’t get what “the place” meant concretely so I called and asked the airport staff the question. She directed me to a website of the Japanese Ministry of Health that mentions the place includes a family home. Then I asked my family to drive me home from the airport.
March 26th: The Booked Flight was Cancelled.
I took a look at the reservation on the airline website as usual. My booking suddenly disappeared from the booking page. I inquired with the airline company. The operator told me the flight was cancelled. He explained that I would receive the cancellation notification if I directly reserved the flight from the airline company, but I didn’t receive it because the booking was via an agent. He went on to say that I had to call the agent if I wanted to obtain a refund. Honestly, I got a bit irritated that no one notified me of the sudden cancellation but I had no choice. So I called the agent, and he suggested two options below.
- Book a substitute flight from May.
- Get a refund.
He recommended I choose option 1 but it had lots of uncertainty. I chose to cancel the flight and immediately get the refund in the end. I booked another flight on March 30th from San Francisco to Osaka via Los Angeles, and I let my family know the new arrival date. I avoided buying the connection flight via Tokyo because the flight from Tokyo to Osaka may not accept me. I may have to stay at a hotel in Tokyo with my own expenses for two weeks. (No guarantee I can book the hotel, too.)
March 29th: A Day before the Flight for Japan
A day before the flight, a room mate and I took a walk through Dolores Park, a nearby park to the home in San Francisco. It was the first walk in a while except for going to a grocery store. I hadn’t gone out for three weeks, and my steps were a bit heavy. There were few people in the park. Dolores Park is one of the most popular spots that are normally overcrowded, so much so that you cannot see the grass.
March 30th: Day of the Flight
I wore the mask my ex-co-worker gave me. My room mate drove me from home to San Francisco International Airport. There were very few people at the airport. The flight was a code-sharing flight of JAL and American Airlines. The flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles was operated by American Airlines. The other one from Los Angeles to Osaka was by JAL. There were few passengers on the American Airlines aeroplane. On the other hand, the JAL aeroplane reached almost full occupancy.
March 31st: Back Home in Kyoto
I arrived at Kansai International Airport. My family picked me up at the airport. I was happy to be back home safe and sound. No one did the practice of social distancing at the immigration, people were packed together waiting in line. I signed a paper for the promise I would be in quarantine for two weeks. You could mark a checkbox if you came from Europe but no checkbox for the people who came from the US on the paper. Before leaving the US, I saw the official homepage saying that if you come from the US, the information must be self-reported so I asked the Immigration Officer if I could do that, but she answered I didn’t need it because there weren’t any checkboxes for that on the paper. However, just in case, I wrote on the paper ‘I took a flight from the US’.
April 15th: Quarantine Period was Over.
I had stayed at home for two weeks. I will still go on staying at home except for taking a walk and grocery shopping. Tamago Kake Gohan is good. (It is a Japanese cuisine putting a raw egg on rice.)