When military mom Vanessa Ghinea first heard about the coronavirus, she had just moved to a new country and shared excitement with her husband about showing their children around Europe. Today, the growing family of five is quarantined in their home, doing their part to slow a global pandemic.
“I didn’t think much of it in the beginning as we weren’t affected in any way,” Ghinea told TODAY Parents from a U.S. military base in Naples, Italy.
The Ghinea family relocated to Italy from Honolulu, Hawaii, in early 2020. They were in the process of finding and setting up their home when news began to trickle in about a new strain of virus.
“My oldest was told first by her teacher," Ghinea said. “She was encouraged to stay home if sick, wash hands thoroughly and cough away and into her arm. She didn’t think much of it as it’s something we practice when we are sick.”
Ghinea, due in May with her fourth child, and her husband, Samuel, are parents to Audrey, 10, Weston, 6, and Hudson, 1.
“My 6-year-old knows very little, but he knows that people are getting really sick and if we don’t do our part to help, people can’t get better,” Ghinea said.
Similar to the United States, Italian authorities did not initiate sweeping changes at once, but on March 9, 2020, Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte ordered residents into full quarantine, impacting more than 60 million people across the country.
“It took a few weeks before we saw any drastic changes, but [as soon as] we did it seems it’s been a downward slope,” she said. “We were still trying to plan our spring break three weeks ago, but my husband and I were hesitant to book something because it seemed things began to shut down or get restricted.”
The military base where the Ghinea family is stationed is governed by Italian law, which means that residents living there must abide by the country-wide quarantine.
“You can get fined for not being at home and leaving base requires a special document stating the reason to be off base,” she said. “I think most of us on base are concerned, but trying to do our best to help and be patient.”
When asked what she wished she could tell families in the United States, Ghinea stressed the serious nature of the virus.
“People should not panic, but do take precautions,” she said. “If schools are shutting down, there’s a reason for that. It doesn’t mean it’s extra time for trips or sleepovers. The sooner people take it seriously, the sooner this virus can go away.
“In Italy we are practicing social distance. Italians are friendly and love to hug and kiss, so if they can practice social distance I’m not sure why Americans can’t.”
For now, Ghinea, who will deliver her baby within the next two months at a hospital that is located on the military installation, is doing her best to maintain a positive attitude, despite recognizing the potential risks.
“I’m nervous primarily for the staff if they’ve been exposed,” she said. “We run the same risks [as Italian residents not living on a base], because locals work on base.”
Through it all, Ghinea's children are making the most of their time in quarantine. Their mom said they are relying on creativity to keep them busy.
“The kids have tuned into their imaginations,” Ghinea shared. “They’ve built forts, escape rooms, multiple picnics for breakfast and lunch on our balcony, homemade hopscotch, charades, reading and helped around the house; however, they do have virtual classes which take a good portion of their time.”