Week One in Lock Down

It began last Wednesday, March 11th. The Prime Minister of Denmark announced that all schools were to close due to COVID-19. If you could work from home, do. The virus had taken a hold of Denmark.

Day 1:

Did not start great.
Claire was very upset there was no school. She was even more upset when I told her it was canceled for the next 12 days. Avery wasn’t too upset. I think she was more upset because her sister was acting so sad.
But I promised the girls we would have a fun day. I printed off worksheets for them to do. Lots of coloring and painting for Avery. Problem solving and math for Claire. We put together unicorn Aquabeads, played games and had a dance party in the evening. Avery also managed to change her outfit six times throughout the day.

Denmark didn’t have the best day either. Storm Laura was also making its way across the country. It brought strong winds that closed down the large bridges that connect Sweden and Denmark and some of Denmark’s islands. We even had some graupel at one point.
There was also hoarding, or hamstring (in Danish). The government had warned NOT to do this but obviously a few folks decided not to listen. Bread, milk and yeast were the most picked over items. Due to this hoarding, the Danish government decided to restrict the release of drugs from pharmacies. This is to prevent needed medicines from being hoarded and running out for those who desperately need them.
Emergency day cares were set up for parents who had to work in essential jobs.
The government was also beginning to work on legislation to help the economy. There were discussions to issue subsidies to businesses to help avoid massive layoffs of employees. New laws were being made to try and slow the spread of the virus.
Denmark also imposed restrictions to travel to the United States after the US imposed restrictions on most of Europe. Denmark pretty much said all travel should be avoided.

The numbers on Day 1: 674 infected, 0 deaths.

Day 2:

The home front was a little less crazy. We again played with Aquabeads, printed worksheets, worked on activity books, painted nails and played the game Twister (I won) and Spot It. It was also a gorgeous day so we went for a bike ride. The girls also played outside in the leftover rain puddles. All in all…it was a good day.

The Denmark government was starting to come up with new laws and all were expected to be enacted. I’ve translated it the best I can but some information may be lost in translation. The Danish government can now:

  • Force isolation or vaccination
  • Cancel public events
  • Close or restrict access to public institutions
  • Close educational institutions
  • Override patient rights
  • Limit public transportation
  • Restrict or limit visitors to nursing homes and hospitals
  • Enforce rules to ensure supply of goods
  • Expropriate private property

I believe these laws are only in enforcement for a certain amount of time but I can’t recall how long.

Officials in a press conference (which now happen every day) admitted they were too optimistic Denmark would miss the virus. They regretted not acting faster before community spread was detected. Therefore, it was determined that Denmark must go from a containment strategy to a mitigation strategy; the “flatten the curve” strategy that is well known across the world now. It was also announced that only the severely sick would be tested for the virus to free up hospital employees and prevent spreading the virus within hospitals. A drive through test center had been set up in Aarhus but you could only go if recommended by your practitioner.
The border was closed on Saturday at noon. Danish citizens were allowed in as well as goods and medicines. Without a valid excuse, foreigners would be turned away.

The numbers on Day 2: 801 infected, 0 deaths.

Day 3:

Saturday!!

We decided to escape the confines of the house and go to the beach in the afternoon. It was sunny but windy and cold. The high was only in the mid 40s (°F). But hey, the sun was shining!
We had a good time. I was freezing but the girls were bundled up in their snowsuits and winter gear. Claire ran around the beach, jumping in puddles and finding shells. Avery dug in the sand and tried to build a sandcastle with gloves. The husband drove his RC car. I soaked in the rays and listened to the ocean.

We weren’t the only ones who had thought to run away to the beach but most Danes were staying to themselves and keeping a good distance between each other.
After a good hour or two, we made our way into the coastal town. We saw the ferry that was no longer running due to the border closing. The husband also found a fish market with smoked salmon (it was delicious). I found local honey.
We stopped at the grocery store to pick up milk and bread and headed home.

Another press conference brought more details about the coronavirus. Most of the infected were believed to have been related to a popular skiing resort in Austria. It explained why many of the infected were in their 40s.
The first death was reported in Denmark from the virus. Hundreds had been turned away from the border. Some young adults had also been found to have spread the virus through a game of beer pong.
But it wasn’t all bad news. The health department had asked for medical volunteers to sign up to help with the influx of patients expected over the next several weeks to months. Over 1,700 had signed up to assist. They were medical students in their final years, those who were retired and the unemployed with a medical background. Awesome!

The numbers on Day 3: 827 infected, 2 deaths.

Day 4

Sunday I ran to the school to pick up Claire’s packet of homework she was expected to do over the next two weeks. The school had crafted an online program and I needed to get the paper stuff before it started on Monday (a million thanks to the mom who picked it up for me Thursday). I also stopped at the grocery store which was pretty well stocked. Some shelves were empty but it definitely wasn’t aisles of empty shelves.
Back at home, we spent the day playing, making St. Patrick’s Day crafts and wearing swimsuits (Avery). That night, we enjoyed Frozen 2 and I still know all the words to the soundtrack.

Germany closed its borders while Denmark’s other neighbor, Sweden, remained open. It was expected that further restrictions were to be announced in the coming days. The government was also still putting together a proposal to boost the economy and prevent major layoffs. Italy’s death count was starting to trickle in too. Sunday it was 368 dead in Italy from the virus in 24 hours.

The numbers on Day 4: 864 infected, 3 deaths.

Day 5

Elearning began!

Ugh.

Claire and I both missed the classroom. We had a few bugs to figure out. Claire thought she could say no to everything. I had to remind her that this was schoolwork and she was expected to do it. One particular assignment sent her to the corner crying. Ooooffff!
Avery learned about cats and rabbits. The resources we used were from Scholastic learning and Pinterest.
After homeschooling, we went out to roller skate. The girls also started work on a food truck (still a work in progress).
And the BEST thing of all? A Easter care package from Grandma arrived!! The girls got lots of Easter candy, a book and activity. The grownups even received some candy and saltine crackers (for the husband). Next time, Grandma is sending jalapeno Cheetos.

Numbers from Italy continued to come in. Around 350 deaths in 24 hours. All religious ceremonies in Denmark were to be postponed until Easter or later. The European Union introduced a 30 day entrance ban on travelers to slow the spread of the virus. The Danish border had rejected over 500 people from the borders over the weekend. The mitigation strategy was still in effect but due to WHO recommendations, an average of 600 were being tested per day. The spread needed to be followed and it was possible, Denmark was only in week one or two in to this pandemic.

The numbers on Day 5: 914 infected, 62 hospitalized, 3 deaths.

Day 6

Elearning went better. Claire was in the swing of it and completed all her work in about two hours.
Avery continued with crafts and other learning resources I had found online.
We went for a walk along the stream in our town making sure to stay away from anyone passing by. We even ventured to the small playground but left as soon as someone else showed up.
We dyed our hair with hair chalk, wore green and even watched the Cedar Falls Library do a live story time on Facebook.

A BIG press conference was held. It was announced earlier in the day and well…the hoarders hit the stores again. There was a rumor that a complete lock down was going to be announced. But this did end up just being a rumor.
What ended up happening is stricter measures were put in place but not a curfew.

The new restrictions until March 30th:

  • gathering must be under 10 people
  • all gyms and sport facilities must close
  • hair salons, tattoo parlors, etc must close
  • restaurants, bars and cafes must close; but take way will be allowed
  • malls and department store must close; drive up will be allowed
  • food stores and pharmacies must STAY open BUT employees must be 4 square meters from costumers and use gloves if possible

It was enforced that numbers will continue to rise and the healthcare will be taxed if people do not take this seriously. A two meter distance must be kept. Social distancing must be used.

To enforce this even more, Queen Margrethe II spoke. This was historic as the queen or king typically only speaks on New Years Eve. This was the first time since World War II (I believe) royalty have spoken outside of the New Year speech broadcast.
The queen spoke in harsh words. She urged Danes to keep their distance. That birthdays and parties must be canceled. That it is “mindless and ruthless” to not social distance. She went on the thank all those working in the heath field, grocery stores and the truck drivers.

The numbers on Day 6: 977 infected, 82 hospitalized, 4 deaths.

Day 7

More homeschooling!
Elearning went well again. Claire did many more hands on/creative activities. She built a “robot” out of recyclable materials, made a civilization she called “Ghostland”, painted with nature and made a sign about recycling on Canva. Her elearning lasted past lunch.
Avery was a little more difficult. She was tired of our routine and wanted to do something else. Luckily, her teacher sent her a project just in time so she was able to make an owl. I also found a big empty box and she pasted it with stickers and said it was her new bed.
They spent the rest of the afternoon playing outside, drawing with Mo Willems and playing together inside. I even taught Claire how to play solitaire. They went to bed together. Their third slumber party of the week.

The Ministry of Justice set fines for violating the new laws enacted by the prime minister the night before. Fines would also increase for repeat offenders. The Director of the National Board of Health then spoke. He said that there are young and old coming in to the hospital and that it is too soon to release the age distribution. They are mapping respirators throughout the country. They fear the biggest challenge will be staff capacity and not equipment shortages. Testing is now up to 1000 people per day. Experts believed it is unlikely institutions will be allowed to open in two weeks like planned. The Ministers for Business and Finance are working on details to keep businesses safe (a lot of details and numbers that I don’t understand).

The numbers on Day 7: 1057 infected, 129 hospitalized, 4 deaths.

Thoughts

So there it is. One week in Denmark with the virus sweeping the world. We have thought about going back to the USA but things developed so rapidly we now feel safer here. Flights are hard to find and the risk of getting infected will likely be higher if we get on an airplane and travel through packed airports. Therefore, our family will be staying put in Denmark.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. We have no family here to rely on. But we do have friends and a wonderful international community. We are following all the rules set in place by the CDC, WHO and Danish government.

Homeschooling and isolation will be hard for my outgoing girls who miss their friends dearly. They continue to find my buttons and push them. Send wine and Cheetos.

However, we are healthy. I pray it continues that way.

Copenhagen and THE Virus

It feels like a lot has happened since my last blog post. We’ve had several weeks of school, the warmest and one of the dreariest winters in Denmark has come to an end and there is currently this coronavirus sweeping the world. So yeah…a lot has happened.

As the virus was just starting to make it’s way through Europe, we were contemplating on whether we should make a trip to Copenhagen. Our Danish instructor wanted all of his students to meet up together. We had already purchased the *non-refundable* tickets. There were also only around 20 cases of coronavirus reported in Denmark the morning we left. They were all from those who had traveled outside of the country and they were quarantined. The only real measure that was enacted when we left was that events of over 1,000 people were encouraged to be canceled. Danish Health officials were also saying public transportation was still safe. We decided to just go ahead with our trip (with hand sanitizer in hand of course).

We woke up early Saturday morning to make the 7 AM train. The train was pretty empty and remained that way through most of the trip to Copenhagen.

When we arrived, we made our way to the ticket office at the train station to get our Copenhagen cards. Our lunch wasn’t until 11:30 AM so we made our way to a hardware store for the husband to purchase some nuts and bolts. Avery some how managed to hurt herself in the store so the girls and I left the store to find a secondhand store. Claire has been expressing a desire to wear more dresses like her sister. She only has a couple of hand-me-down dresses here and they are all too small now. We found the shop and she found two dresses in her size (Avery found one).

After the store, we decided to walk to the meeting place for lunch. It was a long walk and both of the girls were quite cranky (due to hunger and the early wake up call). We found our fellow Danish students and made our way to the restaurant.

We had an excellent time. There were only nine of us but it was great to talk to other foreigners who were struggling with the language and Danish culture. We had some good laughs and enjoyed some good food. At the end of lunch, we played a game of Bingo with our instructor (over Skype. He was unable to make it due to the coronavirus threat). It was all in Danish numbers and let me tell you, Danish numbers give me a headache. The number system is done by base-20 after the number 40. Literally from the Copenhagen Language Center on Danish numbers: “The tricky parts comes, when the numbers exceed 49 because 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 can be a real bitch to tell apart.” Lucky us.

After a long lunch, we promised the girls a trip to Kid City at the Danish Architecture Center (DAC). They were looking forward to this so much as I had talked about it for over a week. With our Copenhagen card in hand, we got in quickly and immediately made our way up the rainbow stairs to Kid City.

We stepped into Kid City and the girls immediately started running around checking out all the fun activities. There was a wooden mouse sculpture with a slide, Legos, a Minecraft sculpture with game, wooden houses showing the different ratios of design, videos on different architecture projects throughout Copenhagen and a virtual reality center. But the highlight was the slide that lead into a ball pit. They spent most of their time on this slide but would take breaks to visit the other areas of the floor.

I was able to sneak away and visit another part of the center. I didn’t take any pictures but it was an exhibit by architects using reusable materials to make different furniture. Most of the pieces were wood based but there was a cool lamp made from paper/foil and a table made from fungus. The fungus table unfortunately was not holding up and looked like it would not be a good replacement for wood.

I also enjoyed the VR center. I put on the headgear (while thinking of all the germs on it). It was just so cool. It forced me to “walk” out on a landing and then jump multiple floors down. My heart was beating as I “jumped” off the imaginary beam. Wow! Claire also tried it but she was too scared to jump.

Ten minutes before closing, we made our way to the exit. We had spent close to three hours at DAC and now it was time to eat!

We ate supper (fish and chips for the husband and Claire, pancakes for Avery and lobster for me), made our way back to the hostel and then crashed. The husband wanted to check out the bar but man, I was tired. So we called it an early night.

View from hostel

The next morning we woke up, jumped on the bus and made our way to the gluten free bakery. Every time I come to Copenhagen now, I will stop at this bakery. Delicious, gluten free and vegan treats! Yum!

We grabbed some fresh orange juice and coffee at a market nearby before boarding the train for Hellerup to visit the Experimentarium.

Now I’m going to be frank with you, we were all on edge. We were tired after a long Saturday and still dragging Sunday. Tempers were short and tears were flowing pretty quickly. We were not the happiest bunch by the time we arrived at the Experimentarium. But with two levels of kid activities including bubbles, balls, pretend construction and water play, moods lifted pretty quickly. It was a HUGE building primarily focused on hands on learning for kids. I would compare it to most science museums located around the USA.

The first level focused on the transport of goods to and from Denmark. It included pretend ships for kids to push around and an impressive structure that transported these “goods” (which were colored balls) from Denmark to Singapore. Avery had a blast chasing her ball up and down the different chutes and elevators.

The next spot was learning about the body. There was infrared body scanner, a video game explaining the immune system and a “heart” pumping blood according to your bodies heartbeat. I didn’t catch it all but it involved electric currents.

Next was the team exercise part. We signed up our family and did a few activities. Unfortunately, it seemed to be geared towards older kids as our two were just a bit too young to reach the petals on the exercise bike. We left that area pretty quickly with a few tears.

Next was water play. The girls stayed in this area for quite awhile. The area talked about tides, waves, undersea life, tsunamis and many other things. Avery enjoyed playing in the water with rubber duckies while Claire enjoyed making an underwater tornado/vortex. I thoroughly enjoyed that part as well.

We ended that level learning about how electricity is produced and how many watts it takes to use different types of electronics.

The second floor started with Olympic training. There was a climbing wall, a gym, shooting range and starting blocks. But we didn’t stay there long because Avery had found the BUBBLES!! She was soaked in bubble goop by the time she was done but she had a great time making big and small bubbles.

After bubble zone, the parents got a break. The girls played in the construction zone for close to 30 minutes. The zone pretty much consisted of pulleys, levers and simple machines to move balls around the zone. They loved it!

Our final stop before lunch was the light room. We experimented how lights can change perceived colors, a laser that acted as a harp, perfect selfie lighting and prisms. We even snapped a family picture on the phosphorescent wall.

After lunch at the Experimentarium, we made our way back to Copenhagen to run a few errands. One stop was at the Disney store. My husband wisely stayed outside while the girls and I went in. I’m not sure why I said we could go there and expected them not to beg for toys. But they did, over and over and over. I caved (a bit) and let them get notebooks for the train ride home.

We arrived home Sunday night and were exhausted. It had been a short but packed weekend!

And now for the news on the virus the whole world is talking about…

On Monday, the real effects of the coronavirus on Denmark began to make its mark. I had already noticed that hand sanitizing gel was sold out at all the local stores. There were signs posted all over Copenhagen but it still didn’t feel like a huge deal. But on Monday, the cases topped over 100. Today, there are now 340+ infected in Denmark. More steps to prevent the spread were put into effect Tuesday. They include:

  • Avoid public transportation during rush hour. More trains to be provided to prevent overcrowding.
  • Buses will only allow seating. If all the seats are filled, the bus will not stop. Some extra buses are being deployed.
  • Retired medical workers and medical students are being asked to assist in potential coronavirus hospital admittances.
  • Elective surgeries will be canceled to prevent overloading of hospitals.
  • A drive through testing sight has been launched in Aarhus.
  • Flights from red zones (northern Italy; Hubei, China; the city of Daegu and the province of Gyeongbuk; Austrian state of Tyrol and Iran) are banned.
  • A 14 day quarantine is expected if you have traveled to any of the red zone areas. Or if anyone you have been in close contact with has tested positive for coronavirus.

As of today (3/11), trains are half empty. Several schools have closed due to infected students and a nursing home employee may have exposed nursing home patients. Over 1,000 are in quarantine (all numbers found and updated from here).

How does it feel being in a foreign country with a current outbreak?

A little nerve-racking.

I feel sort of in limbo, which I think many around the world likely feel. We don’t know what the next day will bring. Will a student test positive at the school? Will all of Danish schools be closed down for weeks like several other European countries have done? Will the country be locked down? Will we catch it?

I have found comfort in a few things.

  1. Action is being taken. Details are emerging continuously. The health minister has been updating the public constantly and they have been very blunt about the worse case scenario. They are preparing for the worst and putting plans in place to hopefully avoid what Italy is currently going through.
  2. The school has set up an emergency action. They have listed the steps to be taken in the event of the outbreak hitting the school. Online education will be done and a system is in place for this.
  3. We are not around our older relatives. Research shows that they are the group to be hit the hardest with the virus and it gives me some relief knowing that we will not be spreading it to them.

In reality, we are just taking it day by day and following the advice put in place by the Danish health minister.

Therefore, you likely won’t be seeing a lot of blog posts from me due to our lack of adventure expected over the next several weeks/months.

Stay safe everyone! And wash your hands!

UPDATE: This shows how quickly things change. I wrote the previous post this morning and already by this evening everything has changed.

Over 500 people are now sick with the coronavirus in Denmark and some of these have started to show severe symptoms. Drastic measures are now being taken in Denmark. New initiatives here:

  • All public servants are to be at home starting Friday and for the next two weeks.
  • Hospitals and nursing homes will introduce stricter visiting hours
  • All schools and daycares are to close from Monday and for the next two weeks. You are encouraged to keep your children home earlier if possible.
  • Gatherings with more than 100 people will be prohibited. This includes work places if possible.
  • Public transportation is to be limited.
  • All indoor cultural institutions, libraries, etc. are closing now until two weeks from Friday.
  • All universities are to close and students must return home. They will be closed for two weeks from Friday.

In a nutshell, Denmark is closed.

Stay tuned…