SANTA ROSA (KPIX) – A group of students from Santa Rosa Junior College were studying abroad in Italy, when the coronavirus began spreading there. Most of them were still stuck there as of Tuesday night.
But one student who was able to leave before the flights ended is just glad to be home. Well, almost home.
Jake Eastman is resting comfortably at his parents’ house in Santa Rosa. Actually, he’s living in their driveway. He has spent the last 5 days in the family’s travel trailer in a self-quarantine after returning from a foreign studies trip to Italy. The first two weeks were great and then Jake started feeling poorly.
“I went to the doctor and found I had a sinus infection,” he said. “And then, the next week, immediately after was the coronavirus outbreak.”
As the crisis intensified, the travel company was reluctant to let the 22 SRJC students leave Florence, so finally his parents bought him a ticket. He left Wednesday, March 4, on one of the last flights out of the stricken country.
“No one’s actually directly said that he had to be in quarantine,” said Jake’s mother Kate. “He actually went through two major airports without any screening or anyone asking where he was coming from. We were shocked.”
Most of the students remain stuck in Italy, including Anthony Giampaoli who told us via Facebook Live that the atmosphere in Florence is surreal.
“It’s almost like a ghost town,” he said. “I talked to a couple of locals and they said it’s absolutely crazy to see something like this happen. A town that is so full of tourists every year is down to locals.”
“It felt like we had the city to ourselves,” said Jake. “But, you know, it was a constant stress because everyone was talking about it. That’s all the coordinators would talk about, all the students would talk about. It was just waiting for it to get worse.”
Most of the nation is now on lockdown, but the students have been told they can fly out early Wednesday morning. Then, they may discover what Jake has — that sitting alone for two weeks can be excruciatingly boring.
Still, Anthony says he’s loved his experience and someday his kids will get to hear all about it.
“Look at what your father did,” he said. “I was supposed to be there for three months. I lived it out, I had a good time, I fought off the coronavirus and, you know, it’s going to be a pretty good story to tell one of these days.”
Returning students have been told they can complete the semester by studying online and the company will refund some of the students’ money, prorated for the time spent in country.
As for Jake? He feels better now but when he asked his health provider, they said they saw no reason to test him for coronavirus.