Shaun Sanders was supposed to move back to her native Canada in April, after she finished her post-doctorate fellowship in neuroscience at Temple University. Her husband, Dale Martin, a professor, was already there, and the couple had looked forward to being together after more than year of living apart.
Then the coronavirus outbreak happened. Last week, Sanders, 35, heard President Donald Trump mention that the United States might close its northern border, which for her could mean being separated from her husband for months.
So she packed her life into two suitcases, made her way through an eerily empty Philadelphia airport, and flew home Monday night.
“It was very crazy and emotional and scary and surreal,” she said. Yet when she woke up Wednesday morning to the news that the U.S.-Canadian border was closed to all nonessential travel, she was grateful she’d made the decision.
“The reason I rushed home so quickly was exactly what’s happening today,” Sanders said. “I feel so bad for anyone who’s affected by this.”
Sanders said her heart breaks for the many Canadians living in the United States who may not be able to reunite with loved ones for the foreseeable future.
“The last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in Philadelphia, especially if I couldn’t work and was away from my husband,” she said.
Sanders is now left with a lot of unknowns. She’s about ready to submit the final scientific publication for her fellowship, but she doesn’t know whether the coronavirus will impact the traditional publication review process or the completion of her program. She doesn’t know when she’ll be able to return to Philly to say a proper goodbye to friends or get the rest of her belongings. (She’d been staying with friends since her lease ended in December.)
Some of her anxieties are ones shared by people around the world.
“What’s going to happen to the state of everything?" she said. “The economy? Our friends and loved ones?”
She worries about her three grandparents, two of whom are in long-term-care homes. She worries about her parents and her sister, who is pregnant.
However, since returning home, Sanders has been able to relax a little, even as she is under a mandatory 14-day quarantine in her apartment due to her recent travel.
The first couple of days have been OK, she said. On Tuesday night, she said, she got her first good night of sleep in more than a week. She and Martin have enjoyed making homemade pasta, working out in their home gym, and turning on movies when the news becomes overwhelming.