A mother’s angst, a daughter home safely

  • Courtesy of Stephanie Shinno

    The Shinno ‘ohana celebrates Christmas.

  • Courtesy of Stephanie Shinno

    Stephanie Shinno is a reporter at The Garden Island newspaper.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared on March 11, this divorced single parent of three was busy writing news for TGI; covering community events, inspirational stories, and a few of the more bizarre twists and turns 2020 has had in store for us — all the while keeping my eye on COVID-19.

At the time, no one really knew the nature of the virus that was sprouting in China, and as hints of COVID-19 started to hit the news, my colleagues and I started digging. Slowly, and then not so slowly, COVID-19 came into the spotlight. We had to make sure we covered this “invisible suspect,” as my ex-husband called it, and find out how we can report it for all to learn more about it.

Meanwhile, as head of the household, I had to make sure the roof stayed over my kids’ head, that they remain fed, and we have the essentials to survive each month.

Right before the pandemic was declared my eighth grade daughter took a class trip to Washington D.C.

Things were just starting to happen in the States, more cases of COVID-19 began to appear, and both the state Department of Education and my daughter’s Chiefess Kamakalehei Middle School TV teacher Kevin Matsunaga were watching the news and in contact with all of us — the parents.

March 7, my daughter Aaliyah Nero went with her CKTV ‘ohana to Washington. There were no cases at the time, and everyone made sure to watch the news.

The day she left, I was fighting a respiratory infection — one I get every year about this time, due to asthma and a weak immune system — including a mild cold. The night my daughter was set to fly to Washington, I had to FaceTime her. I didn’t want to get her sick. Her dad and her stepmom took her to the airport instead.

Not too long into their trip, there was an announcement of cases of COVID-19 confirmed and their Student Television Network convention was canceled. The disease had just begun to spread in Washington and New York. Everyone in the CKTV ‘ohana started getting concerned.

Parents including myself were on the fence if they should continue their trip and go to New York or not. Soon, the DOE told Matsunaga to cancel the New York trip and come home early. Now that New York has a high amount of positive cases, I am forever grateful for that call.

Of course the kids were bummed, but I was so grateful to the chaperones, parents and Matsunaga for taking good care of them and keeping their spirits up while they faced the unknown.

Back home, the parents were facing an unknown of their own — what to do with the kids, chaperones and parents that were flying home from the East Coast. Should they be quarantined? At that time, no quarantine rules were in place for travelers.

Aailyah’s dad and I talked about it right before she came home. We decided to keep her away from our other two boys for 14 days after returning to Kaua‘i. One of our sons was traveling back to Kaua‘i from O‘ahu during the same time, so we decided we’d keep the two boys together at one house and quarantine our daughter in the other. Aailyah wasn’t complaining of any symptoms — we just wanted to be safe.

The morning my daughter was expected to return from Washington, I attended a meeting at Kamehameha School and brought the idea up with other parents and staff. They liked the plan. I was happy at their positive response.

March 14, the night the CKTV kids came back, was right before President Trump was issuing a travel ban from Europe to America. You can imagine the relief we had when they came home. Their 14 days of voluntary self-quarantine ended Sunday, March 29. Now, though, we are all quarantined to an extent, living within the new Kaua‘i Stay-At-Home rules. DOE recently announced they were closing all schools until April 30 to align with the stay-at-home orders. Kamehameha Schools closed their campus and will be providing our kids distance learning starting April 6.

Matsunaga has been amazing, always emailing us, keeping us in contact with the state Department of Health and checking on our kids’ wellbeing. We are happy to report they are all doing well and no one has symptoms of COVID-19. Although, I am sure we were all worried in the beginning.

Now as we are further into this pandemic, I am very proud of Mayor Derek Kawakami and his team for all of the new emergency rules. Doing what is right to keep our community safe. Yes, it’s a major adjustment, but for people like me and my kids with preexisting conditions, I am very grateful.

Another challenge during these times has been acquiring toilet paper and a few other essential products like sanitizers and other cleaning materials.

It’s not like I’ve been a part of any toilet paper craze — I’m not out to hoard — but my household depends on that Kirkland brand from Costco because it really saves us money.

One case is $20, and lasts us a little over a month. I tried to get to Costco and they were out for a long time. We made it through thanks to gifted toilet paper from friends and a neighbor.

I remember finding some disinfecting wipes at Walmart during the beginning of the buying limits — stores limiting the number of essential items each household could buy — I got two boxes of some kind of wipes and was told to put one back.

Then this past Wednesday, the stay-at-home order began. It was tough to see that long line at Costco become the norm every morning. As an essential worker, I am not able to get there in time, or stand in their long lines due to my work schedule.

Friday, March 27, I took a chance. I stood in the line in the rain for maybe 10 minutes at Costco in Lihu‘e before it began to move more quickly, and I got into Costco within 15 minutes total.

There it was, like gold.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to finally buy a case of Kirkland toilet paper. Many knew my frustrations, and this moment was documented in my mind forever. It sounds silly, but I was still grateful.

Shopping at stores like Costco and Walmart is a different experience now. Kids are not allowed inside. Only one person per household allowed in.

After securing a few of the essentials throughout the week, my daughter and I decided to take a weekend to relax and work on our mental health.

We pampered ourselves with facial masks while drinking tea and tuning out of social media. We even had a socially distanced picnic in the empty Lydgate Park — due to the new county permits for visitors. That fresh air and cracking jokes to the chickens to keep their 6-feet distance helped us keep our sanity.

Now it’s more important than ever to stay at home and only go out for essentials. For media, our business cards and a letter from the higher-ups clear us to travel, but Kaua‘i Police Department checkpoints are set up around the island. It’s a time of uncertainty.

We need to be kind to one another and thankful for what we have in this time. Patience is important. Find joy in the little things. Share the happiness with others. We are all learning about this virus, keep yourself informed on how to stay safe and ride this wave of uncertainty.


Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, at The Garden Island. can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

  1. diane tilley March 30, 2020 2:28 am Reply

    Thank you. I am a Canadian snow bird – coming to princeville for 22 years now. I was on the last plane out to vancouver on Mar. 22 – took me over 36 hours to arrive to my home in Bobcaygeon Ontario (direct planes to Van. had been cancelled – here the local Nursing Home has 9 residents die, with over 30 staff being quaranteed. Mother Nature has tried to get our attention for years – we are finally listening. take care my beloved Kauai.

  2. DennisandSharon Fowler March 30, 2020 7:28 am Reply

    Here in Indiana we haven’t heard of the news that kids aren’t allowed inside Wal-Mart and only one member per household inside at a time. I know our Wal-Mart is open from 6 a.m. to 11 P.M. each day now. The shelves are starting to look alittle bit more normal now..still can’t find a can of Spam though 🙁 Keep up the great work your doing and God Bless……….S

  3. Kauaidoug March 30, 2020 8:55 am Reply

    Ms Shinno, great narrative. I hope you are adding journaling to your daily exercise. People will look back at articles like this to know what it is like living in a pandemic. Who would have thought as we rang in the new year that toilet paper would become the new status symbol! Never saw that coming watching the the Walking Dead

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