Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Kathleen Fleury Capetta and her family moved in 2018 from Maine to the Cayman Islands, which have been under a strict lockdown during the pandemic. “My three kids have not left our condo complex since March 13th, with the exception of one half-mile drive to a doctor’s office,” she says. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Fleury Capetta

Kathleen Fleury Capetta is thrilled with her family’s move to the Cayman Islands. But she is facing a void because of the pandemic.

“One thing on my mind is this is the first summer ever I won’t be in Maine at all,” Capetta said. “The airport is closed here, so it’s emergency flight evacuations only through at least Sept. 1. It’s hard to imagine a summer without a family lobster bake, and Popham Beach and Mount Battie.

“I joked with my parents that they are going to have to send me some lobsters and steamers because, no offense, but Caribbean lobster just isn’t the same.”

Capetta grew up on Cousins Island and attended Yarmouth High (Class of 2001). After college and a job in New York, Capetta returned to Maine in 2007 to become an assistant editor with Downeast Magazine, moving up to editor in 2013. In the fall of 2018, Capetta, her husband and three children – now aged 8, 5 and 2 – left Maine for Grand Cayman, where she is publisher of Compass Media, which produces the local newspaper and magazines.

“Our family was ready for an adventure,” she said of moving to the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory. “Though moving internationally with three little kids is not for the faint of heart, it is very rewarding and a great learning experience for everyone.

“Throw in the pandemic and we certainly have had the adventure we set out to find; it just doesn’t look quite like what we anticipated.

“We’ve been subject to a very strict lockdown for nearly two-and-a-half months. My three kids have not left our condo complex since March 13th, with the exception of one half-mile drive to a doctor’s office.

“I won’t sugar coat it: lockdown with three kids under 10 is very difficult. There’s screaming and crying and sibling fighting and tantrums many times a day … Screen time, something we were very restrictive with before this crisis, has become a reluctant necessity.

“Sure, there have been some beautiful things during the time too – our mornings are so much less stressful because no one has to get dressed and out the door. The slower pace is a welcome development, frankly.

“I think living through as restrictive a lockdown as we have been under here with young kids is, quite possibly, the best teacher of being in the present moment … With a 2-year-old, you can’t even play board games! You just have to be present, physically and mentally. All. Day. Long.

“I spend my days running the local newspaper from our bathroom behind a locked door. I emerge to make meals and then try to go outside with everyone in the evening. My husband, a tennis instructor who has been unable to work since mid-March due to the restrictions, has been watching them all day, trying to juggle all the Zoom school calls.”

While the pandemic is hurting the Cayman Islands’ economy, Capetta senses both concern and calm.

“I’ve observed just how different the attitudes are here than in Maine and the rest of the U.S. Perhaps it can be described as much more British – far less of an outcry about freedom. Here, there are no protests and people are in general very supportive of the much more restrictive lockdown … The country depends on tourism, just as Maine does. But they have decided that health and safety are more important, and the majority of people here agree.”

But there are hardships.

“Restaurants and other companies are closing permanently. Thousands of workers are without jobs, and consequently without enough income to survive. Many foreign workers have been evacuated to their home country … The government has chosen to be very cautious, closing the border officially through Sept. 1 and possibly beyond. It’s certainly a controversial strategy, but I admire their commitment to the safety and health of the people. As a result, I feel that my family is not at risk from the virus itself.

“The debate about cruise ship visitors versus stay-over guests has been raging here long before this crisis, and now the idea of sustainable tourism is at the forefront, as it should be everywhere right now. The answers I hope will come from innovative thinking and constructive debate that takes all of the stakeholders, including the greater community and the planet, into account.

“Maine and the Cayman Islands share one major thing in common: their natural beauty and friendly people are at the heart of their tourism product. How do we use those assets to forge a path in this new world? That’s the question I think places like Maine and Cayman need to be asking, but it’s a long road.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at [email protected]

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