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Barrhead couple shares story of self-isolation

Marjolaine and Jeff Loitz are living in their fifth-wheel in a church’s parking lot
Jeff and Marjolaine Loitz March 30-cropped
Jeff and Marjolaine Loitz self-isolate themselves in their fifth-wheel upon returning to Barrhead from Mexico. Barry Kerton/T&C
BARRHEAD - Stay at home.

That is the advice Marjolaine and Jeff Loitz have for everyone, but especially those returning home from any type of travel.

The couple recently returned home to Barrhead after an extended trip to Puerta Peñasco, Mexico and have temporarily set up camp in the parking lot of the Alliance Church where they are in self-isolation.

The Barrhead couple has been going south for the last three winters since they decided to sell everything and live in a recreational vehicle after Jeff's back was injured in an accident and could no longer work.

Originally, they had planned to stay an additional month, but given the situation brought about by the coronavirus outbreak they changed their minds.

“We were a lot safer in Mexico at the time,” Marjolaine said. “But I wouldn’t have trusted the medical services available to us if we truly needed it.”

Marjolaine has a lung condition which makes her especially vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

The couple started their return journey on March 10 taking care to stay at low-density campgrounds.

“I’m a photographer who likes to take Milky Way pictures,” Jeff said.

And as a result, the couple knows many out of the way locations, most of the time where they were often the only ones camping.

They also limited their contact with people along the way stopping only at gas stations to refuel.

“I was able to use my credit card most of the time. That has a tap feature and if I couldn’t use that, I pushed the pre-pay panel on the gas pumps with a pen and then wiped it, along with our door handles, steering wheel, you name it, down with Lysol,” Marjolaine said, noting they stocked up on cleaning supplies before leaving on their trip.

Normally, when returning to Barrhead, the pair utilize area campgrounds, as well as on their daughter’s property in Westlock.

However, when they decided to cut their trip short, that was no longer an option, as most Alberta campgrounds are closed to the May long weekend plus the province closing its parks to vehicle traffic. That is why they arranged to set up their unit in the parking lot of Barrhead’s Alliance Church.

One of the difficulties the couple had is trying to find a place in Alberta to dump their greywater and septic that wasn’t frozen. Luckily, they were able to find a facility in Devon to empty their tanks and they should be good for close to a month.

The weather is providing another challenge as the colder temperatures are not something they are used to dealing with.

“We have our skirting on and we are trying to keep warm and stop our water lines from freezing,” she said.

Their self-isolation period will be completed by April 10, when they will move their unit to Westlock to their daughter’s place.

Until then they will continue to try to entertain themselves, streaming TV, staying connected with friends and relatives, especially their grandchildren through technology such as Face Time and doing everyday household chores.

For instance, when the Town and Country This Week talked to the couple they were making arrangements for their vehicle to be serviced and shopping for groceries, all done online.

“We are doing the best we can to protect ourselves and others,” Marjolaine said.

She added, they especially want to ensure that they are healthy so that they can help welcome their latest grandchild into the world, noting that their daughter, Angelique, is expecting to deliver in a few weeks.

Jeff said although he knows the guidelines for COVID-19 seem onerous, they don’t have to be.

“When people get their groceries, wear gloves if you can take them out of the cardboard box or shopping bag and put them on a cleaned counter because the inside will not be contaminated,” he said. “Then just wipe down the items with soap and water.”

But more importantly, the couple implore people to follow the guidelines of Alberta Health Services, such as social or physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or the crux of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

“Or just stay the heck home,” Marjolaine. “No one is above the guidelines. We just have to make sure we all adhere to them.”

Barry Kerton,