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She lives in a bubble

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For people working from home and shunning gatherings with friends to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, life can begin to feel like it’s happening inside a bubble.

That idea has become quite literal for Medford resident Jessica Lippe, whose family built a plastic barrier to keep themselves safe from any germs she may have acquired in her travels.

“It’s a solid frame that’s in the hallway and it goes all the way into the bathroom, which is also my dining area right now,” the 28-year-old said over a video call Monday, gesturing toward the barrier made of wood and durable plastic sheeting that separates her section of her parents’ home.

“Which is real classy, I know,” she added with a laugh.

If you called Lippe’s phone and reached her voicemail early in the week, you’d hear her cheerful explanation for the likely reason she missed your call.

“If you’re hearing this, I’m probably in Europe right now without any cell service,” the recording said Monday.

But like so many international travelers globe-trotting in the first few months of this year, Lippe’s plans were cut short as the coronavirus took a deadly hold in Europe and countries began closing their borders.

She began her journey in Germany at the end of February, with plans to visit another 10 countries.

She took part in an English immersion program as a volunteer, speaking with people living in rural Bavaria. The World Health Organization declared the pandemic while she was in that program.

Lippe continued on to Saltzburg, planning to practice social distancing there. But her trip was cut short when she heard that Germany would be closing its borders.

After racing back to Munich, she began making arrangements to return to Medford. Two days later, she caught one of the final trains to Frankfurt, and on March 21, she boarded her flight back to the U.S.

One of the biggest logistical issues was that Lippe didn’t have a home to return to. Because she had expected to be gone until May, she had let her apartment go and found new accommodations for after her expected return.

She had a few offers from friends, but her parents wound up making the most sensible offer. After all, they made it clear that they wouldn’t be taking Lippe’s quarantine lightly.

“We were even careful at the airport,” Lippe said, just a day after she returned. “When they picked me up, they brought two cars and then they rode back in one car, and I rode back in my own car.”

Back at home, Lippe’s father had prepared the apparatus that would seal his daughter off from the rest of the household as she waited out the quarantine period.

The wooden frame cuts one hallway in half, sectioning off the entrance to the bedroom and bathroom Lippe is now relegated to.

Her family passes meals to her through an opening in the thick plastic. Stickers help make the sheeting more visible so a passerby wouldn’t walk into it, Lippe said.

Though it’s far from Lippe’s normal lifestyle as a house mother at Magdalene Home, she’s taking it in stride.

“We just wanted to take this seriously and make sure we don’t spread it to other people,” she said.

Lippe, who has written a book, said the time alone is good for travel writing, and she’s got movies and other ways to entertain herself.

“I’m definitely going to be in here for at least the first five days,” she said. “After that, I can go outside a little bit, but I will still be keeping a distance from my family and everybody else.

It was disappointing to have the trip cut short, Lippe said, but she realized that life was going to be very different while COVID-19 remained a threat.

“With everything closed in Europe, there wasn’t anything left to do anyway at this time,” she said. “So I’m going to save all the plans that I made and hopefully go back soon.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Life in a bubbleThumbnail
Jessica Lippe shows off the plastic divider her father built to keep her sequestered from her family during her quarantine period. Lippe returned to Medford from a tour through Europe after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 to be a pandemic. Photo courtesy of Jessica Lippe.