WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)— “She says, ‘we’re planning a trip to Italy, do y’all want to go?”
Jeff Hogue and former Big Brothers Big Sisters of Wichita Falls executive director, Kem Hogue couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. Nine months ago, the two started planning a romantic vacation to Italy, after getting a phone call from a close family friend. The trip happened to fall right on their 40th wedding anniversary.
“We would splurge a little bit and be able to take some time and go hang out with friends and just go up the Amalfi coast and do Italy for our anniversary.”
But when the news broke of COVID-19 spreading from Wuhan, China to Europe, things started to look grim for their getaway.
“We were actually getting emails from the people in Italy, ‘oh it’s in the northern part, everything’s fine here, it’s fixing to warm up,'”says Hogue, “and in the back of my mind I’m still thinking you know there’s not a big enough border at this point between northern Italy and southern Italy.”
Italy is now the site of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak with over 12-thousand confirmed cases and more than 800 deaths. Parts of the country remain on complete lockdown with even the most popular destinations looking like forgotten ruins. Travel to italy is also now restricted, as Kem soon found out when American Airlines sent her an email saying their flight in April was canceled.
“We had trip insurance and I thought well, if worst come to worst, you know we’ve got that and I started looking at the details of it, and it excludes epidemics and pandemics.”
And when it comes to the hotel they booked in Italy, Kem says:
“We had prepaid for some rooms in rome and we paid the full amount but my guess is that’s probably gone at this point.”
Despite the possibility of being out thousands of dollars and having to move their trip to May of next year, Kem is relieved they’re not putting themselves or others in harm’s way.
“You know one of my concerns when we were first still considering was I didn’t want to go over there and then come back and expose everyone else,” says Kem. “My mother…she has breathing issues and heart issues and i really didn’t want to come back, I didn’t want to expose my grandchildren to it, so we were already considering pulling out.”
Kem says while the hype over the coronavirus may be big, we still need to think about the community around us, and you don’t know who you’ve been around that may have it.
In the meantime, Kem has high hopes for the future and still plans to celebrate 40 years of marriage with the love her life with a nice bottle of vino.