The coronavirus is the closest thing to a worldwide shared experience since World War II. Very few areas of the world aren’t being affected in some way by the virus and by COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes. The Rockford Register Star is reaching out to Rock River Valley natives throughout the world to discover how their lives have changed.
Nathan Camarillo is a 1994 Harlem graduate who is head of project management for London-based Improbable. Improbable focuses on developing multiplayer games.
How did you end up there and in that profession?
I started playing video games when I was around 4 years old. In the instruction manual for an old Atari 2600 game I owned, it gave credit to the programmer who made it. I figured out a person made that game and that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up!
How long have you lived there?
I moved to the United Kingdom almost three years ago while working for Amazon. I met my wife here, who was born in Leeds, and we were married last summer. We are expecting our first child at the beginning of May.
When did you first hear about the coronavirus?
I heard about it in early December, as we have an office in China and meet with members from their office often. I was supposed to go on a work trip there but wound up canceling the trip for unrelated reasons even though I had obtained my travel visa.
When did it begin affecting your life?
It may have affected my life in December. I had a really bad, dry chest cough for several days after a first wave of headache and discomfort. Until we have an antibody test I won’t know. However, to be cautious, my wife and I have self-isolated for over a month now due to her pregnancy, well ahead of the restrictions put in place by the UK government in mid-March.
What is life like for you now? What can you do? What are restricted from doing? Where can you go?
We wound up moving out of London and back to the house we own in Leeds due to the combination of our apartment lease ending in London, both of us working from home, and my wife’s family being entirely in Leeds just in case we need any support.
In England we can only leave the house for four reasons -- to get an hour of exercise which we use to walk our dogs; shopping for food infrequently, which my mother-in-law does on our behalf; any medical need, including appointments for the baby, and traveling for work. But we are both able to work from home.
Whenever we do leave the house for medical appointments we wear the highest protection mask possible. When we walk our dogs in the woods near our house we stay far away from anyone else.
Our biggest concern is how it will affect the birth of our child. The restrictions are getting tighter in hospitals to limit exposure for staff, so even if my wife is in the hospital, I can only stay with her when she is fully in labor. I can only stay with her and the baby during limited visitor hours until they are released to come home. This could become more strict at any time and if for some reason I cannot be there the moment our child arrives, I think we will both be devastated.
How long is your government saying this is likely to last?
Having a scientific education, I appreciate these decisions are entirely driven by data and the citizens’ willingness to adhere to the social distancing rules. The UK government is taking this position, and even if the numbers flatten or start to trend downward in growth, this disease is highly contagious and relaxing the restrictions too soon will just allow it to spike again. We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect ourselves, our family, our neighbors, and the health care professionals of this country for as long as it takes.
What do you miss doing on a daily basis that you never thought you'd miss?
Now that we are close to my wife’s family, not seeing them is difficult, even though they are very close by. My sister-in-law just had her third child in mid-March and we aren’t able to celebrate as a family, nor have all the cousins together once our baby arrives.
Are there any positives? Have you been using your time to finish a project, learn something new, reconnect?
Despite the restrictions, everything else for me is very normal. My wife is my best friend, and we constantly have a laugh. We have two wonderful French bulldogs we’ve raised, and I love cooking, playing video games, and building scale models. So other than the social isolation, I’m really enjoying time to focus on relationships and my hobbies. Even my scale model club in London meets every two weeks over video chat.
Have you lost anyone close to COVID-19?
Thankfully not yet. Hopefully we don’t lose anyone but we are extremely sorry for anyone who has. The worst part is that people in their last moments can’t be with family and friends due to the terrible nature of this virus. When you see those numbers every day, they are really terrible. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of this as quickly as possible.
How do you think life might change when this is over?
I see a lot of desperation for people to connect and say hello, even at a distance. We see many more people exercising so I hope that trend continues after the restrictions end. I think life will be a big party when this is all over, and I hope people will be friendlier to each other, support their local businesses more, pollute less and spend more time volunteering and helping their local communities.
Alex Gary is a freelance correspondent