Driveway camper quarantine ends for Mesa teen The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Driveway camper quarantine ends for Mesa teen

Driveway camper quarantine ends for Mesa teen

By Zach Alvira
Tribune Sports Editor

A Mesa girl’s spring break trip across the country that was filled with historical sights and family fun resulted in her quarantine in an RV in her family home’s driveway.

Alex Arnett, a 13-year-old Carson Junior High student, returned home last month from a trip with her mother and 7-year-old sister Lauren, one of her nine siblings, and was ready for school to resume on March 16.

The trio had flown to Washington D.C., then to Orlando, Fla. to visit Walt Disney World. But they returned to Arizona with schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly two weeks after returning, Alex started showing symptoms of COVID-19. To help protect the rest of the family, including a sibling with Type 1 diabetes, the family quickly sprang into action.

Her father, Fred Arnett, parked the family recreational vehicle in the driveway of his home so Alex could remain isolated while still within reach of care from her parents.

“We watched her symptoms and kept her at a distance from everybody else,” said Fred. “As her symptoms continued to align, I told my wife something wasn’t right. Finally, as her symptoms continued, we knew we had to quarantine her. It’s really sad. We try to make it fun, but all of her younger siblings don’t understand why they can’t see Alex.”

She remained in the RV for four days before she was finally approved for a COVID-19 test. Last Wednesday – five days after being tested – the family was told she was negative.

“It was a huge sense of relief,” said Sandi Arnett, Alex’s stepmother. “We went screaming down the hall all the way to the RV. It is so hard keeping the quarantine with kids. Keeping her locked up, it was hard on her emotionally. She went around hugging each sibling.”

Alex’s symptoms began with a low-grade fever and sore throat, which eventually developed into a dry cough. Her fever fluctuated.

By Wednesday, however, she felt as if her symptoms were beginning to finally subside.

“She’s been doing better,” Fred said. “It might just be the adrenaline of knowing she is OK.”

At one point, the family of 12 received a notice from their homeowner’s association calling the RV a violation for being parked in the driveway.

But once Arnett, a Mesa justice of the peace, explained the situation and the dire need to have the RV parked out front, the HOA backed down.

Neighbors showed their support for the teen.

Hearts and inspirational messages were drawn on the windows. Because Alex is an avid painter, some neighbors even left painting supplies and snacks on the doorstep.

She said painting, calling and video chatting her family and friends and television helped her through a difficult time.

“I’ve watched a lot of episodes of SpongeBob,” Alex said. “I paint and read a lot of books. I call a lot of people and text them to tell them I love them.”

Just as difficult isolation had been for Alex, it was equally as challenging for her family.

Fred referred to Alex as the “lifeblood” of the family. She’s the most outgoing and outspoken one of the bunch and brings a positive energy with her wherever she goes, he said, adding that Alex likes to dance and play games with all of her siblings on a daily basis.

Even while secluded from her family, Alex remained positive. Every time Fred or her stepmother brought her food or her siblings called her, she put a smile on her face.

She had hoped to be able to return to some sort of normalcy when all of her symptoms subsided.

But now knowing she doesn’t have the disease, she can return to everyday life with her family while continuing to get better from the unknown illness still bothering her.

“Doctors said it is some sort of virus or bacteria going around, but we know for sure it isn’t COVID,” Fred said. “She’s doing cartwheels around the house, playing the piano, doing everything she couldn’t do before because we didn’t know. It’s a huge relief.”

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