Dan Turk in Portugal

Mineral Wells resident Dan Turk was able to get some photos and take in some of the sights of Portugal two weeks ago, before what was going to be a seven-day trip turned into one of hours after he was forced to return to America because of COVID-19 and a European travel ban.

It was going to be a great trip to Portugal for Dan Turk. Seven days of business and pleasure in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. It would last hours, not days.

After arriving March 11 in Lisbon following a long flight that took him from DFW International Airport to Madrid, Spain, Turk was able to stretch his legs a bit, taking a look around and some photos. Turk, his boss and other colleagues with A-Advantage Laundry Systems, based in Garland, were also there.

The 62-year-old Turk is a commercial laundry machine salesman with a large territory. One of the brands he sells, Dexter, sent top salespeople from their vendors to the Atlantic coastal city for some fun, hand out sales awards and talk shop.

"I landed on Wednesday, the 11th, at 11:30, took a cab to the hotel, checked in and walked around town about 45 minutes to kind of see the sites," Turk said. "I met my boss back in the hotel in the afternoon for some drinks. Other people were there for the meeting. We went up to hotel rooftop and had dinner."

He was back in his room around 9 p.m. After winding down and getting to sleep his phone rang about 1:30 a.m. It was his boss telling him President Donald Trump had issued a European travel ban in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. Turk said he was told to book a flight home, pack and leave ASAP. He said by 3 a.m. he was headed back to the airport.

He wasn't alone.

"Going to Europe there were plenty of empty seats" on the planes, Turk said. "Coming back, the planes were packed."

Many Americans in Europe heeded the president's ban and rushed to get on a plane and back home before it took effect on Friday, March 13.

After a three-hour layover at Heathrow Airport in London, Turk made a direct flight back to DFW.

"I was kind of surprised getting back at DFW there were no checks," said Turk, meaning no one screened departing passengers for possible exposure to the virus.

Turk and his colleagues left Portugal none too soon. Two weeks ago the number of cases there were few and mostly in the northern portions, not in the coastal Lisbon area.

"In talking to the cab driver, he told me then Portugal had 22 COVID-19 positive cases," Turk said.

By last Thursday, the number of confirmed cases in Portugal – wth a population of 10.2 million people – reached 785 with just three attributable deaths.

As of today (Monday) the country was reporting more than 2,000 cases with 23 deaths. Over 1,000 people there are awaiting test results. There were 11,482 people under "strict terms of vigilance" (not including the 55,000 in lockdown in Ovar).

"Fortunately, I was there before all that," Turk said. "It is definitely a destination I want to go back to. Flying over Spain and Portugal, I was amazed at the number of rivers, lakes and reservoirs they have. There was so much water."

Now Turk and a friend are both homebound. Turk said his company instructed employees who made the trip to self-quarantine.

"I think Friday is our last day," Turk said. "Fortunately I can office out of my house. I don't have to go to my office in Garland. The volume of calls and activity has gone down tremendously. I can work from home. There is just not a lot of sales activity."

He said he feels perfectly fine and has no symptoms.

"Either one of us," he said. "It's just a matter of hanging out a few more days. I walk around the house, look a lot at the back yard, which is wet and has weeds growing."

He said he did drive to a local store to pick up groceries. Turk said the store's employees were "very adamant about keeping a distance."

Like most everyone, Turk said it has been hard to get certain supplies including sanitizers and disinfectant.

"I have just been working and watching TV, listening to everybody on Facebook," said Turk. "That is endless entertainment."

Once their self-quarantine is over, Turk isn't sure what they will do. Businesses are closed, though some restaurants continue to offer drive-through or curbside service. He hopes those options are still available after Friday. It is possible the state will take enact further restrictions to try and stop the virus' spread in Texas. The state is reporting 352 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday afternoon with eight deaths.

Parker, Erath and Eastland counties are each reporting one confirmed case of the disease.

"That is really the thing that is still kind of concerning," he said. "My thought is I really don't know if am going to do anything. I don't want to be the one to go out and get something."

Turk expects life won't change much from the last couple of weeks once Friday comes and goes.

"I think it's going to be life as I've become accustomed to it," he said.

From a life of not going anywhere, to one of nowhere to go.

"It is what it is," he said.


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