SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz arrived back in Salt Lake City on March 12, after one of the longest nights they’d experienced following Rudy Gobert’s coronavirus diagnosis. Two weeks later, after a mandatory self-quarantine at home, Joe Ingles and his wife Renae, realized the NBA season wasn’t going to resume any time soon. The native Australians then had a decision to make.
Australia took swift action to combat the pandemic by eliminating crowds and issuing strict stay-at-home orders and lockdowns early on, and the country has been incredibly effective in slowing the number of COVID-19 cases. Initially on track to reach 153,000 cases by Easter, Australia has reported a total of 6,721 cases and 83 deaths.
“I’m proud of Australia for how they handled it,” Ingles said on Friday. “We considered, as a family, going back not long after that two-week period was over.”
They eventually decided against traveling back to their home country with their young children, twins Milla and Jacob, for a few reasons.
Though Australia’s borders are closed to most, citizens and immediate family are allowed to reenter the country but must be isolated in a government managed accommodation in the city that they arrive in.
“We’d have to spend two weeks quarantined in a hotel if we flew back into Australia right now,” Ingles said. “Two weeks in this house was hard enough in quarantine, never mind in a hotel room with two nearly 4-year-olds.”
Additionally, the Southern hemisphere country is heading into its winter season, not exactly the type of weather that Ingles said he’s excited about right now.
But, the biggest reason for staying put in Utah is the couple is not willing to travel and risk the health of their son Jacob, who is autistic and in turn has reduced immune system regulation.
“It’s just not the smartest option to be traveling right now with Jacob and his immune system,” Ingles said. “I wouldn’t put him at risk like that.”
Ingles noted that his mother, who works in a nursing home, is still working but that his and Renae’s families are healthy and safe, which has been a great relief as they are so far away.
Though the Ingleses had returned to Australia during the NBA offseason in the past — in part because Renae, who played netball professionally, would begin her season in April —they were already planning to stay in Utah this summer and next summer, the two offseasons remaining on Ingles’ contract with the Jazz which runs through the 2021-22 NBA season.
“Renae is retired now,” Ingles said. “That was a big reason that we did go back every year. ... We had planned anyway to stay here this summer, and next summer until I was out of contract and just kind of see what happens and let the kids have summer.”
This is, of course, not how they thought the spring and summer would go, but they’re trying to make the most of it. Though, the earthquake did give the couple more reason to consider returning to Australia.
“When the earthquake happened I was ready to get on the first plane and go home because I’ve never experienced an earthquake,” Ingles said. “Milla kept saying that our house was shaking and that our house in Australia doesn’t shake and I was like, if she’s scared and worried about living in this house then we’ve got to go.”
In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the Ingleses are waiting out the storm like the rest of us.