DATELINE March 28, 2020, Medellín, Colombia.

Cheers to all! Hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and hunkered down. Here’s the latest from our little corner of the coronavirus pandemic. Check last week’s entry to see how much things have changed (quite a lot). 

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More popcorn, please!

John and I are now on day 14 under COVID-19 quarantine.

We started a few days earlier than the official, nationwide COVID-19 quarantine that began last Wednesday. So far so good – since I’ve always worked from home and John’s retired, our lives haven’t changed radically. We miss eating out, riding the Metro, and seeing our friends. But the silver lining is time to read, time to reflect, time to take a breath and count our blessings. And time to eat popcorn while we binge-watch our Netflix shows!

Apart from our permitted 20-minute dog walks, we have not been anywhere except to get groceries last Tuesday. The supermarket was only allowing one person in at a time, and they took my temperature at the door. Inside, things were orderly and calm, and there didn’t appear to be any critical shortages. It will be interesting to see what our next grocery trip is like.

As of today, Colombia has 608 known cases, with 6 deaths.

That’s a huge jump from a week ago, when there were only 196 cases and no fatalities. The deaths are just numbers In most of the news stories, but somehow I feel moved to recognize each of these sad losses. The first was a taxi driver, 57, in Cartagena who had driven some tourists from Italy. Next was a 77-year-old lady in Cali and then an 88-year-old man in Santa Marta. The last three were two men and a lady in Bogotá, all over age 60. May they rest in peace and their families find comfort.

Every night at 6:30, President Duque and his council of ministers report on the COVID-19 quarantine and other measures.

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President Duque during one of his nightly broadcasts.

Our evening TV-watching routine starts with this half-hour report. The president calls on each of his ministers – health, transportation, commerce, security, social – to report on their departments’ latest efforts to support the people as we all navigate this crisis. How refreshing to see strong, calm, determined leadership, with a president that defers to his experts and urges the public to take their advice. It makes us feel very safe here.

Here are some of this week’s announcements:

  • Violating the COVID-19 quarantine has real consequences. For everyone except essential workers, if you’re caught out doing anything but shopping for food or medicine, going to the doctor or vet, or walking dogs (whew), you’ll get slapped with a big fine. And if you’ve tested positive for the virus, you might be subject to a prison sentence of up to eight years if you leave your home for any reason. They are not fooling around here.
  • In every big city, large public spaces are being converted to hospitals and intensive care beds are being expanded. There are many efforts underway across the country to manufacture new respirators and protective gear for healthcare workers.
  • The Ministry of Health is on track to be able to perform 350,000 COVID-19 tests every week, starting next Wednesday. That means the case numbers are going to take a big leap, but more testing means a better handle on the crisis.
  • For the next three months: Major banks are freezing client loan payments. People who have lost their jobs because of the crisis will continue to receive the equivalent of their salaries. Retired people will get a raise in their pensions. Those are just a few of the economic measures being taken.
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Photo from El Colombiano’s story today about the pollution.

March is always a terrible month for Medellín’s air quality, but this year it seems especially bad.

What’s strange is that it hasn’t improved much now that the quarantine has taken a huge number of cars, buses, trucks, and motos off the roadways. The mayor and the city air monitoring department are in a big tussle about exactly what’s causing it – possibly a combination of weather conditions and agricultural fires to the north. We’re just hanging on for the rainy season to begin in earnest, because that will clear the air. The months of April and May are always clear and gorgeous here.

Here are some other news stories that got our attention this week.

  • This article from Medium is very long and packed with data, but it’s the best breakdown we’ve seen yet of how “flattening the curve” is really the only viable option for controlling the pandemic. It’s worth your time.

View at Medium.com

See you next week, and keep washing those hands!

47 Comments

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Donna – we’re a bit partial to the little mutters 🙂 Hope is what we all feed on right now – that’s my new focus. Be well yourself.

  1. It’s nice to hear about a government that relies on its knowledgeable experts and does not go on a news station to spread false information, hunches, or suspicions. At least many of our United States governors have stepped to provide some leadership vacant in some places at the federal level. Stay healthy and hope the spring rains will clear your air. In other places in the world, pollution has been reduced with so many vehicles off the roads.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Right??! We are terrified for the U.S. The country really is in the hands of its governors, many of whom are taking the bull by the horns. But it seems like there are several, mostly in the south (Florida? Georgia? and my home state, Texas??) who being just as negligent as the federal powers-that-be. And that’s what’s so scary.

      I’m hoping I’ll be able to post a nice clear-air picture of Medellin soon. This never lasts; it’s just so strange to see how clear the air is in other parts of the world as you pointed out. Lots of rain in the forecast, so we’re hopeful!

  2. I am very proud of the steps our adopted country has implemented. I just read that they have charged over 10K people for breaking quarantine rules. We get a lot of Rappi deliveries and we are tipping them very well – including the guy who took 30 minutes to deliver gelato last night

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, that must have been some soupy gelato! Good on you for tipping them well. You probably saw the news article about how there’s big concern for the food delivery people and how to keep them safe. We are really craving pizza from our favorite pizza joint, so we’ll probably be calling them up soon.

  3. I just read part 1 so seeing the jump in cases is alarming (though not unexpected based on what is happening everywhere else). It’s interesting to read about your supermarket experience. Ours was busy yesterday and it was difficult to maintain the proper distance. I wish they limited the number of people. Does only allowing one person at a time create lineups outside? I’m hoping that air quality will improve for you! I’m off for a Netflix binge. Take care!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, sometimes the supermarkets have lines, but they have marks on the ground for people to stand a good distance from each other. So far, so good – no one’s fighting to get in and there aren’t any serious shortages. Hope it doesn’t change. And we’re finally getting some rain, which has cleared the air a bit. Nothing to complain about here! Have a great evening.

  4. Wow, Columbia is really on top of this by the sound of it. Obviously the govt is taking it seriously. I’m so impressed. It’s been handled quite well so far here in Canada (though not as well as it could have been I think) but not so much by our neighbours to the south where federal leadership seems to have taken a vacation, though there have been some excellent responses from some of the state leaders. Columbia’s economic measures must be really helping people not get too panicked.
    Don and I are not allowed outside at all at the moment. We’re in a 14 day quarantine having just returned to the country from overseas – one week to go (and counting).
    Stay safe and well,
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Glad you’re hanging in with your quarantine. Our friends David and Cindy, who live here in Medellin, just finished theirs after flying in from Spain. Just in time for the whole country to go into lockdown! Oh, well. It’s a small price to stay safe and flatten the curve.

      We can barely stand to watch what’s happening in the U.S. And somehow, a few glimmers of hope are shining through. A couple of places like the Seattle area and the SF Bay area seem to be getting on top of things. Both places that have ignored federal (lack of) guidance and implemented their own strict measures.

  5. Excellent post. Great to read about Colombia’s response and thank you for recognizing those who have died. We must remember all as individuals, family members, travelers, community members — not just numbers. The federal response in the US has been slow and pathetic, except for the knowledge of a few medical experts. Governors and local responders have been the saviors in this crisis and the hope we cling to going forward. Stay healthy! ~Kelly

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Indeed, it’s the state and local governments that will save the day in the U.S. – certainly not what’s passing for leadership on top. If only all the governors (Florida and Texas, I’m talking to you) would get on on board. Thanks for your comment – be safe!

  6. Here in Indonesia we also get daily update from the government (the Ministry of Health) about the number of confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries, but it’s nothing near what the Colombian government is currently doing. I’m really impressed! It’s also very encouraging to know that 350,000 tests will be conducted every week very soon, while in Indonesia so far the number of tests has not even surpassed 6,000 — a very low number considering the country’s large population. I hope you two and the dogs stay safe and healthy, and hopefully the air pollution clears up a little bit!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Bama – we’ve some rain and the air quality is better, thankfully. Hope you and yours are keeping safe as well!

  7. It is great to hear that Colombia’s government is doing a great job. Here in the UK our Prime Minister also does a daily update, in the evening tv news. But he now has COVID-19 himself, becaming the first world leader to contract the virus. Also the Health Minister has been diagnosed positive for the virus. So last night we had some new faces giving us an update. Our National Health Services have been doing an incredible job and new emergency hospitals are being created all over the country to cope with the increasing number of people. Unfortunately, the UK has had over one thousand deaths so far, which is so desperately sad. We are taking one day at a time and trying to stay positive. Look after yourselves and stay safe.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We saw an amazing story on BBC News last night about the 4,000-bed field hospital being built in London. Well done, NHS! The deaths ARE sad, but I feel like the U.K. will be able to get out in front of this soon thanks to the unified, calm leadership there. Wishing you a safe and healthy week!

  8. Great job in keeping us apprised of what is happening in medellin and the rest of Colombia. We plan to relocate to medellin in the Fall from Arizona and will be spending 2 weeks in July getting acclimated. Would love to meet the two of you then. Keep up your good work!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I hope you’ll still be able to make your trip in July and your moving plans aren’t delayed. Right now, it’s really difficult to know when Medellin will be up and running as normal again. I think it’s going to take a long time for the entire world to feel “normal,” if ever. But let’s hope for the best. Please let us know if we can answer any questions about life as Colombian expats.

  9. I am also finishing the second week of stay-at-home isolation. So far, I haven’t found it too difficult at all (which is good because April looks like more of the same) as I have lots of hobbies and projects to occupy my time and two housemates to share dinner and play cards with in the evening. I did read an encouraging piece of news today as, even though confirmed cases and deaths continue to increase in Portugal, the rate has slowed and the peak of the epidemic has been changed from mid-April to May as the curve begins to flatten. It’s heartening to read that Colombia has also followed a proactive approach to the virus. Stay well my friends! Anita

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Anita – that is encouraging news about Portugal. It looks like Spain and Italy might also be turning a corner. We can only hope. Glad you’re back with your housemates and keeping busy. Be well and stay in touch! Susan

  10. Loving these updates, guys. And heartening to hear that Colombia is taking proactive measures seriously. Things are being ramped up even further here in France – there are police fines of 200 euros if you’re outside without good reason, rising to 3750 euros and 6 months in prison for serial offenders! Suffice to say, we’ll be staying inside for the foreseeable future.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for reading, amigo! It’s a shame that people have to have a threat of severe punishment just to be convinced to do the right thing, but I’m all for whatever works. Hope you and Nicky are having a lovely day!

  11. The sense of calm I get reading your article is palpable. At times like these leadership is so important and it seems Duarte has his finger on the pulse. You have a great mayor there too in Medellin, so hopefully he’ll be able to uncover the mystery of the air pollution…wouldn’t that be something! Stay healthy guys, give those puppers an ear scratch from me!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Gracias, amiga! We’ve finally entered rainy season and it’s like a veil has been lifted – we had one of our cleanest air days on record yesterday, absolutely beautiful. It’s amazing what clear air can do for one’s outlook! Same to you – keep on keeping on. Pups’ ears have had a Nicky scratch 🙂

  12. Sounds like Colombia is handling the situation well. The numbers look bleaker in Colombia than here in Mexico as a percent of population. But I think Colombia’s are probably far more accurate and I expect to see a surge here in Mexico soon. Bizarre that the shut down hasn’t improved the air quality in Medellin. Great articles, especially the one from Wall Street Communications.Thanks for keeping in touch via WhatsApp. Hugs

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      It does look like things are tightening up in Mexico. I hope it’s in time to divert disaster – I guess we’ll have to see. Glad you two are headed to seclusion up in the Sea. Gosh, we wish we could join you! Some of those remote islands really are heaven on earth and a great place to wait out a pandemic. Hugs back – see you on WhatsApp!

  13. Seems like Latin America has better control of the situation, by being more hard-nosed about rules. We keep busy in California. Hubby is off all week due to a previous vacation scheduled where we were supposed to travel north to Washington. That’s on hold, so we are getting house projects done! Making lemonade out of lemons!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We’re all going to be really great at making lemonade out of lemons once this all blows over 🙂 Hope it better prepares us as a species to handle the next big crisis that comes along. Glad you and your hubby are safely hunkered down. There are also going to be a lot of spotlessly clean, well-maintained houses when it’s all over – ha!

  14. Sounds pretty impressive re precautions and issuing strict regulations. Similar to while we were in Viet Nam and it really worked. The cases stayed low and in our particular area, Hoi An, there were zero cases and hopefully it stays that way. We were on a trip to Sri Lanka (where we lived prior to Viet Nam) and then the borders closed to foreigners and we could not go home!! So we had to find a new home base, and did not want to be stuck in Sri Lanka which has a really awful health care system…..

    So we chose Mexico and are happy with our decision but definitely a bit alarmed at the lack of any kind of social distancing or quarantining. Yes, the virus has not hit here yet but it is obvious it will. The government is reluctant to impact the economy… and with Easter around the corner no doubt things are going to change. We are doing all the necessary stuff ourselves and hoping that some of the measures get enforced by the government here.

    Peta

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We have been so worried about Mexico. It has seems like it’s headed for disaster, given how nonchalant the president has been about the virus. I’ve seen a couple of reports lately that things are tightening up there so hopefully it won’t be too bad. Glad you’re taking necessary measures – that’s the best thing any of us can do right now. Be safe and healthy!

      • Finally some movement is happening. All hotels and guesthouses here are closed and the roads are blocked to newcomers. Hoping this all helps to prevent the spread 🙏🏼

  15. Interesting to read how things are going on the other side of the world, these restrictions seem to be in place virtually everywhere now. Most people seem to be handling the situation fairly well and obeying the social distancing when they are outside so hopefully these measures will help to fight the pandemic. Stay safe and healthy.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Jonno – stay well and healthy yourself 🙂

  16. my goodness, 8 years in prison while sick of corona, but i guess sone people dont realize how contagious it is and its impact to others.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, it does seem really extreme until you consider how many people could get sick and die from the actions of one infected person. It’s a shame people can’t police themselves, but since they can’t, drastic measures are needed. Hope you’re staying well and healthy 🙂

      • Hi Susan and John, I hope both of you are doing well as well. Indeed, some people need to be told many times before realizing how it may impact to others. It’s just annoying. On the other hand, it’s tough life for some people who depend their earnings outdoor. But it’s a good move by Colombian government to support their citizens who lost their jobs!

        PS: Somehow I can’t reply on your blog under my wordpress account…

  17. We are currently into our 3rd week of #stayathome isolation in Leon, Spain. We have had some challenging moments but travelling together almost non-stop for the last 5 years has helped up get through this lock down. It’s amazing and wonderful to read that Colombia is following a very proactive approach to flattening the curve. It’s interesting how the air quality has not improved,which seems to be the case in most cities around the world.

    Yesterday we watched a video of wild goats taking over the streets in a Welsh town. Maybe a positive side effect of this crisis is nature–everywhere is getting a much needed “human-break”.

    Stay safe!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi, and welcome to our blog! Glad you are hunkered down and staying safe in Spain. I hope things are finally reaching a peak there and are starting to improve. It’s been so hard to read about Spain and Italy both, especially the toll it’s taken on the healthcare workers there.

      Per the air quality here, things have suddenly improved tremendously – it’s like a veil has been lifted, and the pollution numbers are some of the lowest they’ve ever recorded. It’s such a relief! And isn’t it amazing how quickly nature starts to heal itself when humans are taken out of the equation? I hope we as a species learn some vital lessons from this pandemic and we start to take better care of our home.

      Be well and have a great day! 🙂

  18. I read with great interest what is happening in Columbia. It sounds that although the rules are strictly enforced the government is also helping a great deal with personal finances.
    If would be interested in sharing your view of COVID 19 in one of our collaborative articles we would love to host you and link back to your blog and social media. No worries if you would prefer not. If you are interested you can reach us at traveltalesoflife@gmail.com
    Thanks for considering and stay well.
    Sue

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Sue – we would love to participate. I just sent you an email; just let us know what you need from us.
      Cheers, Susan

  19. Thank you for sharing your living experience in Colombia at these times of crisis.

    I find it is important the leader of the country to step in and discuss the issue on daily basis just like Mr. President Duque during crisis these days. I watched CNN every evening and noticed the NY Governor Cuomo does the same as well, and let journalists to ask questions to his staff and himself about COVID19 in NY. I heard it is the same case in New Zealand, with Ms. Prime Minister Jacinda. In Indonesia, the COVID updates are being delivered by a spokesperson instead our nation’s leader, meanwhile we have quite high number of death cases, compared to Colombia 🙁 I think we miss a caring leadership who is able to comfort people in the times of needs.

  20. I accidently so this and it’s super interesting to see what is going on there! We are also in quarantine here in Catalonia and I do not even count for how long…it is extended until May… Your streets are looking so empty!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for visiting! Wow, you folks have had a tough road there in Spain. Hopefully you’re over the curve now and things will start to loosen up a bit. It’s been so heart-wrenching to watch Italy, Spain, France, and now the UK and cities in the U.S. go through so much suffering. Kudos to you for hanging in there.

      We were supposed to leave on our big trip to Spain and Portugal today. Now we’re looking at doing the exact same trip, but a year from now. And we’re still hoping to be based in Spain someday to explore Europe. Who knows how these plans will actually take shape in a post-COVID world.

      Stay safe and healthy, friend!

  21. Thank you so much for your update. We are still planning on relocating to Medellin in the Fall and looking forward to making that happen. And yes, how refreshing to have a president and members of the government be serious about this virus and not stoop to grandstanding, blaming and narcissitic bulying like Trump. But that’s who he’s always been. His latest ploy has is to insist on having his signature on all the relief checks received by Americans! It’s utterly laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. Anyway, keep up the good work and allowing us to stay informed.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Glad to hear your relocation plans are still on! It’s so hard to know what the world will be like in the fall, but let’s hope you’ll be able to keep to your schedule. Per the US, thank goodness for the governors who are stepping up to the plate and working together to keep their citizens safe.

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