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).
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.
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.
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.
- There seems to be a tiny glimmer of hope in Italy, where there’s some evidence the lockdown measures are finally working:
Is Italy Turning the Tide on Coronavirus? from the World Economic Forum
- Are you having a tough time adjusting to working from home? My company, Wall Street Communications, is one of the pioneers of the remote workforce model and therefore knows a little about this topic. Here’s some advice for how to adapt, based on our years of experience:
Working From Home Since 1996: A Few Things We’ve Learned Along the Way
- Takeout food deliveries are still allowed here, but we’ve been leery. After reading this story in the Washington Post, we might give it a go. (Here’s a cool thing: both the WaPo and the New York Times are making their coronavirus coverage free and available to the public.)
Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages, Washington Post