DATELINE April 4, 2020, Medellín, Colombia.
We’re feeling a little more downbeat this week.
There’s been a lot of gloomy COVID-19 pandemic news lately: By some estimates, a third of humanity is now under some type of movement restriction. The global food supply chain is holding up for now but is on shaky ground. It’s been hard to shake the horrifying images from Guayaquil, Ecuador, a city that has been completely overwhelmed by the coronavirus. It seems an anomaly, since the rest of Ecuador and most other South American cities and countries are managing the crisis reasonably well.
And the U.S. . . . oy vey. How is it possible, during a global COVID-19 pandemic, that the governor of New York has to beg and plead for lifesaving equipment? That getting federal help seems to depend on how much your governor has kowtowed to POTUS? That some states have STILL not mandated shelter-in-place or other critical measures? How is it possible that one governor is so ignorant as to claim he “didn’t know” people without symptoms could carry the virus? (I call BS on that one – methinks he was just trying to cover his behind.)
As one popular Facebook meme says, “Having some states lock down and others not lock down is like having a peeing section in the swimming pool.”
Meanwhile in Colombia: In one week, official case numbers have jumped from 608 to 1,406, and from 6 to 32 sad deaths.
Most of the new fatalities are men and women over age 50. I’d wager many of them are abuelos and abuelas, beloved by their children and grandchildren. Hopefully none of them died alone, with no loved ones to mourn or remember them. There are also numerous younger people, including a 19-year-old from Barranquilla. People who had hopes and dreams, with their whole lives ahead of them. May they all rest in peace and their friends and families find comfort.
One glimmer of hope in the COVID-19 pandemic is that Colombia seems to be keeping its curve relatively flat, compared to other countries and the hockey stick that is the U.S. Here’s an informal chart I found that compares the rise of cases in a select group of countries (the huge caveat, of course, is that these are KNOWN cases and based on the countries’ reporting accuracy). Colombia is the blue line at the bottom:
Here in Medellín, the city is continuing to mobilize its hospitals and healthcare resources for a coming avalanche of cases. Two stories in today’s news:
- The mayor’s office is working to recruit 12,000 medical personnel from other specialties and retrain them, with online courses, on how to manage hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
- The government of South Korea is sending a shipment of respirators and other supplies to Colombia and sharing their expertise and experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. What a concept – countries cooperating and sharing with each other!
Oh, and there’s one more positive development that’s making life a lot easier here: the rainy season finally arrived and the air quality has improved immensely!
Shopping has gotten more interesting here.
Just this week, the city of Medellín finally implemented its “Pico y Cédula” program, which restricts shopping to twice a week per individual, based on the last number of your cédula (national ID card). Only one person is allowed to enter a store at a time, and queued people must leave at least a one-meter distance between each other (most stores have lines on the floor to make it easy).
Yesterday was my day for Pico y Cédula, but only one of the three stores I visited looked at my cédula. Also, the lady behind me in the check-out line wasn’t wearing a mask and was standing right behind me, instead of standing on her line. Maybe it needs a few days to catch on. . .
These measures are designed to limit the numbers of people inside the stores at one time, but so far we’ve encountered no lines and relatively empty stores. With the exception of one store and a few items, supplies seem pretty good. Wheat flour, honey, and rubbing alcohol are in short supply, however. During this COVID-19 pandemic there are absolutely no masks to be found, so we’ve been using the improvised bandana method.
For us, Monday will be a full month of social isolation with no end in sight.
It all felt a bit novel at first, but now the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are sinking in. What will the world be like when this finally blows over? How many millions of people will die, and how many billions of others will have their lives irreversibly altered? Will countries and governments learn from the horrific mistakes being made now, or will they fall back into the same old patterns?
On a more personal level, will our friends and family survive this unscathed? We already know several people with friends and family members who have taken ill and – sadly – died. On a social level, will we ever get back to a place where we can hug our friends or shake someone’s hand without cringing? Carry on an unmasked conversation without worrying? Will we ever feel truly safe again, or will we always be subconsciously wondering when the next big threat will hit?
Here’s another meme I spied on Facebook today. This was posted by blogging friend Luna Mariposa (check out her lovely blog here). John and I avoided most of the pitfalls of the fear zone (panic buying, hoarding) and we fall somewhere between the learning zone and the growth zone. I think there’s plenty of wisdom here for anyone that’s struggling with the “new normal” that the COVID1-9 pandemic has imposed on us.