DATELINE April 25, 2020, Medellín, Colombia.
It’s day 41 of mandatory quarantine here in Colombia. A day in our COVID-19 world looks something like this: Wake up early because you went to bed early the night before. Put on the coffee and read for a bit. Feed and walk the dogs around 7. Do our exercises and have breakfast. Work all morning, have lunch, walk the dogs. Work all afternoon, read emails and catch up on online news. Watch the BBC and Colombian TV news, have dinner, walk the dogs. Then watch something on Netflix or Prime until we both fall asleep. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, punctuated by two exciting trips to the grocery store every week. It’s Groundhog Day, Medellín-style!
If that sounds like a whine, it’s anything but. There’s something really calming about this routine, because we know it’s keeping us safe. And it keeps us centered, with so much uncertainty swirling around.
COVID-19 cases are still on the rise here in Colombia.
As of today, Colombia has 4,881 documented cases and 225 deaths – a far cry from our first COVID-19 World post back on March 21. It doesn’t seem that long ago that there were only 196 cases and no deaths.
In our province of Antioquia, we’d gone for weeks with only a single fatality. But this week two more joined the list: an 88-year-old lady in Medellín and a 67-year-old man in nearby Bello. May they rest in peace and their families find solace.
We’ve been thinking about testing and numbers lately.
Are the official numbers accurate, and what do they really mean? Yesterday the Colombia took its biggest single-day jump yet: 320 new cases (source: Colombia INS website). One explanation is that testing is finally accelerating here after hitting quite a few snags. But the death rate is staying relatively low and steady, which we hope means that the curve is staying flat. Another less agreeable explanation is that deaths that should be in the COVID-19 tally aren’t being counted there (as has been the case in New York until recently).
Another interesting figure we’ve been tracking is the percentage of positive results coming back from the testing and how we stack up against other countries. As of today, Colombia is at a 5.8% positive rate, impressively far below many other countries including one of our nearest neighbors (and our former home), Panama. But again, is this something to crow about? Will that percentage go up as testing keeps accelerating? What does it say about the sampling – is it really representative of the population or the people most likely to have been exposed? So many questions.
Here in Antioquia, the numbers (if you can trust them) still seem encouraging. Three deaths is still super-low for a province of over 4 million people. And according to the chart at the left, only 21 people are in hospital (with 11 in intensive care). There are a bunch of hospitals in the city, so that seems well below the bed capacity. And the yellow curve – the people who have recovered and left the hospital – is 137. That tracks roughly with the national figure of recovereds, which is about a fourth of total cases. That doesn’t seem too bad.
Colombia, like many other countries, is starting to reopen some sectors of the economy.
With testing not nearly at the level it should be here, that prospect makes us nervous. This Monday, April 27, construction and manufacturing workers will be allowed to return to work. That’s about half a million people who will join 300,00 others who have been out and working in “essential” sectors such as healthcare and food provision since the beginning. In other words, a lot of people will be in circulation.
The general quarantine is expected to be lifted by May 11, but that remains to be seen. People over 70 will be required to quarantine until June 1, and schools won’t reopen until September. And resumption of international flights? We’ve heard possibly July, but it’s anyone’s guess.
It’s been shocking to see the stories from around the COVID-19 world, particularly in the U.S., of people protesting quarantine measures and demanding to be allowed to return to their jobs and “normal” lives. It’s really easy for us to pass judgement, since John’s retired and I have a job I can do from home. We know it must be terrible for people who are struggling to make ends meet and feed their families, especially with a government response that has been – shall we say – lacking. But we see dudes parading around with huge guns, and people complaining about not being able to go to the park, or the beach, or the hair salon. All we can do is quote New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about the economic cost of quarantine measures: “The cost of the virus is death, which is worse.” So people, just STAY HOME. It’s not forever.
Enough numbers! Here’s some fun stuff.
We’ve had the honor of being featured in a Colombian newspaper and a couple of other blog posts recently. Here’s our story from The City Paper, an English-language publication out of Bogota:
US expats in a COVID-19 World: A report from Medellín, Colombia
This week, the blog 43 Blue Doors included us in a montage of videos from their friends and other bloggers around the world. I think it’s safe to say we’re not up for a video Oscar! But it was fun to do.
And just yesterday, our friend Sue Slaght of the sumptuous travel blog Travel Tales of Life included our story along with those from people in Asia and England:
Views of COVID-19 – Indonesia, Laos, Colombia, England and Thailand
Finally, here’s the latest Some Good News episode from John Krasinski. Spoiler alert: it’s out of this world!
Aw, you too!
Good, solid numbers, and factual info. Thanks for posting it. We’ll believe the July flight resumption when we see it as well. August? September? Film at eleven.
Yup, everyone’s crystal ball is out of whack at the moment!
Your day sounds similar to ours as do your figures although I am not sure of the accuracy of them here…. Luckily we are not having the demonstrations against staying home as other countries are… Be well and stay safe 😊
I think things are feeling a bit monotonous for all of us. Glad you’re doing well and staying safe 🙂
Hi, Susan and John – If you replace ‘work’ with ‘reading’, our days sound incredibly similar…despite us living continents apart. I have found the facts, figures and guesstimates that you have shared here to be very interesting. I am not sure what BC Covid numbers look like right now. You’ve inspired me to look them up.
Hi back, Donna! That’s the remarkable thing about this pandemic, right? It really is pretty much a shared experience amongst folks all over the world. For me, the extra time for reading has been sheer bliss – if I didn’t have to work, I’d be doing even more. Regarding the numbers, I just discovered the Our World in Data site yesterday. You’ll be able to find all the data you could possibly want to know (and then some) about the coronavirus there. https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data
Hi Susan and John! I can relate to Groundhog Day, though I have been getting up much later than you and I’m getting used to pleasantly long reading sessions before breakfast. I too struggle with the numbers and statistics and wonder about their accuracy. I am grateful that here in Canada we are taking a very measured response to reopening. I’ve been really impressed with our leadership.
Congrats on all your features. I look forward to reading them. Stay well!
Thank you so much, Caroline! It’s such a shared experience, wherever we are on the planet. We also have been impressed with Canada’s leadership – wish its dysfunctional neighbor to the south could take the hint. Anyway, be well yourself and have a great day!
Hi, Susan and John,
This is my first time visiting your blog 😀 by the way, about this covid-19 effects in my country (Indonesia), government already banned all commercial flights, trains, bus, etc from one city to other city. So, basically people cannot move and only can stay inside the area. However, some people still go to work because they need to feed their family 🙁 and same with you, I do wonder with the accuracy of numbers in my Country. I just can wish this pandemic will end soon, and stay healthy for both of you 🙂
I’m sorry if my English is bad, English is not my native language 😀 Nice to know you 🙂
Welcome to our blog – your English is excellent! So many people are struggling right now, which makes it hard for countries to know what the next steps are. We’re also hopeful that most places are starting to pass the curve and get more control over the virus. That will make it easier to know next steps. Nice to know you too, and be safe 🙂
John and Susan, I can relate to your saying “there’s something really calming about this routine, because we know it’s keeping us safe”. Likewise we got quite used to our daily routines, taking one day at a time. We are grateful for having a comfortable home, enough food, our health and each other. It is heartbreaking to hear about so many people who are struggling financially and in particular the many who have lost their lives. We certainly have nothing to complain about. I have enjoyed your contribution to the Travel Tales of Life blog. Good work 🙂
Thank you, Gilda! The routine really is comfortable; sometimes we wonder if we’ll want to give it up, once we have more freedoms 🙂 And like you, we feel gratitude every day for all our blessings. One of the big outcomes I hope for is that everyone will be a lot more conscious of those less fortunate and how we can all help each other through difficulty. That, and how to work together to protect Mother Earth! Take care and have a great day.
Congrats on all your features John and Susan! Interesting data for Columbia. Stay safe and well.
I do find the numbers leaving me questioning. In the province we live in our testing level is higher and perhaps not surprisingly our numbers are higher.
Thank you for sharing your perspective on our blog and for the shout out here. Truly appreciated. Stay well and safe.
There is a certain comfort in keeping to the same stay-at-home routine and I feel very fortunate to be retired with a steady income and good housemates as well as older with more patience and the ability to keep myself busy and entertained. It’s heartbreaking to think about the millions of people whose lives and security have been devastated by the Covid-19 virus and it’s difficult to comprehend just how fast the world has changed. Staying at home to keep ourselves and others healthy is NOT FOREVER and such a small sacrifice. Keep well!