DATELINE May 17, 2020, Medellín, Colombia.
We don’t know about you, but the longer this pandemic drags on, the more we’re craving even the smallest signs of normal. At least, what we considered normal before the coronavirus hit the fan. Even little things – like the workers getting back on the job at the construction site across the street (we don’t even mind the noise like we used to), or the reappearance of the corner empanada vendor this morning after many weeks – are enough to put a smile on our socially deprived faces.
Since we’re still so very early in the trajectory of this pandemic, any ideas about a new COVID-19 normal are mostly speculation. While speculating in public can be a dangerous thing (bleach injections, anyone?), sometimes a little musing is good for the soul. And since we don’t have the bully pulpit of POTUS, hopefully our musings won’t make anyone go out and glug Lysol!
Last week, we did some speculating about the future of travel, one of the topics that’s nearest and dearest to our hearts. This week, our friends and fellow travel bloggers, Ian and Nicky McKenzie, made a brand-new post on this very topic. Check out that infographic about how boarding a flight in the future might be a four-hour process. A CT scan – yikes! “Staycations” and road trips are sounding more and more appealing.
But what might the COVID new normal look like for our day-to day lives?
As we were walking our dogs this morning, it dawned on me just how different interpersonal contact is when you can’t see most of the other person’s face – and when they can’t see yours. Unlike a lot of places where people have been openly defiant (sometimes to the point of violence!) of mask-wearing, people here in Colombia are following the rules for the most part. It’s very rare to see someone out on the street without a mask, and you can’t get into a store without one. How does someone know when we’re smiling? How can we tell they’re smiling? When someone gives one of our dogs a compliment, can they tell by our eyes that we are smiling back? Are humans destined to invent a whole new way of conveying emotion, just through eye contact?
Foodies that we are, one thing John and I really miss is the pleasure of having a lovely meal out in a fine-dining restaurant. That’s why this story caught our eye this week about a restaurant in Amsterdam that is sequestering diners in their own socially distanced “greenhouses.” When we visited Amsterdam a few years ago, one of our fondest memories is of the warm, sunny afternoon we spent whiling away the hours at a canal-side cafe with a bunch of local folks and watching the boats go by. Somehow this doesn’t seem quite the same.
This New York Times article profiles Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She’s known for having made accurate predictions about the impact of HIV and now is foreseeing dark times ahead for the world, and particularly the U.S., due to the lack of careful, science-based planning and a troubling de-emphasis on public health. The gist of her message is that, at this juncture, all the testing in the world isn’t going to give us the information we need to proceed safely. Because it’s too little, too late.
One thing that caught my eye is Ms. Garrett’s statement that we’ve been through “new normals” before. Remember how the aftermath of 9/11 changed forever the whole experience of air travel? I took a faint bit of hope from that, knowing how we’ve adapted to taking off our shoes and pulling out our 3-ounce liquids and computers every time we go through airport security. It’s no fun, but most of us don’t think twice about it anymore. And I’m confident we will adapt to the whole new set of routines coming our way, even if they’re really painful at first.
And just this week, the WHO is floating the idea that the coronavirus may always be with us and we may never have a vaccine. Instead, we might have to come to terms with it and find treatments that make it less deadly, just as we’ve done with HIV (for which there is STILL no vaccine).
That’s gotten us thinking – maybe we ARE headed to a phase where we have to learn to live with the virus long-term, which does mean reopening society and restarting economies (with many precautions, of course). Talk about a new normal. The way forward seems really fraught, but it should be driven by science, not ignorant and greedy politicians.
On a more positive note, this short article from the Christian Science Monitor suggests we might be entering a whole new era of innovation that will change many aspects of our lives for the better. I like that thinking!
Colombia numbers: still looking for the peak
Just this past week Colombia has seen a COVID-19 surge. We now have almost 15,000 documented cases and 562 deaths, and these numbers are climbing every day. A new hot spot is Amazonas, the department that borders Brazil and Peru, driven by desperate people flooding across the border and overwhelming the sparse medical facilities there. If you’ve read about Brazil’s handling of the pandemic, you know it’s the South American country with the highest number of cases and deaths. COVID-19 in Brazil is a rapidly escalating, horrific tragedy. Our hearts go out to those poor people whose government has failed them, utterly and completely.
Our home department of Antioquia added 52 new documented cases this week, but thankfully no new deaths. Out of the 518 total, almost 400 have recovered, with only 14 people in hospital.
Finally: a little plug for the Wildlife SOS Auction
If you’re a regular reader of our blog (of course you are!), you probably really enjoyed this post and this one by our friend Sunny Branson about the outstanding conservation work Wildlife SOS is doing for the elephants and sloth bears of India. Here’s your chance to help: Wildlife SOS is running its annual fundraising auction.
Take a look – they have some really beautiful things!