*This is an opinion piece. I am not a medical expert (nor in anything else, for that matter). The following post features my opinions as an expat living in Spain during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.*
Love Spain in the
Time of Coronavirus
A Peak into Spain´s Covid-19 Quarantine
As usual, it´s warm and sunny in the Canary Islands. A normal spring Sunday like this one should mean a snooze in and heading down to meet my besties for beachside breakfast (tortilla española and freshly squeezed OJ, obvio) and a weekly recap. Top that off with some light reading on the sand, a quick dip in the sea and a couple of cañas at the weekly sunset concerts and you´ve got yourself un domingo redondito.
But today, the streets are empty.
No surfers trodding barefoot down the street with boards in hand, no abuelos solving the world´s problems in the plaza and no kiddos on scooters heading to grandma´s house for Sunday lunch. Nada, nadita.
Spain is on lockdown.
And your country probably should be to.
Now first thing´s first. Panic gets us nowhere (and it causes wrinkles). The purpose of this post is to reflect on the current situation and to identify what other countries might expect in the coming weeks, and what steps we, as individuals, might do to lessen the impact of the virus in our communities.
So how did we get here?
It´s only taken six weeks for Spain to jump from 1 confirmed Covid-19 case to nearly 8,000 with a death toll nearing 300. But most of the big stuff has taken place within just the last week. So how did we get here, and what´s been done to slow down the spread? Here´s a brief look:
January 31, 2020: A german tourist in Canary Island´s La Gomera is the first confirmed Covid-19 case.
March 3, 2020: Just over a month later, 125 cases have been confirmed in Spain throughout nearly all autonomous communities.
March 9, 2020: Confirmed cases nearly double from 674 people to 1231 in a 24 hour period. Fatalities rise to 30.
March 10, 2020: Spain halts all flights to and from Italy, the European country facing the biggest threat. Confirmed cases rise to over 1,500. Madrid cancels all schools for two weeks, as well as all events that draw crowds of more than 1,000 people.
March 12, 2020: Most of Spain joins Madrid in closing schools from pre-K to university for a minimum of two weeks in order to reduce the spread. #quedateencasa becomes a viral message encouraging people to stay at home.
March 13, 2020: All provinces in Spain have at least one confirmed case of Covid-19. Madrid closes all bars and terraces in the capital and residents are asked to stay at home aside from buying food and medicine.
March 14, 2020: As cases rise to over 6,000 confirmed and nearly 200 fatalities, the Spanish goverment announces a country-wide lock down. Beginning at midnight, people are only permitted to leave the house to buy food, medicine and go to work.
March 15, 2020: Day one of mandatory quarantine. Confirmed cases rise to 7,798 and the death toll nears 300.
What´s Happening in Spain
(and What You Should Be Doing)
I´ve been getting a ton of messages about what´s going on and if it´s a good idea to travel to Spain right now. In brief, A. alot and B. Seriously? Hell nah.
As an American living in Spain, I´m faced with two worlds. The crisis and quarantine unfolding here in my ¨expat¨ home, and the knowledge that it will soon be happening where my friends and family are.
So far from the states, my social media is filled with one of two things: people panic buying toilet paper (wait, what? why?) and people
taking advantage of exploiting cheap travel deals (gilipollez, total).
Because Spain is estimated as being about eleven days ahead of the US, here you have my point of view from the front lines of Spain´s Covid-19 pandemic: how has Spain been responding and what I hope you´ll learn from both our successes and failures.
Stay (the F*ck) at Home
Before the official lockdown came the viral message #quedateencasa, or the more colourful version, #quedateentuputacasa.
Spain has had to cancel some of their biggest anual events, such as Carnival celebrations in the Canary Islands, Las Fallas in Valencia and Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions in Andalucia. These cancellations are economically disastrous for the tourism and hospitality industry and many small business owners simply won´t survive the economic impact. But it needed to be done.
When Madrid´s mayor announced that the city would be closing all bars and terraces, thousands of bars and restaurants around Spain took an economic hit by deciding to follow suit voluntarily, putting social responsibility over economic gain and encouraging community members to stay home. Because it needed to be done.
Within hours of the #quedateencasa campaign, musicians, comedians, personal trainers and more started setting up free mini-concerts and online training events to support the cause from their own homes and encourage others to do the same.
What should you be doing?
Stay (the f*ck) at home. You don´t have to wait for government ordinance or until you get sick. Pick up a book, snuggle in for some Netflix and quedate en (tu p*ta) casa.
And as far as travelling goes, I´m sorry, what the f*ck? Get out of here with that nonsense. Italy and Spain and struggling to find enough hospital beds to fit their patients, literally the last thing we need is people coming over here, potentially carrying a virus, and using the limited resources. The idea of putting further stress on an already struggling healthcare system is irresponsible and immoral.
Spain lost millions by putting public health ahead of the economy. Will your country be willing to do the same?
Schools closed first in Madrid and the rest of the country was soon to follow. Teachers scrambled to find a way to teach their lessons virtually and parents panicked about finding child care from anyone other than the grandparents, the most at risk players of the pandemic.
One of the biggest pieces of misinformation I´ve seen floating around the webs is that children are immune to Covid-19. Children are NOT immune to the virus. Rather, they are asymptomatic or have slight flu-like symptoms. They are still carriers and can still pass it along to other more vulnerable people, like the elderly or those with preexisting conditions. Schools are being quarantined because children are unknowingly passing the virus to eachother and bringing it home to their families.
Schools will remain closed in Spain for a minimum of two weeks, as that´s the time it takes symptoms to appear. The goal is not to protect the children, per se, but to protect them from spreading the virus.
What should you be doing?
If schools aren´t closed yet in your community, I would strongly encourage you to pull your children out until they are. I realize that childcare is a huge issue and not everyone has the resources to keep your kids home, but work with your friends and community and try to find away.
It takes a village. Every effected country that has closed schools has seen a steady decrease in new cases. This disease is being spread by the little guys and we have to put a stop to it.
And please keep in mind that it is strongly advised to keep children away from their grandparents for the time being, so they should not be seen as an option for childcare.
This is the Real Deal, Take it Seriously
I´m not telling you to panic. BUT,
I believe many Americans see the numbers in the US compared to their European counterparts and don´t think they´ll get there. Let´s be clear about this: there are countless people in the United States who are carrying coronavirus and do not know it yet. Symptoms can take two weeks to appear, and many healthy individuals are asymptomatic.
Here in Spain, testing is free. If we have symptoms, we can call public health and they come to our homes (free of charge) to administer a test so that carriers are not in the general public potentially spreading the virus to people on their way to and from or inside the health center.
Because tests are expensive AF in the US and you don´t have public health care, there are tons of people walking around with the virus that do not know they have it. Face it, if the guy making minimum wage at your local burger joint is sick, he probably doesn´t have PTO and is coming in anyway becasue he has no other choice. Whatever number of infected the US government is claiming has nothing to do with the actual number… because they don´t know it.
What should you be doing?
Take the threat seriously. I don´t know why they are making it so difficult for you to be tested nor why the tests are so expensive. But as more people get access to tests, the Numbers are going to continue to rise.
I fear that the US healthcare system is completely unprepared to deal with a pandemic with so many citizens un- and underinsured. It´s one reason why self quarantine and social distance are so important there.
If anyone has information as to how Americans can be tested inexpensively, please forward it so that I may post it here.
The Reality of Quarantine
As much as I hate being trapped at home for two weeks (or months, as it may turn out to be), there is no doubt in my mind that it is what needs to happen. But we should have done it sooner. And so should you.
Covid-19 is highly contagious and can be passed not just person to person, but on surfaces as well. The only way to flatten the curve is to practice self-quarantine and social distancing in an effort to slow down transmission.
The reality of the Spanish state of alarm is that we are permitted to leave our homes to buy food, medicine, basic necessities and to work if our jobs are not under quarantine. You can walk the dog and take out the trash, but you can (and should) be fined around $500 for gathering outside in groups, going for a jog or simply chillin.
What should you be doing?
If you know me, you know that I hate being indoors, with a fiery passion.
But this is so far beyond that. This is not about me, this is about us.
I´ve said it before and I´ll say it again. Stay the f*ck at home. You don´t need to wait for the government to mandate you to stay home.
Talk to your employer about working from home. Don´t go out to eat. Don´t go to they gym. The sooner you stop the spread of the virus, the sooner everything can go back to normal.
Stop Freaking Panicking
It´s scary. But buying up all the toilet paper and soap just because everyone else is buying up all the toilet paper and soap is ridiculous. Panic breeds panic, don´t buy into it.
What should you be doing?
Read a book. Watch a movie. Make tea. Make love.
It´s good to be aware of the world around you, but obsessing over a virus isn´t going to change anything. Be responsible and go about your normal life. And report any instances you see of price gouging, whether they be online or in your community. Cause those people frikkin suck.
Quarantine & Chill
Yesterday I was droppping off some groceries for my elderly neighbour and he said something that really resonated with me. ¨My parent´s went through quarantine during the (Spanish) civil war, but it always seemed so distant to me. I´ve lived 70 long years, it´s unusual to go through new experiences at this age.¨
This is new territory for all of us. None of us really know how long it will last, how much it will spread or where to go from here. What I do know is that it really does take a village. Now is the moment to keep positive, do what you can to help your friends and neighbours and keep your loved ones close.