Monday, June 24, 2024

Masks are off and things feel normal again, but we’re not out of the woods

Is it safe to come out now?

It’s been over two years since the pandemic started, and it finally seems that — at least in Mexico — we’re looking at the end of it.

For now, at least.

By most accounts, pretty much everyone in Mexico has either had COVID-19, been inoculated against it or both. My kid had it, as did her father. Somehow my partner and I seemed to have escaped it, though who really knows?

A doctor acquaintance of mine asserted that during this last omicron-fueled wave, everybody has definitely had it whether they knew it or not.

This is a tempting theory (I’m really tired of wearing a mask, y’all), though I’m not sure what he based his assertion on. And it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods.

Still, I’m cautiously optimistic.

The playground that my kid and I used to go to that’s been closed for two years (which is objectively the best one in the city), finally opened back up. Most schools are open again most of the time (with masks).

People are still wearing masks indoors, but outside, where there aren’t crowds, many are starting to feel comfortable about taking them off. There’s a temperature checker and gel at the door of every indoor establishment, but most places no longer have a person standing there to make sure we comply. It’s not necessary, really: we all do it naturally now.

You still have to make appointments with government services for things that were previously available for walk-in attention, but at least there are appointments. They’re hard to get; the appointments I was finally able to make after weeks of attempting to do so for my child’s two passports had to be made months in advance.

Many government offices seem to be holding on to the pandemic as a reason they cannot fully restaff, the United States Embassy included. But I have a feeling that governments have simply realized that they can still get by spending much less money on overworked personnel. I believe they’re totally OK with just inconveniencing people (though I do feel the need to say that the people at the Mexican passport office were extremely nice and organized).

Entire offices remain closed, meaning that many people are simply not being served or must travel great distances (and spend a lot of money) for what was previously available across the street. And good luck trying to see your kids for supervised visitation at the courthouse, a service that has been unavailable for 26 months and counting in my experience.

Still, things are starting to feel a bit like they used to.

Many states have decided that we’re “back to normal.” In Mexico City and Tamaulipas, face masks are no longer required outside. Quintana Roo has also dropped its requirement, as has Jalisco.

Many people, of course, have had to be “back to normal” from the beginning — in the absence of any economic help from the government. (OK, fine: there was like a 20,000-peso loan offered to a handful of people.)

At least most everyone who wanted a vaccine was able to get one. Children 12 and up are finally getting theirs, and while it was said that children aged five years old and up were also going to get them, there’s still no official news on the timing of when that might be.

I’m finally planning on traveling home this summer for the first time in two and a half years and will get a vaccine for my daughter when I do.

It’s been a rough couple of years. I remember hearing “spring/summer of 2022” as a likely ending point for the “emergency” nature of COVID (though not of COVID altogether, which at best seems set to follow the path of the Spanish flu, which is still with us today). When I first heard that, I remember thinking we’d never make it.

But we have “made it” — in Mexico, though with over 600,000 fewer of us. That’s close to half a percentage of the Mexican population, which sounds small, but it’s easily one person every few blocks.

We lost a lot of people and a lot of livelihoods. Let’s do our best to not lose more, OK?

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, and her Patreon page.

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