Friday, July 12, 2024

After another tough pandemic year, hope is on the horizon

Mexico, you’re doing good.

I mean, really. Almost the entire country green. Wow!

Today’s article will be a song of praise. It has been such a long year and nine months since COVID-19 showed up and ruined all our party plans.

I don’t want to get too excited, of course – I felt elated this summer after receiving my own vaccine, only to see the country gasping for breath (literally, in many cases) in the following weeks under the delta variant.

But now that such a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated (over 80% of adults countrywide, according to official statistics and over 90% of adults in Mexico City), it seems that there’s once again hope that we might get to a point where we can actually relax a bit.

And when I say “relax,” I mean maybe go to an outdoor concert where we can still sit far-ish away from one another and finally send all our kids back to school with their cute little cartoon-decorated masks, widely spaced desks and backpacks chock-full of hand gel.

Heartening, too, is the sight of so many people — at least in my city — still faithfully wearing masks in public. Some people seem to take it extra far, and it’s kind of adorable: I often see drivers wear masks even though they’re alone in their vehicles, and most people walking down the street without another soul in sight are masked up too. But, hey, I’ll take an abundance of caution over a devil-may-care attitude any day!

I’m so happy that people are for the most part not letting up, even in the face of a rosy current picture, rather than behaving like about half the population of my own country.

Reading the news from there has been disheartening to say the least. With the vaccine divide in the United States and in Europe largely causing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” — with a few breakthrough cases turning up as a result of the absence of herd immunity — many countries seem to be facing yet another surge.

While I’ve certainly met people here who have refused the vaccine (and heard about several of their funerals as a result), most people tend to be fairly quiet about their opposition and are usually of the “essential oils will cure all that ails me” type rather than “the government is trying to kill us and make Pfizer rich, and it’s all a conspiracy” variety.

I mean, if this was indeed all planned — and I’m sure that I’ll hear about it from the readers that email me to tell me I’m an idiot every time I write in support of vaccines — all I can say is that they did a terrible job at execution, with just awful fumbles.

Anyway! The combination of vaccines and other efforts at stopping contagion is working, and I’m damn proud. What are we still doing?

Well, all major stores still insist on mask-wearing, using hand gel on your way in and taking patrons’ temperatures.

Taking temperatures seems fairly unnecessary. The result is usually comically low, and at places like the mall, one’s temperature is taken upon entrance to the building and then before entering most stores. How do they think I got in the building? Might I have developed a temperature during my walk from the main entrance to the Liverpool entrance inside the mall?

Once, I walked into a department store the wrong way, and someone chased me down a good 50 meters to make me go back and enter the right way so that I could receive my squirt of gel and get my temperature taken for the sixth time since arriving at the mall 30 minutes earlier.

There’s no need to give anyone a hard time, though. It’s not like those with the thankless job of policing such entrances made the rules. And who knows: maybe it’s prevented a contagion or two.

And, again, what a contrast to my own country, where a sizable portion of the population refuses to wear masks because face coverings are … uncomfortable? Unfashionable? I’ll admit, they can be annoying. But is it really that big a price to pay when we’re trying to free ourselves from this seemingly never-ending pandemic?

In more good news, vaccines have now been opened up to 15 to 17-year-olds in Mexico, in an about-face from the previous government argument that only those young people with existing health conditions would be offered vaccines.

Why the about-face? I have no idea, but I hope it continues down the line until all children are eligible.

With half of parents still too nervous to send their kids to school, it would be a big step in allowing children in Mexico to finally exercise their right to an education, something that minors in literally every other country in the world have been able to do for a while now.

And dare I wish for boosters? It was such an effort to get adults vaccinated that I don’t think we’ve even been discussing it yet, but one can hope.

In the meantime, I’m just so proud to be in a country where so many people are still working hard to take care of themselves and of each other. Time will tell if it pays off, but at least today, I’m optimistic.

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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