COVID Diary 1

It’s the fifth day of quarantine, radical quarantine, as in, it’s illegal to go outside unless you are specifically going to buy food or medicine.  There are police everywhere stopping people, checking IDs and questioning where you are going. 

A man was arrested today in front of his house, wearing boxers and flip flops, when he stepped to let his dog out, which was on a leash. It was reported that his arrest was because he forgot to take his ID with him.  Yesterday my neighbor was yelled at for not wearing a mask and my husband was physically threatened when he tried to take a friend home who lives a few blocks away.

All planes are grounded, international and national, buses and taxis are rarely circulating, and it is illegal to use your own car. There are tourists and nationals alike trapped in various places, unable to get home until March 30th (another week and a half), when the government will theoretically lift the travel ban.  It is likely, however, that it will be extended.

There is also a military-enforced curfew, from 8pm-5am, where no one is allowed on the street or you will be arrested.  Supposedly in an emergency, you can signal police or military for help getting to a hospital, but it’s scary.  I’ve had trouble keeping my cool for my daughters, because each day things seem to get worse.  Looking back at myself 10 days ago, I could have never predicted all the things that were to come.

I live in Cusco, Peru, at 11,000 ft. with my two daughters, husband and dog.  I am grateful that my mother is also with us for quarantine and was able to make it on one of the last flights before the shutdown. I have worked for a US study abroad organization, for the last 15 years, which has been forced to halt world-wide operations because of COVID-19. 

First, we closed our centers in Asia, then Europe and now because of Peru and other countries shutting down their borders suddenly, we have sent all students home. This means that we do not have work and will most likely be laid off in the coming week, from the confines of our homes. 

I am the sole breadwinner in my family and my job provides health insurance for us. If I’m laid off, our coverage will be lost and we will be trapped up here in the mountains, with no health care until the quarantine is lifted.  Every day, on the news and in my work email inbox, it’s more bad news.

Those who know me can tell you that I am an anxious type, often starting sentences with “I’m worried about….”  These days my list of worries is long.  I’m not only worried about the financial wellbeing and health of my family but for those less fortunate. I wonder how the homeless, the abused, the day laborers are faring. 

On one hand, I understand the severity of the virus and that we must take extreme measures to lower the contagion rate and “flatten the curve” to allow time for our (not-so-great) healthcare system to respond.  On the other, I worry that more will die of hunger and poverty than of sickness.  World economies are crashing everywhere, and millions will be out of a job (most likely including myself) in the coming months.  What will we do?

However I am also hopeful that this crisis will teach us that we are all connected and essential for each other’s survival.  COVID-19 is hopefully teaching us that we all matter and that we cannot fight this alone. Will we come out of this more human? More sensitive? More empathetic?  Or will we continue to close our borders and fight over resources?  Meanwhile I am attempting to prepare for major life changes ahead.  I am praying for strength, serenity and personal growth in the days ahead.



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