COVID Diary 3

Day 21 of quarantine.  It’s getting old. My mood is sinking and I’m perpetually exhausted from having done nothing. Our rights keep being restricted as time goes on.  First, we weren’t allowed to be on the street except for groceries and medicine, then we weren’t allowed to use private cars, then no one could be on the street from 8p-5a.  Since my last post, all children and minors are not allowed to leave their homes ever, our curfew is now 6p-5a, and the icing on the cake this weekend is that now men can only go for groceries  Monday, Wednesday, Friday and women Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; no one can leave their houses on Sundays.  This is complicating life for many people. 

I am fortunate among the population here in that I have enough food, medicine and money to get me through.  However, I do have to walk a mile to the grocery store and hike a mile up the mountain with what I am able to carry.  This means that I must go several times a week now that there is no transportation.  Also, women are usually the ones that do the grocery shopping (I don’t trust my husband with the list- I know it’s sexist) and so it means that when I went to the store on Saturday, it was absolutely mobbed with women!  I had to wait thirty minutes in a line two blocks long to get into the store, then another half hour to get to the register.  This new policy is making contagion more probable!  There are also more and more reports of abuse of power by police and military.  A friend reported that in the rural town of Ollantaytambo today, the authorities rounded up the people they found outside, took them to the main plaza and made them do exercises and embarrassing things.  Most of the people were probably farmers with farms to be tended and animals to be fed.

 What worries me the most about these restrictions is that they don’t seem to be working.  If you see Peru’s COVID-19 statistics, these radical measures don’t seem to be helping much.  Our curve for new cases is still showing exponential growth after three weeks of isolation.  Today the country saw more than 500 new cases, which is double what our biggest day has been thus far, March 31.  Our healthcare system struggles on a normal day and it’s scary to think how it will handle the peak of the pandemic when it arrives.  But I am unsure what can be done further to socially isolate the population.

On a personal note, my study center is officially being closed with 22 other sites around the world and the other two staff members and I will be laid off this month or next.  I have been through a whirlwind of emotions from deep sadness, to anger, to relief, to hope.   However, lately I have been dealing with lethargy, body aches and pains (fibromyalgia), exhaustion and a generally low mood.  I realize I am very lucky to have all that I need right now and my family around me, but I worry about the future of my family, as well as my community and country. 

I am not alone in feeling this way.  I have decided to do a qualitative study and interview people around the world about their experiences with quarantine.  So far, I have started reading about the psychological and emotional impacts of being quarantined based on previous epidemics and studies done during those times.  It turns out that quarantine has a major impact on people’s wellbeing and can have long lasting effects.  In severe cases it can even cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which does not seem farfetched when you consider the fear of infection with the restrictions in personal freedom, while watching as the country where I grew up (USA) goes down in flames. Just the frustration of having to stay inside and not being able to help in the crisis is heavy stuff.  Some days I just feel paralyzed.

This week I plan to force myself to do some exercise every day and concentrate on my research in order to find purpose in this crazy time.  I will comment on how it goes….wish me luck!

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