Can we be politically correct “In Time of COVID 19”

As a child, were you cautioned to “mind your manners”?

I sure was. My parents taught me to respect others’ rights and not criticise their choices and beliefs. Live and let live, Mom and Dad told us. But there are times when we have to speak plainly, they added, and you will recognise when those times come.

Well, I believe one of those times is here and now.

COVID 19 is not going away. All experts tell us that the most effective ways to decrease the viral load are hand washing, social distancing, wearing face masks and vaccination. These protocols are not being adhered to with consistency, and in Yucatan, the spread of the virus is out of control. Again.   

There are too many mavericks who have no medical reason for refusing vaccination against COVID 19. Diverse groups of researchers, scientists and medical teams have assured us that the vaccine is safe and it is our best defense against the virus but that does not seem to mean anything to them. They dig in their heels and say NO.

Then there are the rumors that the anti-vaxers have spread. The young woman who helps me in our home was told by her village neighbor that the vaccine will make everyone sick and that although the first jab is free, they will need to pay a lot of money for the second. The same ill-advised person also told my employee that with the vaccine, a micro-chip would be injected into their bodies and spies from every country in the world would be able to control their minds. These two women are not worldly. They believe what they are told, and they are scared.

Why would anyone fabricate such lies? Do they enjoy confusing people?

A recent Gallup poll shows that only 68 percent of the world’s population say they will vaccinate when they have the chance. 70-90 percent is required to achieve herd immunity, so the world falls short of even the minimum amount of compliance. Despite the fact that the American government has lotteries to entice citizens to vaccinate, as of early May 2021, only 44 percent had accepted their jab in the arm. As of today, Mexico has administered at least 35,166, 248 doses of COVID 19 vaccines. Huge efforts are being made, and yet the anti-vaxers say it is their right to refuse.

Tired of being shut inside, many are flocking to the beaches, restaurants and attending large gatherings. The masks are hot, so they are removed. They say they are sick and tired of the restrictions and have the right to enjoy themselves.

And what about my rights? I have complied with all the guidelines and now, after almost a year-and-a-half, I am completely vaccinated, and yet many are not accepting their responsibilities. This pandemic has caused my family huge hardship. And anyone whose actions contribute to prolonging the ordeal is no crusader in my book.

The college Jorge and I founded in 1990 is just one of the millions of independent businesses throughout the world. I am sure that all owners worked as hard as we did to build and consolidate what they have. To see forces beyond our control, breaking apart our life’s work is like a punch in the stomach.

Up until now, TTT has managed to skirt disaster, thanks to the heroic efforts of our staff and the cooperation of our students. I feel such gratitude.

But the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations continue to rise, so as of today, our state’s population will see their freedom of movement curtailed – again. If non-compliance continues, will our students be able to return to classes in September? If they don’t get back in the classrooms, they will be starting their third school year without setting foot on the campus. Will they feel disheartened and not continue their studies? If too many take that decision, our dreams and more than three decades of hard work could go up in smoke.

Our livelihood is no small deal. But also, like everyone else, we have been unable to see friends and family who live outside Merida. We miss everyone but especially our daughter in Los Angeles and our only granddaughter who lives in Norway. Emma will turn 8 next week and we have not seen her since she was 6. All the milestones we’ve missed! Jorge and I are no longer young. We don’t know how long we’ll be able to travel and see Emma. Not to mention our family and friends in Canada and other parts of the world.

Do you see conspiracy in every move the authorities make? I agree that some questions should be asked but not when the truth is obvious.

Everyone wants to live a full life, but if we could stick to the rules for a few weeks, the virus would debilitate and slowly we could start getting back to normal. We did have some sanctions lifted but many took this too far and we are all paying the price. Instead of moving forward, we are sliding back.

During the pandemic we should all be pulling together. I’ve had my two doses of AstraZeneca and I am grateful. We are lucky to live in countries where we can get vaccinated. Squandering our good fortune is not defensible.

The Second Jab

Sleep proved elusive last night because I was so excited about getting my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. And I am ecstatic to report that this morning, I did indeed receive the second jab… in just three weeks I will have high immunity to COVID 19. The State government set up the vaccination center at the ex-train station, and they could not have done it better. I saw quite a few older (than me) folks who looked as nervous as mice trying to slip by a prowling alley cat. But the (mostly young) staff were well-trained, courteous and worked quickly. I didn’t see even one of the Nervous Nellies or Neds, leave the vaccination center without a smile and a “muchas gracias” for the medical team.

During the past 16 months (give or take a few days) I have worried almost non-stop about how the virus will continue to impact us. The concern for our college’s instructors, staff and students has been a daily preoccupation. And keeping dry through last summer’s almost-hurricane conditions presented us with still more challenges. I won’t even mention how I longed for more social stimulation, physical exercise, travel and the other pleasures I used to take for granted.

I feel chagrined because I did not do a better job of coping. Other people suffered real privation and they bore up better than I did. It was the first time in my life that I felt unable to see my way out. I felt terrified that I would get COVID 19.

I wanted to sustain a better attitude. Lots of my friends managed to get enthusiastic about ZOOM but I could not get past missing my “normal” interactions with friends and I stubbornly refused to learn more technology. Some solace came my way from writing and painting, but as the weeks wore on, it seemed I had less and less ability to focus and finish anything. I cleaned a lot, but maybe this was an attempt to spiff-up my tarnished self-image. Cooking and of course the subsequent eating became a big part of every day, and so now, I have even more weight to lose than before.

Is confession “good for the soul”? Is parading my peccadillos in public and reciting a litany of my under-achievement, actually an exercise in atonement? Why am I publishing all this dribble?

Truth be told, I hope that writing about my struggles during the epidemic and the relief I now feel, will help others to reconsider their position and get vaccinated. Rejection of the vaccine is full of the same folly as my refusal to adapt to the “new normal”. None of us like having control or personal choice taken away, but we are all in this together. Like it or not, my pain is yours, and yours is mine. For all our sakes, we must work together to reach herd immunity and halt the relentless spread of COVID 19.

At    I read the following information about the anti-vax theories that have been making the rounds. I don’t expect too many (if any) of those who have outright rejected vaccination will change their minds. However, some of those who are indecisive will maybe reconsider .

People who refuse to vaccinate possibly feel it isn’t my place to give an opinion about what they have elected to do.  Yet, by refusing the vaccine, they are acting (not just speaking) against my interests. And so, given their actions, I believe I have the right to write about how this makes me feel.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation (as well as malicious rumors) surrounding the vaccines and their development. When deciding whether or not to get the vaccine, it’s important to separate myths from facts.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe because it was developed so quickly.
Fact: The authorized vaccines are proven safe and effective. Although they were developed in record time, they have gone through the same rigorous Food and Drug Administration process as other vaccines, meeting all safety standards. No steps were skipped. Instead, we can thank the unprecedented worldwide collaboration and investment for the shorter timeframe on the development of the vaccines. The clinical trials and safety reviews actually took about the same amount of time as other vaccines. 

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA.
Fact: The first vaccines granted emergency use authorization contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to make the “spike protein” found on the new coronavirus. When the immune system recognizes this protein, it builds an immune response by creating antibodies — teaching the body how to protect against future infection. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The body gets rid of the mRNA soon after it’s finished using the instructions. 

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine includes a tracking device.
Fact: A video shared thousands of times on Facebook makes false claims about the products of syringe maker Apiject Systems of America, which has a contract with the government to provide medical-grade injection devices for vaccines. The company has an optional version of its product that contains a microchip within the syringe label that helps providers confirm a vaccine dose’s origin. The chip itself is not injected into the person getting the vaccine.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine has severe side effects such as allergic reactions.
Fact: Some participants in the vaccine clinical trials did report side effects similar to those experienced with other vaccines, including muscle pain, chills and headache. And although extremely rare, people can have severe allergic reactions to ingredients used in a vaccine. That’s why experts recommend people with a history of severe allergic reactions — such as anaphylaxis — to the ingredients of the vaccine should not get the vaccination.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women.
Fact: Misinformation on social media suggests the vaccine trains the body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta, which could lead to infertility in women. The truth is, there’s an amino acid sequence shared between the spike protein and a placental protein; however, experts say it’s too short to trigger an immune response and therefore doesn’t affect fertility. Learn more.

Myth: I’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19, so I don’t need to receive the vaccine.
Fact: If you have already had COVID-19, there’s evidence that you can still benefit from the vaccine. At this time, experts don’t know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

Myth: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.
Fact: Masking, handwashing and physical distancing remain necessary in public until a sufficient number of people are immune. Fully vaccinated people can meet with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. 

Myth: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Fact: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine because it doesn’t contain the live virus.

Myth: Once I receive the vaccine, I will test positive for COVID-19.
Fact: Viral tests used to diagnose COVID-19 check samples from the respiratory system for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. Since there is no live virus in the vaccines, the vaccines will not affect your test result. It is possible to get infected with the virus before the vaccine has had time to fully protect your body. 

Myth: I’m not at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 so I don’t need the vaccine.
Fact: Regardless of your risk, you can still contract the infection and spread it to others, so it’s important you get vaccinated. Once the vaccine is widely available, it’s recommended that as many eligible adults as possible get the vaccine. It’s not only to protect you but your family and community as well.

Myth: If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I am at a greater risk to become sick from another illness.
Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that getting the vaccine heightens your risk to become sick from another infection such as the flu.

Myth: Certain blood types have less severe COVID-19 infections, so getting a vaccine isn’t necessary.
Fact: Research has shown there is no reason to believe being a certain blood type will lead to increased severity of COVID-19. By choosing to get vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself and your family but your community as well.

Leaving the bunker

Until just now, internet interruptions have kept me from posting my whole piece. Here is the text.

For all intents and purposes, during the past year, most of us have been living in bunkers. From my sporadic posts, most readers of CHANGES IN OUR LIVES are aware that this has not been an easy time for me. Like many women, I thrive on being around others. To be shut in and too anxious to even go for a walk around the neighborhood is not an experience I want to repeat.

Nonetheless, in some odd ways, I can see that the pandemic has been good for me. First off, it has forced me to re-evaluate what is most important in my life. And at the top of the list stands my husband. We’ve been together for 45 years, and over that time, we have both developed our own interests. I have my writing, painting and a group of close friends. Jorge likes getting together at the cafe with his long-time buddies and they spend hours remembering the exploits of their youth. He also enjoys his historical research and chronicling. For years, we’ve been so preoccupied with our kids, other people, our college, as well as many more pursuits, and I realise that we did not give each other as much attention as we should have.

When the pandemic began, we had no idea that we would be one another’s mainstay for more than a year. But once the media started talking about second and third waves, we understood that the seclusion would go on and on. Jorge and I looked at each other, and I think we both silently thought the same thing – It’s you and me Babe.

Most days we saw no one else. At first this seemed like a novelty. We sat for long periods of time on the living room sofa and reviewed “the days of our lives”. It was amazing how we remember 45 years of ups and downs from such different perspectives. Jorge could recall every detail of what happened on significant occasions – how we happened to be doing whatever, who was with us, and what we ate. I had crystal clear memories of how we all felt, what we wore, if it was hot, or not-too-bad, who was irritated, and who was happy.

We cooked up a storm, we made plans for the future. But by the third month of lockdown, our weight had gone up and our spirits had bogged down. Long silences filled our days. We started sleeping more. Sometimes two siestas. And of course, we watched lots of Netflix.

About 5 months into our forced exile from society, we became obsessed with classifying our 1,000s and 1,000s of photos. We took about a week removing them from 30 albums. Our working styles are totally different, and soon we both got frustrated, because just as our memories are from different perspectives, we also approach tasks from unlike viewpoints.

I wanted to sort by people. All the pictures of our immediate family got put into one pile. Another pile had those with only Jorge and me. Just Jorge, just me, just Carlos, just Maggie. You can imagine. Before long I had dozens of wobbly stacks of photographs spread out on two large tables. At first Jorge tried to change my system, but he soon left me alone. And guess what? Months later, I am still plugging away.  In fits and starts, of course.

Fits and starts is my motto and not just with the photos. I apply it to my painting, my writing, cleaning and sewing. What can I say?

Re-organising the kitchen, all the closets, purging the 20 year-old, three sizes too small clothes from our wardrobes, and replanting much of the garden are other make-work projects that had various degrees of success and failure.

After a summer of non-stop torrential rain, we had the roof re-surfaced, the house got painted inside and out, the dining room chairs finally received new covers.

By Christmas, we were fit to be tied. We felt sick about not seeing our daughter who had moved to Los Angeles just before the pandemic began. Our son and girlfriend could not visit often because they worried about infecting us. At Christmas time, we could not host the IWC tea. There would be no big turkey dinner with family and friends.

The New Year rolled around and many of our friends who spend the winter in Yucatan had to stay put in cold Canada or the Trump-crazed USA.  We did not have a tour to some lovely place that we could look forward to. But news of the vaccine looked promising. Maybe by the spring we would get “jabbed”?

And now it is May, Jorge and I have received our first vaccination, and we feel much better. We are still using our masks, avoiding crowds, washing hands, using sanitizer and keeping our distance from others, but we don’t sense so much fear. We both look forward to the second dose later this month

But not everyone we know, along with millions of anonymous others are jumping into line for their shots. The Anti-vax vice squad is all too active recruiting – What a thorny issue – I know my opinion doesn’t sit well with the “respect my rights” crowd. But mine should be respected too. We need to find a way to pull together on this. What do you think?