After five days of self-isolation



My last post was about the Corona virus, and how insecure I feel in the face of such uncertainty. Today I’m writing about self-imposed isolation.

Jorge and I are not sick (at least we hope we’re not) but COVID 19 has an incubation period of 14 days and so we’ve decided to stay home, at least until we have a better idea of how hard the pandemic will affect Mexico. In the face of such uncertainty, we do NOT want to risk our health.

I look at the progression of the virus outbreaks – first in China, then Europe, now the USA and Canada – why should I imagine that Mexico will be any different? In fact, because Mexicans are not at all used to social distancing, if the virus gains momentum, the velocity of the spread could be catastrophic. We could be looking at many weeks of this self-imposed isolation.
On Facebook, I saw a graph; it was created by Dr. Reem Ghalib, an eminent physician in Texas. These numbers are a worst case scenario, but nonetheless, they are possible:


Suppose you catch the virus. You will give it to 3 other people, and they will each give it to three others, and so forth. Here is how the math works, where you, the “index case,” are the first line:
1 … 3 … 9 … 27 … 81… 243 … 729 … 2,187 … 6,561 … 19,683 … 59,046 … 177,147 …  531,441 … 1,594,323 … 4,782,969 … 14,348,907…

So, in just 15 steps of transmission, the virus has gone from just one index case to 14.3 million other people. Those 15 steps might take only a few weeks. The index person may be young and healthy, but many of those 14 million people will be old and sick, and they will likely die because they got a virus that started in one person’s throat.


I am lucky because I enjoy staying at home. We have many comforts, including a pool. I’ve got my paints and my laptop, so I can write or paint as much as I want. Jorge has also been writing and he reads a lot. However, we have established a routine, so that we stay engaged in different types of activities. We ration the “fun stuff” somewhat because we’re sure we’ll eventually feel bored, even with activities we really enjoy.

I ask myself if I am going overboard with my concern, but this outbreak is such an unknown experience for us all. We have no precedent to work from. Initially we’ve given our housekeeper two weeks of paid leave. We figure it must be risky for her to travel on public transport, and also we worry she could bring the virus to us. Once this trial period is finished, we hope to have some idea of just how dangerous it really is (for all of us) if she comes here three times a week.

We’re finding it’s not difficult to keep on top of things; we do the housework after breakfast. Yesterday was laundry, and today will be mopping and bathrooms. Jorge waters the garden in the afternoons and I cook all our meals. We take a long siesta after lunch and then watch the news. Once the sun goes down, we’ve been walking around the neighbourhood. When we get home again, we bath and settle in for the night; usually we watch Netflix.

Have you self-isolated? If so, what’s your routine? We should share good ideas, recipes and so on, because it looks as though we may be in for a long haul.

Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include spending time with freinds, reading, painting, cooking and travel.

8 thoughts on “After five days of self-isolation

  1. I’ve been getting a lot more use from my Instant Pot (flan treats for the nurses taking care of Mom) and the air fryer (Buffalo wings, which are treats for the rest of us). The grill out back has been getting more use, as well. I’m not thrilled having to cook three meals a day while working from home, but these tools help make it quick and easy! Oddly, our house has never felt more like a home than it does right now.


    1. Isn’t it true, Lee. Now that I am doing all the cooking and cleaning, I am noticing lots of little features, even in my compact house. I feel snug and safe. You have your garden and the lovely terrace, and best of all, your mom is getting the care she needs. You always wanted a home here; now you must be happier than ever to have it… Let’s talk today…


  2. After staying home for 3 months with Chikungunya a few years back I have some practice. Luckily this time I am not in pain and can accomplish many more things like reading, watching TV doing the normal chores and making my meals.
    Yesterday I went to the big IMSS where you pay for the year. There were few people and the 3 hour procedure still was done at the same place. At one point you must go to a bank to pay. I went to the Citibanamex on Circuito in the south. Only a certain number were allowed inside with a guard at the locked door. The chairs inside were spaced far apart. There was hand sanitizer everywhere. At Chedrauri in the south they wipe your cart handle as you go in.
    All this indicated to me that this is being taken as serious as it should.
    In Portland OR my daughter has closed her store and her husband has been laid off. They are working around the house and yard.
    That about sums it up for now. Everyone take care.


    1. Yes Nancy, you had the experience of having to stay home for several months when you got sick with Chikungunya. It was a long time… Social isolation is hard for everyone… but for people like you and me, who are blessed with many friends… it is hard not to be able to see them. But it is necessary. Many people are not complying; they take the “it-won’t-happen-to-me” attitude. I hope they won’t get it, but by isolating, I am improving my odds… let’s hope it is enough!


  3. I think you are being very smart and responsible to yourself, your family and society. I agree this will be required for much longer than most people realize, possibly as long as 6-8 months total. As a physician who was around for SARS (in Toronto which was one of the places most affected outside of China) and H1N1, this time around feels very different. In China, the government was able to apply draconian restrictions on people’s mobility and they appear to be getting ahead of that dreaded exponential curve. In Italy, France and Spain they tried voluntary measures, but too many people think either rules are there to find a way around them or that somehow restrictions apply to others, not them. Now in France there are extremely limited circumstances under which people can leave their homes, and they have to carry a certificate justifying being outside. I really worry about the impact of this on Mexico. So many people live hand to mouth already, and their reality is “if we don’t work, we don’t eat”. Stay well, Joanna. It sounds like you have put an excellent plan in place.


    1. Thank you for your comment, Miriam… but even my “excellent plan” has holes. Nonetheless, I see my measures as a way of increasing the odds that I WON’T get sick. It is scary and people have a natural avoidance of unpleasant things… I believe this is why many are not adopting stricter measures. Folly… yes. Understandable… yes, but they also are putting others at risk. Until EVERYONE self-isolates, we won’t get past this dangerous time.


  4. I am self-isolating in about the same way that a Mexican street dog self-isolates. I do not stray from the house much under normal circumstances. And I am helped in this Sisyphean project by the fact my car is in the body shop for major repairs. With the exception of nightly trips to watch the sunset and trips to Oxxo for refreshments, I have been in the house for two days. And already I am antsy.

    And it is not that I have created a successful cordon sanitaire. My front door is as permeable as a coronavirus cell. Staff. Children of staff (accompaning their parents because school is closed). Omar. Omar’s girlfriend. Friends. Two guys to whom I feed meals. I had a total of nine guests in the house yesterday — including Antonio, who tends my pool and has a cough that is far too reminiscent of Camille, and his eight-year-old son who insists on repeatedly shaking my hand to show he is courteous. For all I know, the house with no name is target zero for coronavirus in the village.

    As for activities, I have my daily readings and research: the morning newspaper, The Economist, and National Review. I have pulled out some C.S. Lewis and Kurt Vonnegut. For the first time in my life, though, I am getting bored of reading.

    Like you, I am trying to vary my pursuits. Last night I started an Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival in The Steve Cotton Memorial Library (naming it now seemed wiser than waiting for the inevitable). Last night, it was Hitchcock (with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren) and North by Northwest (with — oh, you know that). Tonight it will be Psycho and The Birds.

    What I miss is intelligent banter. But it is just a call away. I called my brother in Oregon yesterday afternoon simply to swamp bon mots.

    Frankly, I think we may be jumping the gun on “hiding in place.” And I am still not convinced it is any more efficient than living our lives as if there was a serious flu epidemic raging. Mind you, I am fully aware of the difference between the two, and I am not saying they are the same, but I see the absolute confusion in the eyes of my Mexican friends when I tell them what I am doing. Our northern paranoia is not always wrong — but it is not always correct, either.

    So, I will hide under the laying boxes in the hen house with C.S. Lewis, who will do his best to remind me that the transcendent is how we survive. Maybe I should grab my Viktor Frankl, as well.


    1. I know it’s hard Steve… but you might think about making your home a little safer… If people NEED to come by, you could set up a sitting area outside (I’mm sure the-house-with-no-name has an apprpriate spot) Place chairs the required six feet apart and “do what you must” from the outside of your home. When the guests leave, wipe everything down with Clorox wipes so the next bunch don’t pick up any virus that might have been left behind. As for workers and their children… convince them to also stay outide. All reports I have seen or heard say the same thing: social isolation is the ONLY way to keep infection from spreading. Good luck my friend!


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