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No One Is "Corona-Proof"

Updated: Jul 11


Albufeira's mayor said that the municipality will raise awareness among establishment owners about COVID-19 laws. (Photo by SIC Noticias)

The Portuguese police (Guarda Nacional Republica) issued dozens of fines to establishments and Dutch students in Albufeira for the latter not wearing masks, keeping social distance, and congregating in groups of more than 20 on Sunday, according to Diario de Noticias. About 2,400 secondary school students had traveled to the Algarve to celebrate their graduation in the alcohol-serving cafes and on the beaches.

A long-distance coach driver on the Oliveira do Hospital to Coimbra route, on Tuesday, had to walk through the bus, after the journey had begun, to tell several passengers to put on their masks. He already had told one passenger who boarded the bus with the mask on her wrist, but she had not listened to him.

A plumber, who was not wearing a mask or gloves, laughed when he arrived at my house, recently, and saw me wearing a mask. I look as though I am armored, he said. Then, I had a coughing jag. A worried look replaced his laugh as he asked me whether I had the flu.

Us versus them.

The vacationing students, the bus passengers, and the plumber were acting as though they were COVID-free, and it’s the other person, the other city, the other country, who is not.

“We are all in this together,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force has said repeatedly, most recently this month.

There is no them. It is about us.

“Other areas become vulnerable because even though we are a very heterogeneous country, we are not without connection to each other, so the whole enterprise could be at risk,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said to the American Medical Association this month. “You’ve got to remember that we’re all in this together and we’ve got to take some societal responsibility. . . . We have a societal responsibility to help put an end to this epidemic.”

Just as American states are not without connection, neither are countries without connection to each other. Connections are what make this a global pandemic. Unfortunately, there has been little global cooperation during this crisis. Every country has gone its own way and, often, states within nations, and cities within states.

In the Netherlands, the rules do not require the wearing of masks, except on public transportation. The government advises social distancing of 1.5 meters, avoidance of busy places, washing hands and not shaking hands. Therefore, the holidaymakers in Albufeira acted against their own country’s counsel. They headed toward busy places and did not maintain social distance. Of course, they should have known and adhered to Portugal’s COVID-19 laws, which mandate masks in public places.

The Netherlands and Portugal ranked 37th and 38th, respectively, in numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. The Netherlands had 51,055 cases and Portugal had 45,679, as of July 10. The United States ranked number one with 3,140,938. In the Netherlands, the number of COVID-19 deaths was 6,137 as of July 7, according to Wikipedia.

In Albufeira, as three friends walked away from the crowd, one young woman, in a televised SIC interview, said: “We may visit some friends. But we are very close to them, so it’s a bit corona-proof.”

Corona-proof.

There is no such thing.

The novel coronavirus often is passed to family and friends. Richard Garay, a southern California man, tested positive for the virus in early June. Two weeks later, his 60-year-old father, Vidal Garay, died of COVID-19. At least 28 family members are infected with the virus.

Garay, 27, told CNN that his family followed quarantine protocol and hygiene guidelines.

“I just believe it happened through minimal contact,” he said, adding that his father visited three households, not knowing that he was infected and not showing symptoms.

Some of the visits lasted no longer than 10 minutes.

Garay and his father quarantined together. One morning, the younger Garay could not breathe. His last words to his father were:

“Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

As it turned out, he did make it. His father did not. He died the day before Father’s Day is celebrated in the United States in late June.

“Hopefully, his death can save people. I don’t want him to be a statistic. If his story can save a life, it’s worth telling his story.

“It’s real. It doesn’t take long to get exposed. Through my father’s death and our suffering, we can save one life or hundreds or thousands . . . I just hope people can hear this message.”

Vidal Garay is one of 133,420 who died of COVID-19 in the United States as of July 9, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The reader may say that the problem is in the United States, where the daily number of confirmed cases rose to 55,000 on July 9, many times the numbers we are seeing in Europe, even per capita. However, about 30 European countries, including Portugal, have reported a surge of new cases in the past two weeks, and epidemiologists said the trajectory is alarming in 11 countries, according to VOA on July 6.

Portugal had been hailed as a success story. Its early response to the new coronavirus has resulted in 1,646 deaths as of July 9.

“After doing everything right, we’re not going to ruin it now,” said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, as the government introduced restrictions in 19 municipalities of Lisbon, which have seen recent spikes, on July 1.

Many who live in the countryside of central Portugal act as though COVID-19 is happening somewhere else, not here. True, the numbers of confirmed cases are lower: 4,254 confirmed cases as compared with 21,926 in Lisbon and the Tejo Valley. If this were the Middle Ages, there would be nil chance of long-distance travel. But today, people do travel by car, train, plane and bus, which is all the more reason for the Rede Expressos bus passengers to respect the law and wear masks.

The bus journey departed from the town of Oliveira do Hospital, which had 28 confirmed cases, and it ended at the city of Coimbra, which had 607 cases, both figures as of June 23, according to DGS, the national health directorate.

The pandemic situation keeps changing. Some blame government officials for lack of leadership, and some blame the people for not taking the virus seriously. It is easy to point a finger and, it is often, unhelpful.

“Act as if you might be carrying the virus,” said CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

I agree.

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