During the second week of March, my husband, a software engineer, decided to stay at home. He used to take the light rail from the Federal Station to Union Station every day. Shortly after the first case was confirmed in Colorado and he saw the rate of the progression of COVID-19, he decided to self-quarantine.
I hosted my last meeting on March 12. I met with a couple of clients and went to a Toastmasters meeting that day.
We are lucky to work with technology and have the flexibility to work from home. We also feel Corona guilt, the type of guilt that Hannah Miller mentioned in her article.
I am a small business owner. I have had clients cancel their projects. Others see this time as an opportunity to put their systems in order. One of my clients estimated an 80% drop in her revenue. One of my friends, the owner of a café, had to lay off several employees. The pain in the small business community is real.
We are healthy, and if we get the virus, we believe we can fight it. Still, we would rather not get it. What if our immune system is more taxed that we are aware of?
Last weekend I listened to a podcast where the host was interviewing Bill Gates. It was very informative. It also made me think about my family and their circumstances.
I am an immigrant. I was naturalized American in 2015. Most of my family lives in Brazil. My parents are in the high-risk group. My oldest brother, Roberto, is a doctor. He also works for a health insurance cooperative in the south of Brazil. Last week I learned that one of my brother’s coworkers in the health insurance co-op has the virus. So far, my brother does not have any symptoms.
In Brazil, the country is divided. The president, Bolsonaro, is urging people to go back to work. He said they should make adjustments to protect the most vulnerable, but they should keep the Brazilan economy active. I must say, I saw his announcement and he was not very specific about how he was planning on protecting the most vulnerable.
On the other hand, Minister of Health Luis Henrique Madetta is urging people to follow the WHO recommendations to maintain social distancing. Two leaders, two different messages. After being publicly criticized by Bolsonaro, Madetta said he is not going to resign. He said, “Regarding my position with the government, I am not going to leave on my own. I learned from my masters: a doctor does not leave his patient.”
Right now the public opinion is in favor of the Minister of Health. His approval has reached 76% in the last week (Folha de São Paulo, April 3).
I remember what Bill Gates said in the podcast. If we can maintain social distancing, we will get through this. But countries that cannot afford to slow down the economy will suffer a significant impact. He is absolutely right. Many Brazilians are facing the risk of catching the virus versus starving to death.
I know that, in many ways, we were not prepared to handle this situation here in the U.S. But in Brazil, that is so much worse. On top of having the same challenges as we have here, most organizations are not ready for a remote workforce. Internet access is not as widely available. There is no culture of remote work. Employees most of the time don’t have enough autonomy or access to the systems they need. Even the sectors of the economy that could remain productive are not productive at this point.
For us, all is well right now. My in-laws are in Florida. My sister-in-law and her husband are in Ohio. Our American family is practicing social distancing and so far no one has caught the virus.
As Brazilians, we are not good at social distancing. When we get together we hug and kiss each other on the cheek. Therefore, my Brazilan family is more vulnerable. Their version of social distancing is a little more fluid.
My parents’ version of social distancing is not the most effective. They are isolated at the beach house, bored and lonely. Two of my brothers have to keep working. Roberto is also an obstetrician and his patients are still delivering babies. My second brother, Lierte, works with import and export. Distribution of goods hasn’t stopped.
My husband and I settled in a new routine. We work our regular hours. We go out for a walk after work when the weather allows. We order take-out from our favorite restaurants on Saturday evenings. We were going to the grocery store once a week. This week we were able to order groceries online.
In some ways I feel busier than before. Last Saturday I spent most of the day in front of my computer in Zoom meetings, because some of my social activities are online now. It was challenging for me, because I already spend most of the day in front of the computer. This Saturday I turned off the computer and pulled out my coloring book.
I cannot predict the future. But I am aware that, if we get through the end of this year with all our family members alive and well, we will be the luckiest people on earth.
Lidiane Mocko lives in Lakewood.