Oaxaca Speaks: COVID-19 Report #4, Kalisa Wells

The last four snowbirds left this morning. Four of us remain, says Kalisa Wells, who has a home in San Diego and spends most of the year in Oaxaca. She lives in a large apartment complex the residents call Holy Crespo in the historic center of Oaxaca, within sight of Basilica de Soledad. Soledad is the patron saint of our city.

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Soledad — Our Lady of Solitude

I asked Kalisa to be my eyes and ears on the ground for this issue. Here’s what she says.

Today (March 25, 2020) was very quiet. It is early and it’s Wednesday, and for sure there are less people. There are kiddies’ fun rides set up in the Zocalo now. It wasn’t there last week. South of the Zocalo, there are lots of permanent vendors set up, and ALL the stores and businesses were open. All the churches are open, as are all the small family-style restaurants.

I’ve not been north of the Zocalo for some time. [This is the tourist area along the Andador Macedonio Alcala, the principal walking street.]

There is a long line at the bank and everyone is standing close together. The Santander [bank] on the corner across from the Cathedral has reopened with multiple ATM machines. I was the only customer. Be assured, I don’t talk to anyone or touch anyone. I’m home now and all scrubbed up!

My life in the city is tranquil, and always has been. I focus on solitude, nature, cooking, reading, studying, listening to Beethoven in the mornings. I cherish this kind of existence. Right now, I’m reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

My concerns? That Trump has many followers and this will not just magically go away, even with him not being re-elected.

What am I afraid of in Mexico? The same thing; that the leaders have self-interests and the poor people will be further trampled on, maybe without knowing it. I read from many gueros living here the concern for the poor, the daily wage earner. What can she or he do? The billionaire government of Mexico must step up and feed the people … no one should be living as they have left them even before the virus.

My friends who live in the same building are respecting our distance. That’s the only way we can protect ourselves now.

Norma’s Notes:

Tomorrow, we will hear from Mitla weaver, Arturo Hernandez. Then, I will re-evaluate if I continue on this thread or shift to another topic. Tell me what you think and want to hear about.

Puebla [Mexico] governor says poor are immune from corona virus

Video: Dr. David Price, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, tells how to protect family during the COVID-19 crisis.

Here in Huntington Beach, California, my son Jacob and I talked this morning about narcissicist-sadistic personality disorder as described by Eric Fromm and related to our nation’s leader. He is a creating a national reality show in which states and health care organizations compete for scarce resources, deriving pleasure in watching who will lose and who will win. I cried. Feeling helpless is just one step away from feeling hopeless. Time to re-read Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

I called my North Carolina Senators to plead for the War Powers Act of 1941 to be used to increase production of PPE. But, then the New York Times asks, Do we really want to give this president unlimited powers during this time? What are the unintended consequences?

This is my 14th day of extreme social distancing after flying from Oaxaca to Orange County, California, through Houston. So far, no symptoms.

I’ve just subscribed to Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American. You might find it valuable. Thanks to Mary Davis and Margaret Sherraden.

Meanwhile, here’s a message from a physician that could make you cry. I did. It’s what prompted me to call my senators. Share, if you wish.

***

The CDC is recommending hospital staff use bandanas when masks run out. Hospitals are asking the public to sew masks. Here is a physician responding:

Please don’t tell me that in the richest country in the world in the 21st century, I’m supposed to work in a fictionalized Soviet-era disaster zone and fashion my own face mask out of cloth because other Americans hoard supplies for personal use and so-called leaders sit around in meetings hearing themselves talk. I ran to a bedside the other day to intubate a crashing, likely COVID, patient. Two respiratory therapists and two nurses were already at the bedside. That’s 5 N95s masks, 5 gowns, 5 face shields and 10 gloves for one patient at one time. I saw probably 15-20 patients that shift, if we are going to start rationing supplies, what percentage should I wear precautions for?

Make no mistake, the CDC is loosening these guidelines because our country is not prepared. Loosening guidelines increases healthcare workers’ risk but the decision is done to allow us to keep working, not to keep us safe. It is done for the public benefit – so I can continue to work no matter the personal cost to me or my family (and my healthcare family). Sending healthcare workers to the front line asking them to cover their face with a bandana is akin to sending a soldier to the front line in a t-shirt and flip flops.

I don’t want talk. I don’t want assurances. I want action. I want boxes of N95s piling up, donated from the people who hoarded them. I want non-clinical administrators in the hospital lining up in the ER asking if they can stock shelves to make sure that when I need to rush into a room, the drawer of PPE equipment I open isn’t empty. I want them showing up in the ER asking “how can I help” instead of offering shallow “plans” conceived by someone who has spent far too long in an ivory tower and not long enough in the trenches. Maybe they should actually step foot in the trenches.

I want billion-dollar companies like 3M halting all production of any product that isn’t PPE to focus on PPE manufacturing. I want a company like Amazon, with its logistics mastery (it can drop a package to your door less than 24 hours after ordering it), halting its 2-day delivery of 12 reams of toilet paper to whoever is willing to pay the most in order to help get the available PPE supply distributed fast and efficiently in a manner that gets the necessary materials to my brothers and sisters in arms who need them.

I want Proctor and Gamble, and the makers of other soaps and detergents, stepping up too. We need detergent to clean scrubs, hospital linens and gowns. We need disinfecting wipes to clean desk and computer surfaces. What about plastics manufacturers? Plastic gowns aren’t some high-tech device, they are long shirts/smocks…made out of plastic. Get on it. Face shields are just clear plastic. Nitrile gloves? Yeah, they are pretty much just gloves…made from something that isn’t apparently Latex. Let’s go. Money talks in this country. Executive millionaires, why don’t you spend a few bucks to buy back some of these masks from the hoarders, and drop them off at the nearest hospital.

I love biotechnology and research but we need to divert viral culture media for COVID testing and research. We need biotechnology manufacturing ready and able to ramp up if and when treatments or vaccines are developed. Our Botox supply isn’t critical, but our antibiotic supply is. We need to be able to make more plastic ET tubes, not more silicon breast implants.

Let’s see all that. Then we can all talk about how we played our part in this fight. Netflix and chill is not enough while my family, friends and colleagues are out there fighting. Our country won two world wars because the entire country mobilized. We out-produced and we out-manufactured while our soldiers out-fought the enemy. We need to do that again because make no mistake, we are at war, healthcare workers are your soldiers, and the war has just begun.

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