Monday, April 27, 2020

An American Abroad During the Pandemic

What’s it been like being an American abroad at this time? Interesting, to say the least. As someone who takes a huge interest in medical topics, I’ve watched the virus expand all the way from China to Europe, and into my own and other countries around the world.

Getting Ready for Covid-19
When it first became apparent the virus had hit Italy, I knew then it would come here. I started to buy necessities about a month before everything hit the fan in this country. My parents always taught my brother and I to be ready. Be ready for an emergency. I know what you’re thinking—and no, my folks are not traditional preppers. Instead, they taught us common sense methods to be ready for things like blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, forest and grass fires, etc.

To be ready, my folks taught us to have supplies on hand—enough for a week or two. This meant water and food for us and our pets. My parents also taught us what to do when the electricity goes out. Learn how to keep a house from freezing in the mountains in the dead of winter (that’s another story—my Dad had just put in some new plumbing when we lost all power. I had to keep a wood stove and a fireplace going day and night for about 3 days to keep the house from freezing!). Learn how to handle a medical issue and more. This is what “be ready” meant for our family.

Living over here, however, I’ve become somewhat lax in being ready. We live in an area where the electricity rarely goes out. If it does, it may be out for an hour or so rather than days on end. We have pretty mild weather, though it can be pretty nasty at times. Still, we don’t have hurricanes, tornadoes (if we do, they’re fairly small and rare), etc. As a result, I’ve kept a few things on hand, but haven’t had enough supplies to manage two weeks or so in case of a longer emergency.

That changed when I saw the virus coming. I went out to buy canned food—only those things we would actually eat and eventually use. I also bought food for our small freezer, some hand sanitizer (2-3 small bottles), a couple bottles of universal disinfectant (Sanytol), etc. I also bought some medications ahead, including prescriptions from the doctor. I haven’t hoarded anything, always leaving enough for others who also need these items. I was out shopping about 2 weeks before everyone else.

When Czechs finally began to wake up and realize the virus was coming here, they went out and online and shopped until they dropped. There were reports in the news of people buying as much as 12,000 czk to 13,000 czk of groceries. This was astounding! That’s about one month’s salary for most people here! Most people are not able to spend that amount on groceries normally! People were buying up everything. However, we still have had toilet paper, unlike my country.

During this preparation time, it became difficult to buy OTC meds such as paracetamol (Tylenol), cough and cold meds, etc. They’ve been scarce. Just this week, our local lekarna finally had their own brand of paracetamol available, which was a happy circumstance!

Being Scared
The other part of me, that I desperately tried to avoid, was becoming scared. Scared for Jiri and I, our families and friends on both sides of the ocean. In the preparation for the virus, I was able to bury these feelings of being scared; however, they finally came out about the middle of March.

I had to make a trip to the sleep clinic to be evaluated for possible OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea). Riding public transport was the very last thing I wanted to do, but there was no choice. I put on a mask, was glared at the entire trip, and completed the sleep study.

Since that time, I’ve calmed down, but still carry the tension and worry as many of us do right now.

Living in the Czech Republic During the Pandemic
My thoughts on being in this country during a pandemic—I’m relieved Czechs have taken the virus so seriously. I appreciate their strict efforts to keep us all safe and keep infection rates down so hospitals don’t become overloaded. That’s the goal—flattening the curve--which has been achieved to date.

Also in some cities they have food available for those who are without. This may include single mothers, the elderly, and people who are out of work.

And the Czech government has been good about getting help to businesses, similar to the programs in the U.S. and other countries. If people need help, they can get it here.

The Czech Republic has also sent help to other countries hard-hit by the virus including China and Italy, among others. They've been very active on the global stage, though you probably haven't heard about this in the news.

The Mask Movement
One thing I've really loved seeing during the pandemic here is the way people came together over wearing masks. Once the government decided masks were indeed useful to curb the spread of the virus, people who had sewing machines at home got busy sewing masks for their family and friends.

Then, all of a sudden, a movement began where everyone who had a sewing machine began making masks to give away free to those who needed them. There were also fabric shop owners and other businesses that took part in the movement. It was amazing! In a matter of days, almost everyone in this country had at least one mask! That's just over 10 million masks!

My sister-in-law got busy with her machine and made masks for the entire family and others, too. She has sent us about 6 masks a piece. Here's me in one of the masks from my sister-in-law. I love this fabric!

Rolling Back the Lockdown
The Czech government has started slowly rolling back the lockdown rules. The borders have been opened a bit. In fact, the day this was announced many people thought they could now freely travel at will!

However, the government has strict rules on traveling. For one thing, if Czechs and legal residents travel outside the country, they have to take a Covid-19 test, not the quick test, to show they're not ill. They have arrange this test at their destination, paying for the test themselves. If Czechs don't take the test, they will be under state mandated quarantine for 2 weeks. 

We can also start gathering in groups up to 10--during the lockdown, we were only allowed to be together in 2s. 

Over the next couple of weeks to a month, more of the lockdown will be rolled back. As for masks, it looks like for now we'll be required to wear masks until the end of June when out in public. 

I’m concerned that lifting the lockdown may be a little too soon. We’ll have to wait and see. 

Many people around the world are frustrated with staying in for so long and out of work. Who can afford to not work for 2-3 months or longer? On the other hand, there are those like me who on a good day need to mostly live at home due to underlying health issues. So, an balanced rolling back of the lockdown is probably the best course. 

Appreciation for Everyone on the Front Lines
I have a great appreciation for everyone on the front lines. This includes all medical staff, hospital support staff, those who have stayed working in the grocery stores and in the pharmacies. 

And the truckers and pilots who have continued their long hauls to keep supplies moving, along with the delivery drivers, postal workers, those in the warehouses, and more.

This includes family members who are also on the front line in the US. 

There are so many people who have kept us going--a HUGE thank you to you all!! 

The Future--What Will It Hold? 
No one is sure. Will there be successive waves of infection from the virus, similar to those experienced during the Spanish flu of 1918? Will the novel coronavirus just "go away" during the summer months, never to return? Will it keep going from now on? Only time will tell. 

The main thing is just to keep doing what's needed to keep youself and loved ones safe. Whether you have to return to work or stay at home, we will each be responsible for our own care. Taking care of ourselves may mean keeping supplies on hand in case of another lockdown, etc. Being responsible and helping others where possible--that's about all we can do. 

For now, Jiri and I are still at home. We're both working, which helps to stay mostly sane. I'm also doing the normal household chores and Jiri does the shopping. We're managing so far, though I've got a good case of "submarine fever," what we call "cabin fever" back in the States.

The weather's been very pretty, so we take walks when possible. It feels good to be out in the sun! The beautiful spring weather brings hope and we can see life continuing on as we deal with the pandemic caused by Covid-19. 

I sure wish you all the very best in health and safety. Take care and come back again!

God bless. 

Have a great day,

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