Covid-19 forecast for San Miguel: Hopeful but with a chance of storms still ahead

This year, the vernal equinox, the official beginning of spring, fell on March 19. And by an odd coincidence, on the same day the mayor of San Miguel announced a sweeping lockdown of the municipality, to go into effect the next day, that banned most public activities indefinitely, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And if the latest numbers are accurate—a big if—the city’s proactive and strong response may have effectively stopped or slowed down the spread of the contagion.  As of yesterday, only nine cases had been reported in San Miguel, and everyone recovered.

I don’t know if such auspicious numbers will hold, but for the moment feel relieved, as if the end of siege by an enemy we can’t see or hear, but can kill us anyway, may be in sight.

The much larger city of Queretaro, about 45 minutes away, has reported 130 confirmed cases of the virus, of which 30 are still active, 87 have recovered, and 13 people have died. Alarmed by those mounting figures, city officials last week tightened restrictions on non-essential public activities.

Querétaro road checks.

Skeptics may argue the pandemic might still reach us. Hundreds of San Miguelenses, for example, travel daily to jobs in Queretaro’s industrial parks, possibly setting up a conduit for transmission here.

Also, in the absence of widespread testing for the virus, the exact number of cases, some asymptomatic, remains in flux. Someone’s complaints about a gripa, for example, may be an undetected case of the virus.

And although most commercial establishments are still closed, there are signs of increased foot and automobile traffic, and other signs of public impatience with the restrictions.

Just this past weekend, for example, an informal horse race took place near us, attended by several dozen spectators. Few, if any, face masks were seen at the event.

But feeling optimistic today, I prefer to think that San Miguel may have beat the Covid-19 rap, not a small feat, given the large number of over-65 expats here, and the number of dirt-poor colonias and rural communities around the city.

Among my acquaintances, there seems to be general compliance with the stay-at-home mandate, ranging from people who haven’t stepped outside their homes for as long as 54 days, even for a walk, to others who have remained at home but with occasional trips to the grocery store and other errands.

Stew and I have adopted a bit of a quarantine-light and have ventured to eat at the local French cafe Marulier and at a Texas BBQ joint on the road to Dolores Hidalgo—both venues with very few customers and outside seating—and Tacos El Pata, a national chain that just opened a restaurant here.

There were only a handful of customers at El Pata, and the waiters wore hairnets, vinyl gloves and face masks, as if impersonating surgical assistants ready to bring you a bowl of tortilla soup (good) or yank out your gallbladder.

When the curve for new cases and fatalities will level off is impossible to tell. Mexico’s health minister said on Tuesday that the curve for the rate of infection seems to be flattening, a positive sign, but added the pandemic is far from over.

Mexico releases an eyeful of graphs and statistics daily, tracking the spread of the virus and the number of casualties. Brew yourself a strong cup of coffee before you try to figure them out.

I also feel grateful that, so far, in Mexico the pandemic hasn’t turned into the grotesque clown show it has become in the U.S., where some gun-toting zealots, some dressed in camouflage outfits and wielding military-grade weapons, have turned a public health tragedy into a spurious debate over “personal freedoms.”

I believe it was the famous American jurist Anonymous who once wisely observed that “your freedom ends where my nose begins.”

Applied to the present situation it means that a few extremist wackos have no right to flaunt flout common-sense measures, designed to slow the spread of a pandemic, in the name of a cockamamie crusade about “personal freedom.”

If by doing so they risk infecting others around with a virus that has killed 75,000 Americans and counting, that is no longer a question of personal freedom, but of public safety.

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