Is the smoke clearing regarding the Covid-19 lockdown?

Yesterday Stew and I went to Querétaro for a doctor’s appointment and a quickie visit to Costco. In the pre-virus era, we might have combined a Costco raid with a movie and dinner at the Antea shopping center, coffee at a Starbucks, or a walk-through one of the department stores. In other words, a somewhat touristy visit to the big city.

Now, with rumors about road checks on the way to Querétaro, we packed face masks and hand sanitizer, prepared a detailed shopping list to avoid needless meandering around Costco and took other precautions. Fear of the virus seems to have turned these innocent trips into a bit of chore.

But if yesterday was any indication, much of the fussing was for naught. Traffic was light and there were no road checks, so we zipped into Querétaro in about 35-40 minutes.

Costo’s parking lot was half-empty and we found a spot near the entrance. Inside, large chunks of the store, presumably offering non-essential items, were cordoned off. Only masked cardholders were admitted, and red circles on the floor, instructing people where to stand, prevented pile-ups at the pharmacy or the checkout lanes.

We realized that, despite the precautions, the light highway traffic and the quiet, non-bustling atmosphere at Costco, made our trip a pleasant experience. I thought, “If this is the ‘new normal’, I could get used to it.”

Except life is not really normal yet and we don’t know when it’ll be. Judging by the smattering of just a few cars on the parking lot, Antea is still closed and so is the Cinepolis multiplex. On Monday, Liverpool was closed at Antea, but open in San Miguel, the latter supposedly planning a barn-burner sale to bring customers back.

Precautions, precautions. 

Many of the other smaller shops at our modest Luciérnaga shopping center, though, are still shut or empty, and I suspect many may never come back. Radio Shack, one of the few such stores left in captivity, after the chain called it quits in the U.S. years ago, looks like it’s gone for good.

Down the street from the shopping center, AutoZone still seems to be firing on all cylinders, unaffected by the lockdown or virus fears. I’ve always thought that AutoZone in Mexico is one of those indestructible operations that, along with cockroaches, will survive even a nuclear attack.

What remains abnormal about life in San Miguel is a queasy feeling of apprehension, caused by alarming media reports and lack of definitive direction by the local authorities.

Just today, Stew had his temperature taken by a cop at a roadblock, who asked where he was from and where he was going, and at the bank and the Soriana grocery store.

Some friends are resuming their social lives, albeit cautiously, while others remain cloistered in their homes, waiting for a final green light from someone.

We are gradually relaxing our quarantine routines, though not fast enough for Stew, who at times seems frustrated, like a dog straining at the end of its leash.

I don’t feel quite so constrained, as I have slipped into a new routine of home projects that keep me busy. This morning the thought crossed my mind that, in fact, I may be starting to enjoy the isolation.

Truth is that, if you factor in all the unknowns and unknowables, we’ll probably will be living under a form of quarantine through most of the summer. Certainly, neither Stew nor I is likely to abandon quarantine precautions as a political statement (to whom? for what?), or as a late-life outburst of machismo.

In San Miguel, we’re supposedly at Phase 0 of the opening up of San Miguel, but what does that mean exactly? Some restaurants, displaying a Seal of Approval by the local inspectors, are quietly re-opening, particularly those out of town like El Vergel or Mamma Mia, with outdoor dining, tables spread out and waiters wearing masks.  Yet even the main streets in San Miguel remain noticeably empty. Some non-restaurants are open, some not.

Starting this weekend, there are checkpoints, or filtros sanitarios, at the entrance to San Miguel, coming from Querétaro and Mexico City. They waved us through on Monday, but Stew had his temperature taken and was questioned at the same checkpoint today.

Security seems to have increased following a report last week of the first coronavirus death in San Miguel, and a near-doubling of confirmed Covid-19 cases, up to about 20. If the infection curve flattening out, or dropping to zero, is the all-clear signal, we’re not there yet. Just the opposite, it seems.

The victim was a 37-year-old man, from Guerrero state (home to Acapulco), who arrived in San Miguel the previous week, apparently already infected. No report yet on who he was in contact with  and may have been infected as a result.

Now there’s a bit of a kerfuffle between San Miguel and Querétaro, about who is infecting whom. Over the weekend there were some media reports that Querétaro health officials were blaming a spike in new cases and deaths there, on people visiting San Miguel on weekends. Over 120 people have died from the virus in Querétaro.

San Miguel officials argued it was the other way around, and so they plan to extend the lockdown of hotels and other venues that might attract infected out-of-town attract tourists. But how long that will be in effect is not clear. I’ve heard end of July or August, which seem rather distant deadlines.

Bottom line, and the frustrating aspect of this lock down, is that no one knows for sure what to do.

I sense an increasingly more relaxed atmosphere among my friends, but that unfortunately could be quickly upended by news of a new outbreak of infections or fatalities. Indeed, we may be living in a proverbial one-day-at-a-time period.

P.S.: The number of Covid-19 cases in San Miguel has risen to 30. The man who died was from Veracruz.

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