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April 2020
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COVID-19 in Yucatan

Yucatan in The Time of COVID-19

Statistics as of April 11, 2020 (Yucatan)
Total confirmed positive March and April………… 93
Recovered Confirmed cases……………………….……. 58
In isolation recovering at home:……………………… 18
Hospitalized…………………………………..……………… 11
Deaths……………………………….……………………..….. 6


Merida has excellent hospitals, clinics, and doctors. However, with a large disadvantaged population scattered in small villages and living on a limited diet in close quarters, and most families living on a very small and precarious income, this coronavirus puts the state on the brink of disaster.

Every village in Yucatan has a small clinic and a 24-hour doctor, but they are only able to deal with the simplest and most common emergencies. Facilities equipped to deal with complications of coronavirus can only be found in Merida and would be swiftly overwhelmed if the virus is allowed to spread without any intervention. Throughout Mexico there is very little testing, so statistics are unreliable.  As I write, the national government estimates the coronavirus infection in Mexico is expected to peak in two or three weeks. With that in mind, Mexico is trying to buy 10,000 ventilators and monitors from the United States.

Thanks to quick action both on a national and a local level, we have had very few COVID-19 cases and those have been generally limited to Merida itself. My village of Tepakan has not yet had an infection, and neither has the larger nearby town of Izamal. Early in March, we started closing non-essential businesses everywhere and practicing social distancing. By the third week in March, the police of each village had set up checkpoints that discouraged unnecessary traffic, applied gel to everyone’s hands as they passed, and gave advice on precautions. Early in March, the villages all cancelled plans for Easter gatherings and for the annual fiestas which in our area happen soon after.

Tierra Yucatan closed its doors to the public except by prior appointment.  By March 17th, I allowed one person in the office at a time. This person was required to arrive by personal car (not public transportation), to work three or four hours behind closed doors to answer phones and update the website. That person was also tasked into looking after our little office zoo:  three rescue cats and a turtle. All employees, including the gardener, cleaners etc. are on full salary through the epidemic. My priority is to look after my little “family” and keep us all safe.

As of last week, we changed to just have someone checking the office. The cats, who are after all my responsibility, are living with me out in the little village of Tepakan, my principal home for more than twelve years. I hadn’t planned to have four cats, but they are good company when one is home all the time. I feel very lucky to have a cool and comfortable old rock-built house, a large lot with many fruit trees and a pool large enough for a bit of swimming and aquarobics. Of course, I worry about the safety of my neighbors. But so far, so good.

For me, April and May are the most difficult months to be in Yucatan at the best of times. Our weather is at its very hottest and there is no relief in sight until rain starts in June. The countryside is burned to a crisp, with grass fires that have laid bare the roadsides and many patches of dry, leafless trees. The heat and the dead landscape alone make me feel anxious. I keep bowls of water out for street dogs and stray animals, as there is no relief from the sun for them. This year is statistically much worse than usual, with a forecast of temperatures rising to 107 degrees ( 42C ) in the afternoon for the next ten days. Luckily, evenings are pleasant! We all go out for a breath of air, a short walk and a chat at a distance with the neighbors. Normally this is the time of year when I would plan to travel for a few weeks to see family in cooler places. I would visit friends and family in England, my son and family in Washington State….but not this year! Now I am crossing off the days on the calendar and waiting for the rains to start. Perhaps by June we will see our way forward and soon after can welcome you all back! Life will begin to move back to our old pattern and I can open the office doors! If we have to wait a little longer, at least the rain brings life and hope back to the dry thirsty land.

I was in Merida yesterday to sign cheques and take care of a few necessities. It was strange to see the empty streets with no buses, no tourists, very little traffic and most businesses and all the malls shut. Walmart, Costco, Petco, Office Depot are all open and well-stocked and all enforcing a safe distance between shopping carts. There are places where life and commerce goes on. From last weekend, all alcohol sales are banned and face masks must be worn in public. I think the main goal of the dry law is to make sure any family money is spent on necessities right now, and perhaps to reduce family violence when people have been shut up together too long. I must say everything both in Merida and in the villages seems peaceful and very orderly. We have to hang on, stay safe and look after our neighbors.

We are thinking of all our friends and clients in the United States, Canada and around the world. We hope you and your families are safe and can’t wait to see you all again back in Merida. You can write me for anything you need or to let me know how you are at Look after one another!