Yesterday I took the coronavirus serological test with a surprise result – negative, meaning that either (a) I haven’t had the virus or (b) I don’t have antibodies. I was quite surprised after my experience in mid-March (see: My COVID-19 experience: complete loss of smell and taste). I had been completely convinced that I had had the virus, and to be honest, I’m still sure that what I experienced was 100% related to COVID. It doesn’t make any sense otherwise as it was such a strange experience and completely aligned with all the stories coming out in the news. Apparently from what I’ve heard some people who had only symptoms like this also didn’t develop antibodies. In any case it seems like I’ve been walking around with a false sense of security for some time now!
The test itself was simple, just a quick finger prick and then waiting for up to 20 minutes for the results. It looked just like a pregnancy test:
Covid Serological test
The only difference was that yesterday I was hoping for and expecting a positive result.
I’ve also heard that these tests aren’t completely reliable, but I also don’t see the need to go running around town looking to repeat. In the end all it will really tell me is if I had the virus or not, but the question of immunity is still uncertain. In any case all very interesting. Also, forgot to mention that the tests are manufactured in China.
We’ve been living an a State of Emergency since March 14th, only being able to go out to the supermarket and the pharmacy for the first six weeks. Now, more than two months later we can go out to exercise and to take our kids out for an hour a day. While we’re still in the preliminary phases of recovery (currently Madrid is in Phase 0.5, whatever that exactly means…), it seems that things are moving along positively. In fact, it was announced that there were “only” 59 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, so the situation seems to be getting better. As things are finally starting to seem to improve, the government is now making it mandatory to wear masks in closed spaces and when it can’t be guaranteed that there will be 2 meters of space between yourself and another person. It’s true that the country is slowing starting to open up, but …hmmm… this now, why not before?
Here’s a recent article: https://elpais.com/sociedad/2020-05-18/el-uso-de-mascarilla-sera-obligatorio-en-espacios-cerrados-y-en-la-via-publica-si-no-se-puede-garantizar-la-distancia.html
Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this being mandatory if this is a way to keep the virus under control and to prevent a second phase, but I’d just like someone to explain why this hasn’t been mandatory all along. I can only think of two reasons: 1. The government was incapable of having enough supplies for everyone, which is why they didn’t make this a requirement even if they thought it should be one. or 2. Really, no one knew what was going on or had any idea what to do.
From talking with my family back in Boston I found it interesting that they have not ever been under lockdown to the point where they could get a fine for being outside, yet it has been mandatory to wear face masks for some time now.
Honestly, the government’s advice related to the use of face masks here has been anything but not confusing. We’ve gone through a few phases since the start of the pandemic: first, face masks were discouraged for asymptomatic people. Then their use was made “recommended”. Next face masks were made required for people using public transportation. And now, over 2 months later face masks will be mandatory in general for the uses/situations I’ve already mentioned. To add to the confusion there’s even doubt over the efficacy of the free masks being handed out in pharmacies by the Community of Madrid (see my recent post: COVID-19 in Madrid: Lockdown Day 63 (possibly to be continued another month)
Given the confusion with the requirements I’m also expecting some confusion with the details about their use, which should be communicated soon. Logically, this poses some questions: how long will this be mandatory and how will it be enforced? What kind of face mask should I wear? (if you’re like me you probably know there are different types but not all the details) Should I be expecting to see officers patrolling the mountain where I go out for my runs?
Just another chapter in the pandemic here in Madrid. Thank goodness Mercadona now sells 10 packs of masks for 6€…
Pedro Sanchez, the President of the government here in Spain, just announced today that they’re planning to ask for an extension of “about a month” to the current state of emergency that’s been underway in Spain for over two months now. (https://www.elmundo.es/espana/2020/05/16/5ebfd22ffc6c83c8318b45d8.html). To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand I think we need to do whatever is necessary to make sure this pandemic gets under control and does not result in a second wave. On the other hand I’m completely anxious, as are a lot of people, to get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Also I’m starting to wonder if this sort of lockdown will really bring about this “normalcy” that we’re seeking.
It’s actually starting to not feel so strange anymore to be living most of our lives from home. Some other things that are feeling normal which would have seemed a bit crazy a few months ago:
- Wearing face masks everywhere. I can’t imagine these days going to the supermarket or the pharmacy (can’t go anywhere else) without a mask and gloves. This seemed like out of a movie a couple months ago.
Now what seems stranger than this is actually NOT having a mask. When I’m out running I would say about half of the people are wearing masks.
I remember at the beginning of all of this how there was such panic and no one could even find face masks (or gloves, hand gel – or toilet paper for that matter) to purchase. Now less than two months later the largest retailer here, Mercadona, is selling 10 packs of masks for 6€:
Also, along this same line, just last week the Community of Madrid started distributing free face masks for all citizens (starting at 4 years old) to be picked up at pharmacies. This is the new norm. I picked up my masks the other day (below), only to then go home and read an article saying that the quality of the masks wasn’t clear… So many questions… (See article for more info/doubts: https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2020-05-13/mascarillas-gratuitas-comunidad-madrid-certificado-no-valido_2590463/)
Free masks from the Comunidad de Madrid
Free masks from the Comunidad de Madrid
- “Homeschooling” or lack thereof. Or whatever you want to call it, it’s gotten normal to wake up every morning with my two little kids without trying to rush through breakfast, out of the house and to school, to not arrive late to work. Now it’s trying to get them to do a couple home work sheets a day at most. And with the ipad, which used to be something we used once every couple weeks or so, as the daily prize for doing so.
- Time tables to go outside. If I want to go out and run I know that the latest I can leave is 9am in order to get back by the 10am “curfew”. And when I’m out during this time I feel so thankful to have the time to be outside and do so (after 6 weeks of previously not being able to leave the house). Stockholm syndrome resemblance? And once noon rolls around I know it’s time that the kids can go out, but only for an hour of course.
- Remote work. All the time. While I think overall this is very positive for Spain and a big push forward that this country needed in this area, it’s still a shock to go from 0 to 180. It’s challenging a lot of companies to work in these ways, but it’s also helping companies realize what I already saw back in the US 15 years ago – yes, you can trust employees to work remotely and be responsible! Work by objectives is much more valuable than work by hours. It’s great that we’ve had this push forward, although it will also be nice to get back to the office for a mix. 24 hour sweatpants can get a bit old.
- Awkward interactions with people. I remember one of the first times I was in a supermarket with my full gear on (face mask, gloves), and I sneezed. It was like a moment out of a movie – everything seemed to go in slow motion as everyone around me looked over in horror, then quickly spread out. As the days go by it’s hard to think how things will be in a few months or even a year’s time. Will we go back to the casual two-cheeked kisses to great people as is so normal and customary here in Spain? Will people be afraid to meet up casually or go to bars and restaurants to meet with people? For now I can definitely say it’s awkward to run into people and not know how to greet them, but I hope this will ease in a few months.
I’ve already succumbed to the reality that my kids won’t go back to school until September and that things will definitely not go back to any sort of normalcy over night. For now we’re just taking it a day at a time and trying to go with the flow.
Not too long ago I called Iberia to ask about their position on flights to the US. Technically at the end of July I have a direct flight to Boston with my two young kids to see family for a few weeks. As of now I still have our tickets and haven’t yet cancelled anything; however, as the days go by I’m starting to think that, unfortunately, this is less and less likely.
Iberia informed me that all flights to the US had been cancelled for May, but as of now June and July flights are still on the calendar. The “good” news is that if I want to cancel the tickets I can either get a refund or voucher for a flight in the future. I have a feeling each airlines is handling flight availability and cancellation policies differently, but at least it’s reassuring to know that it wouldn’t be a total loss if we had to postpone this trip.
Just looking now on the Iberia web site, https://www.iberia.com, it seems that this is the case for flights through June 30th, but no news yet about flights for July. Hmmm.
On one hand I still have a glimmer of hope that by end of July things may be more “normal” and we could fly back home to see family (I have the feeling this is what Iberia is banking on as well). But on the other hand a part of me wonders if it would really be feasible to fly back to the US, for several reasons:
- What would the actual plane trip be like? With security distance regulations, would it even be possible for us to maintain the same flight if they can only have a third of passengers on the flight? Would I have to maintain a distance of several seats between myself and my children (impossible)? If everyone who purchased tickets still wants to fly how will Iberia handle this?
- Would it really be safe for us to be in a small, enclosed space for 8 hours where germs circulate around like crazy? There’s no way I see my little kids wearing a mask for 5 minutes, let alone 8 hours…
- Would the overall trip experience be doable? I recently read an article in the Economist talking about a possible (albeit pessimistic) scenario about travel in the future – https://www.economist.com/business/2020/05/02/imagine-the-post-pandemic-misery-of-business-travel?fbclid=IwAR1Ua7QxmhVJ_pl7jNuAqIj5SSfqY9tqHmDAZtmri-NuhS-0CRntMF_InHI If we’re talking about even longer delays in the airports, security, immigration, etc. on top of the current norm there’s no way I could handle that with two little hyper, jetlagged kids…
So, as with everything these days I have more doubts than answers. Also, as with everything there’s nothing I can do to get an answer faster or have a solution, so I just need to wait for time to go back and see how things progress before making a decision. Seeing the rate at which virtual learning and online life in general is exponentially increasing these days, and to a degree which I think many of us didn’t ever think would be possible, I’m just waiting for the news to come out that we’ll be able to virtually transport ourselves across the ocean without having to take a flight. Well, one can dream… who would have thought a few months ago that we would be where we are now?
50 days after being quarantined inside our houses we were allowed to go outside today for “Fase 0” of the de-escalation plan. Starting at 6am people started hitting the streets to get back to running, biking, anything really – outside. Freedom! Of course this didn’t come without some rules and guidelines. To be honest, the guidelines are a bit complicated. However, the country definitely needs to have some rules in place to avoid total chaos; my question is to what extent people are going to follow the rules. And judging from what we’ve seen during the day I think there’s going to need to be some order to keep things under control and prevent a second phase of the virus.
6-10 am People 14 years and older can exercise outside, individually or people can go for walks, max of 2 people and not more than a Km. But the exercise can be for more than a km, as long as you don’t cross your town line.
10am-12pm People older than 70 years old can go out for a wlk
12-7pm Kids can go outside, accompanied by one adult (for up to 3 kids) and for an hour max, within a radius of 1km (same rule we’ve had since last week for the kids, but now there’s a time range)
7-8pm People older than 70 can hit the streets again
8-11pm Sports time again.
And… I’m done. Not exactly simple.
I wasn’t out at 6am, but a bit before 9 I headed out for a long run in the nearby forest/mountain area that I hadn’t been to in a while. It was great (despite the fact that I probably won’t be able to walk tomorrow), and more or less people were respectful and following the rules. In just that small space and amount of time I did see quite a few people exercising with more than one person (not allowed) and some not totally maintaining distances. My husband went out with his bike at 8pm and more or less the same thing during the evening round. I guess time will tell.
Actually I really shouldn’t be one to talk. It turns out I broke the rules as well. I didn’t realize that the mountain area where I went for a run crossed a town line – oops. Fortunately the police weren’t monitoring the mountain…
Today was the start of the light at the end of the tunnel. After 43 days of being under lock down we were finally able to take the kids outside to get some fresh air. Granted it was an hour limit, and only one parent could go with them, but it was definitely much-appreciated. Although the boys have been quite happy at home with all their toys, TV and both parents and haven’t been asking to leave the house really, they were happy to go out and bike around for a while. And I was happy to see them get out and get some fresh air – and burn off some energy!
I live in a very residential neighborhood and in general people tend to follow the rules, but I have to say I was surprised to see in about half of the cases both parents out with the kids – specifically against the rules. And then there were endless images on the news of people not respecting the norms. I just hope this doesn’t cause a rebound effect. The rules and slow re-entry to “normal” life are there for a reason…
Next Saturday, assuming everything goes according to plan, we’ll be able to go out and exercise (individually). Finally! While I’ve gotten really addicted to some amazing youtube at-home workout videos, I definitely am missing going out for runs.
T-6. New running shoes ready.
The other news is that I baked the other day. Cookies. Chocolate chip peanut butter cookies to be exact, and they came out delicious.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is a sign that this quarantine has gone on for too long. For anyone that knows me I love sweets and eating, but I am not one to ever consider spending a free moment cooking or baking unless it’s out of necessity. Time to get out of the house!
One day I woke up and had absolutely no sense of smell or taste – nothing. This was just about a month ago, right after Spain officially announced enforced quarantine. This was also before this started showing up across various news sources as a symptom actually related with COVD-19. At first I thought maybe I had a sinus infection, but this just felt different. It felt strange since I had no nasal congestion, and I pretty much felt fine except for this. I did have a deep, dry cough for about the same amount of time, but no other symptoms. About a week prior to this I had one night where I woke up with a fever and chills, but then it was gone the next day.
For almost 7 days I had ZERO sense of smell or taste. I remember holding my kids and trying to smell their little heads, but nothing. Shampoo, perfumes, food… I actually lost my appetite, which for anyone who knows me, knows that that isn’t common. We actually had a box of chocolates that sat in the pantry for a full week.
I called the public health line dedicated to COVID-19 a few days into this, but since I didn’t have a fever or trouble breathing the response was just to stay at home and monitor things. If it got any worse I should go to my public health center.
This article I just read the other day reminded me exactly of what happened to me: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/12/health/smell-taste-coronavirus-pandemic-wellness-intl-gbr/index.html
Little by little the senses came back. Now almost a month later I would say that I’m still at about 85-90% of the norm. In general I can smell and taste everything, but there are some dishes where I know by memory that they should have more intensity, but they just don’t. I wonder how long it will last to go back to the “old normal”. Technically I don’t know if I really did have a weak case of COVID-19, but it all seems to point to that. So, now some more questions pop into my head – does this mean I may have some sort of immunity? Will it go back to 100?
Has anyone else had any experience with this? Thoughts?