Philippines Coronavirus and Some Selfish Expats

Coronavirus Approach

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve noticed a big drop in visitors to this blog. It’s not because I haven’t been posting much, but rather because most everyone’s focus is currently elsewhere… like on the Coronavirus.  While I might think I’m well-versed in a few things, Covid-19 is not one of them, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to come to this blog looking for answers about this disease (thank goodness). But I will share some thoughts.

I am learning new things about this virus everyday. My initial verbal approach with this disease was to try to help #stopthepanic! Even before our self-directed quarantine here on Guam, I spent an inordinate amount of time online looking for Covid-19 information, more out of facination than precaution. What I can disclose now is that my interest has become totally precaution-ary. What I do know for certain is that this virus is so new, that even expert virologists are learning more about it every day. We have been sharing what we find to be true with our extended family in the Philippines almost daily, to help them stay informed and healthy. As some can attest, many people in the Philippines do not have reliable access to good and verifiable information. Rumors abound!

By now almost everyone knows about the world’s attempts to FLATTEN THE CURVE, by simply staying home and in self-quarantine mode. Except for the large sect of college students in the U.S. who think they are indestructable and those who are simply uninformed (toilet paper hoarders). Most of the youth around the world is missing the point. There are also certain groups of expats living in the Philippines who seem to look at this as if it is nothing more than one big ‘inconvenience.’

My personal experiences with some particular groups of expats has convinced me that some (not all) of their “social lives” seem to take precedent over all else, showing little concern for the spread of the disease. Just last week I shared an article with several expat groups about how the World Health Organization (WHO) is becoming increasingly concerned that some medical experts were coalescing around the idea that Covid-19 could be airborne delivered. Although I did get some support, I might as well been General Custer at Little Bighorn as I was immediately attacked from all sides with a hoard of denial (its a good thing denial can’t kill).

WHO takes airborne precautions
WHO considers taking airborne precautions!

My intent in sharing the article was to help quell the notion that this virus should not be a serious concern. Some people (still) believe that this is nothing more than some media-hyped scare tactic… nothing more than a hoax on humanity. While I too was first skeptical about all the warnings, I have succumbed… “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Today I shared another article that was barely 3 hours old (at the time), also suggesting that through new experiments, that the virus can be contracted through the air, although not as likely as from surface contamination.

To Be Airborne.

That’s the ability to linger in the air for hours. It’s also the characteristic that makes measles so incredibly infectious. Can Covid-19 do this? Researchers are suspicious but are not yet sure. Repeat – NOT SURE!  The one thing that makes this virus most viable is that unlike other Coronaviruses, Covid-19 is spread by both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons… meaning you can carry the infection and even not know it. You may never know that you spread the disease to tens or even hundreds of people!

In these early months of combating the disease, researchers are uncertain to the airborne transmission as there are many conflicting reports. Keep in mind that all research papers are still very much preliminary. But the weight of evidence is tilting towards airborne spreading (under specific circumstances). Given this information, why would anyone not take the extra precautions?

Large cities and small communities alike are all coming to the same conclusion and taking similar actions… that in order to FLATTEN THE CURVE, everything needs to be shut down, as much as possible – all economics aside.  China was the first and is currently the only model we have to look at on how to flatten the curve. Korea is likely becoming the next testamonial. Studies suggest 40-80% of people worldwide will get this COVID-19 virus before a vaccine is developed (approx. 1 year from now). And that number could be even higher in a country like the demographically compacted Philippines.

Covid cases in the philippines
Coronavirus case areas in the Philippines (red-confirmed, blue-suspected)

Back To The Denial.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed several online discussions first-hand where some expats have shared their “expert” opinions, insisting that the Coronavirus is nothing more than “the big hoax on all of mankind.” Ha, some guys are still out looking for bars that might be open so they can get their “fix” for the night (booze or girls, take your pick). Others complain about the multitude of inconveniences imposed upon them. Some denounce the actions taken by Philippines officials. Closer to home, there is this one expat gathering place that has all but shut down by way of government directives. While the establishment owner has complied with the ban on alcohol sales and no karaoke, the recommendations to only conduct take-out food and drink seem to have gone selfishly unheeded.

I’ve seen comments lauding this owner for hanging in there with his business thereby saving a local job (or two). It looks like the social gathering place for expats, where they can sit and chat, play cards, dominoes, and other board games (a.k.a. game parlor) once weekly, will stubbornly continue, going against the guidlines set forth. I’m not sure if many expats will show, but there are those few die-hards that insist on placing their own self interests above all else, incuding the health and safety of their own families and friends. I’m also aware of another foreigner that is holding church meetings at their home in light of all local community church services being cancelled by authorities. It could be that some of these expats are well behind the information curve, maybe due to the language barrier and fluency problems. Or… ?

Whatever the reason, it’s blatently obvious that some people do not understand the concept of social distancing or in-home quarantine. It’s even more apparent that some don’t care. Rather than follow recommended WHO, CDC, and local government guidelines on social avoidance, they stubbornly hedge the system against the odds. Maybe locally, it could be the false sense of security because there have been no confirmed cases in Calbayog City and consequently there have been no connected deaths. As of last week, the Philippines, with a population of more than 100 million, had only 2,000 Covid-19 test kits available. The limited number of testing kits is constraining the country’s ability to test more people for the virus. Considering that fact alone, I would be willing to bet there are NONE available in Calbayog City.

And given that many expats living in the Philippines are older and somewhat health challenged anyway, the odds are even greater that one of these expats will get sick and could die. It is well known how Covid-19 affects the elderly, or people with underlying health issues (10%-20% DEATH). This virus has already killed thousands and is going to end up killing tens of thousands (maybe more) around the world. Money can’t buy you a cure. And if you get sick in the Philippines, there will be NO help. As a friend of mine in Calbayog said to me yesterday, “It’s gonna take dead bodies before anyone takes this serious around here.  I’ve met many a guy that I swear just came here to die… basically deep inside they have a death wish.”

The City of Calbayog and all of its 157 barangays thankfully seem to be on the same page – home barangay quarantine and travel restrictions are now in place and enforcement will be their biggest challenge. The government seems to be taking this serious because they are well aware that if this virus gets out of hand, it will be more than just a pandemic… it will be a Grandemic!  There is no way local area hospitals could cope. People will die.

Quick Lesson About Autoimmune Diseases.

It takes an average of three years and five doctors for a person to get a proper diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. It is a disease where instead of your white blood cells protecting your body from invaders, they turn around and attack your cells, tissues and organs. Chronic fatigue is another symptom. It is not a cold or the flu, you will never get better, and even a nap will not help. Just eating a salad and hitting the gym won’t slim your face or get the pounds off.

Sleeping 10 hours doesn’t leave you well rested, ever. That “just got ran over” feeling never makes appointments, it just walks in whenever you aren’t ready. Painful joints, muscles and bones, dry skin, breaking hair, hair loss, memory loss, mood swings, and depression are just the tip of the iceberg. You are also prone to having multiple autoimmune diseases, they typically come in pairs of two. You easily catch viral and bacterial infections. You have days where no matter how hard you try, you just can’t smile for anyone.

I urge you to think twice before passing judgment and thinking our world is overreacting to the extra measures being taken to curb the spread of this virus. YOU might be able to recover from it no problem however, carry it to someone with an autoimmune disease and that individual won’t be as lucky.

Please, in honor of someone who is fighting Rheumatoid Arthritis, POTS, CFIDS, MCAD, Sjogren’s, Scleroderma, Hashimoto Disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Sarcoidosis, Hepatitis, Raynauld’s Syndrome, Diabetes, Mold Illness, Celiac, CROHN’S, Ulcerative Colitis, Pemphigus, SPS, MS, PBC, Psoriatic Arthritis, CIDP, MMN And GPA, and many other diseases, wash your hands and stay home!

SO…

While this virus knows no bounds… it is raceless, sexless, non-denominational and bi-partisan. The virus is not a joke. The virus does not just infect old people. The virus is not like the flu. This virus will make you want to die if it doesn’t kill you first.  If you’re not scared, or if you are in denial, that’s okay! But your friends, neighbors, or family members might be scared shitless, so please don’t be selfish AND impolite to the rest of us. And don’t profess to being a know-it-all by spreading mis-information. Do what the world needs you to do – STAY INSIDE for a few weeks – to help everyone to FLATTEN THE CURVE!  In time, we will all return to life as we used to know it… and some of you can get back to that ever-so-important game of Scrabble.

 

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