Pandemic Deescalation in Spain – Phase 3

The Valencian Community officially entered Phase 3 today and life is that much sweeter. We know that the pandemic isn’t over, but we’re getting more and more comfortable with how life will be going forward. You can either fight it or accept it. And we’ve chosen to accept that masks, gloves in some places, and hand sanitizer everywhere, will be in our future for a very long time. It just is, and we need to do our part if we want others to do theirs.

Jeff has ratcheted up his mask making to an industrial scale. OK. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but he’s spending today making sure that we have enough to get us through two straight weeks without having to worry about laundering them – if our washing machine broke. He’s just that kind of boy scout. Always prepared.

Two blocks from our apartment stands a quilt shop that originally opened late last year, and is usually filled with old ladies. These are Jeff’s people and we’ve been in there a few times when he’s needed supplies. A new rolling cutter. A mat. He was excited when he saw they opened their doors when Phase 1 began a few of weeks ago. There is a basket you can see from the door and when we walk by we stop and take a look at the remnants of fabric. Most fabric stores, even in the US, bundle up and sell remnants for pennies. It’s just old scraps at the end of bolts. But that’s where the gold is in the business of mask making – or so Jeff believes.

Whenever I go out, I am supposed to stop off at the quilt store and see what they’ve got. Daily. If the remnant is big enough, I’m to purchase it. Usually, for a whole .20-.50 cents. When I get home, Jeff will ask me ‘What have you got for me?’ I’m like a fisherman now, and he’s the fishwife. One day I spent 6 whole euros! My bounty spilled forth from my backpack. He was giddy with the selection.

He’s gotten very good at mask making. Depending on the size of the fabric, he’ll make these accordion masks. If the remnant is narrow he has other designs. Here is the latest creation.

I like to see people’s expressions and I miss smiles. So I decided I would use an iron-on knee patch I got at El Chino and cut out lips, to express myself. Jeff was skeptical since breathing in a mask is hard enough, but I think it works. I’ll take if for a spin later. Sometimes, a smile is all you need to see. Jeff is concerned people might mistake me for the Joker.

The mask elastic has been irritating our ears in the heat. It’s hard to get that right. So he’s begun 3D printing these bands for us with adjustable slots for various ear- elastic lengths, and our varying head sizes. It takes the pressure of the ears and, since it’s getting hot here in Valencia – we need to relieve any discomfort to help us go the distance.

Things we can see with our eyes

And we’re starting to see signs of the return to normal. The crowds at Colon this weekend were back to the same levels as before. The pent up retail demand has found it’s release valve and the line at the Apple store was 5 blocks long, double width. We headed to El Corte Ingles and it was packed with shoppers. Everyone was masked up appropriately. The door monitors made sure.

It was hot yesterday. The first truly hot day of the summer when the temperatures were high, and the humidity on the rise. We stopped for water at a cafe under some trees in a small plaza on the way home, near the Cathedral. The tables were spread out but the crowds were the same as before.

We’ve noticed many business on our walk through the old city, that were pre-pandemic staples, are permanently closed. But there are others that are brand new and took the quarantine period to complete their pre-opening interior construction and are celebrating Grand Openings.

Things we can see with the data

I’ve written about this before but it seems the pilot project that started in Valencia for detecting COVID-19 in the community’s waste water is working. And will now be rolled out to the rest of Spain as a network of water operators.

“We have been pioneers” in developing a tool “which can anticipate by a week the appearance of an outbreak,” a spokeswoman said. “We are offering authorities the ability to work upstream, identifying neighborhoods and even individual buildings,”

This initiative has the ability to test waste water by neighborhood for the presence of contagion, and even tell local authorities if a single building is infected, well in advance of serious symptoms – perhaps a week before they might have otherwise been alerted. This will help local health authorities ‘see’ and target hot spots before they become get out of control.

This tool will be key in helping us maintain a balance between health and the economy. We have to be able to do both if we’re to survive. I’m certainly hoping the US will sit up and take notice. This might be another method in helping them get a better picture of the real situation on the ground. Instead of opening their doors and hoping for the best.

June 21st is fast approaching. The final week of the State of Alarm, that was imposed in Spain on 14 March, will be over. It’s up to all of us to take it from here. As individuals and local authorities. Doing our best to maintain this steady state until a vaccine is rolled out.