By Carmen Rioja
Like a soccer ball, Omicron and other COVID-19 variants can be kicked away from our community. Omicron is not different from the first variants, although it is more contagious: It is propagated through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or contaminates objects and food with droplets containing the viruses. We can protect ourselves and avoid getting sick by insisting on the constant use of facemasks, washing hands frequently, and disinfecting everything we need before meals. It works. Both of my parents got sick, and although I had not had the vaccine yet for that moment, all these precautions kept all the nurses and me from getting the disease.
If it is so simple, then why are people still getting sick? One of the main reasons is the imbalance in education facilities, health services, work conditions, and access to accurate, updated information. We know for a fact that people who live in a city and who have internet will be more likely to know exactly how and when to protect themselves from viruses than a family living in a rural area in precarious conditions with no access to printed media, internet, radio news, or television. There are many more individuals in the second category.
Another factor working against us is that even when many already know how viruses propagate and try to stay safe, they cannot maintain safe distance practices because of unavoidable crowds. People must wait in lines for buying food, banking transactions, doctor or job appointments—even vaccinations are done in large, crowded lines. Sometimes our homes or workspaces are not as well-ventilated as we would wish. Frequently, large families need to share one room to sleep and live. Some lack a home completely and were forced to migrate because of the humanitarian crisis, and yet others are afraid, after being misguided by myths and beliefs, that migrants will bring more poverty or disease.
Instead, ethical journalism brings us clarity, as pointed by Ezequiel Fernandez Bravo, when summarizing a recent virtual workshop, “Coverage of Migration and Its Link with Sustainable Development,” directed by journalist María Teresa Ronderos and organized by the Gabo Foundation and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Contrary to popular belief, migrant populations are often young, diverse, and healthy and tend to have better health than host communities,” says Aleksandar Arnikov, IOM’s Regional Health and Migration Specialist for the Americas. However, the conditions that surround migratory processes are what make them vulnerable, such as policies that make migration irregular, language barriers, or lack of health programs. That is why it is important to understand the context.
So, what can we do to kick Omicron and other future viruses or bacterias from our lives? We will need to re-educate ourselves and rapidly change our practices to find better ways to produce what we all need to live and produce less of what is less necessary. We will need to learn to have fun and wellness in more sustainable ways, while not collapsing ourselves and crashing into each other.
Mostly we will need to learn that we are the pandemic, and we’ll save ourselves when all individuals achieve the same level of quality of life, air, food, and health services. We will be healthy as much as the community is healthy. We will have love as much as we love the community.
If you know someone near you who is lacking access to trustworthy information, maybe you want to share a little of your experience with a nice conversation, or maybe you want to grant them a scholarship through La Biblioteca Pública de San Miguel, A.C. and this newspaper. Maybe you can gift a subscription to the newspaper or a science book.
Maybe you are like me, in need of large amounts of information to be able to compare, analyze, study, and share what we find. Getting subscriptions to the most prestigious news providers in the world is the best way to avoid falling into false beliefs due to fake news. Vaccines are working, so if you have the chance and privilege, get as many shots as recommended by your doctor.
Last but not least, let’s nourish mind and spirit; the core is the strongest power to heal or prevent fall downs.
This week, to begin with the year 2022, I plan to get “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize winner in 2015, which is making waves. It’s a novel that travels through 4,000 years of history, knowledge, and hope and into the dark side of humankind, discussing ethics, global warming, among other contemporary worries, and reflecting on the role of poetry and speculative fiction for our existence.
Carmen Rioja is a Mexican artist and restorer specializing in antiques, mural paintings, and writing workshops. She is well known for her works at Cañada de la Virgen Pyramids and the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. She is the author of emblematic books “La Muerte Niña” and “Rojo 43.”