Editor: In September 2019, I moved to Madrid to teach English through July 2020; that quickly changed.
The reaction to COVID-19 was slow in Spain. The Spanish government started by closing schools for two weeks on March 11 then closing stores, bars and restaurants. An exponential growth of cases within 24 hours led the government to declare itself under state alarm on March 16. A complete quarantine in Spain began. No one was allowed to leave their homes unless it was to buy groceries or visit the hospital or pharmacy.
Grocery store shoppers had to wear gloves, baskets were sanitized and people had to stay 6 feet away from each other. Security guards at stores controlled the flow of people, and police patrolled the streets. I never saw extreme panic. Some shelves were empty at the beginning, but people seemed relatively calm.
Across social media, users shared home workouts and movie suggestions. Every night at 8 p.m., people went out on their balconies clapping for all of the health workers. It warmed my heart and felt safe. But the U.S. government was putting a lot of pressure on people abroad to return to the states. I spent 10 days in quarantine, but on March 20, I involuntarily booked a flight back home.
I am anxious seeing how people here in the Bay Area are not taking the quarantine or the virus seriously. Hospital staff are working extensive hours with limited resources. Please remember that your individual freedom shouldn’t put someone else’s life at risk.
The longer we all take to get on the same page, the longer this will go on affecting people — not only health-wise but financially as well. Although many of us may survive the virus, we can infect someone who will not have the same luck. It will take a team effort to get past this. Please, stay home — quedate en casa.