Ambergris Caye: Where We Are, What’s Ahead and a Trip to A Very Quiet Town

Where are we Now?

I’ve been writing about it for about the last week…perhaps a bit more.  It’s the amount of time that our island of Ambergris Caye went from zero active cases of COVID-19 to almost 100 active cases.  All in just over a week.

Here are the numbers from the country – 33 new cases were announced last night (from testing 84 samples) – 31 of those cases are on Ambergris Caye.

As of now, testing continues.  But the testing is focused on those with symptoms – and those who were in close contact with those who have been identified as COVID positive.

So, as we know about this SNEAKY virus, there are others out there.  About 40% of people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic – show NO symptoms but can pass it to others.

To try to get a hold on this situation…the island of Ambergris Caye is on lock-down.  No one on, no one off.  Curfew in place.  No NON-ESSENTIAL movement.  At all.  Masks on.  Social distancing enforced.  The island is taking things seriously.

For those who think 30 or 100 cases is a low number, please consider our “curve” (from this website)

Flat is good…spike?  Not so much.

A Look Around a Very Quiet San Pedro

Today is day 6 of the 14 day “total island lock-down” imposed by the Government of Belize in response to the most recent spike in COVID cases on Ambergris Caye.  A small section of NW Belize is also on lock-down – the villages of Shipyard (primarily very conservative Mennonites), Santa Marta and Guinea Grass.  The rest of Belize has a bit more freedom of movement.

(You can read all implemented restrictions and laws in Statutory Instrument 111)

After spending the first 5 days at home, I volunteered to take (and then promplty lose) our long shopping list to town.  Minimal stops – and a dire need to DROP OFF THE TRASH!

I took a bunch of photos with my IPhone 7…which you will be seeing a bunch of since my camera suddenly stopped working!  After a 24 hour full-blown sulk-fest (it was really a combo platter – a pandemic-tourism-will-never-be-back AND broken camera pity party), I called Olympus and chatted with one of their tech support team.  And was told to ship it in for repair.   *Ugh*  Getting it from Belize to the US and then back to Belize in the midst of a pandemic should be both costly and…lengthy.  Our San Pedro post office is now closed but once I am able to ship it?  I’m expecting the entire process to take at least a few months.

The List.

We are working hard to be economical – but there are certain things…like Crystal Light, jasmine rice, imported American lemons, pesto and Greek Yogurt that make me inordinately happy.

A new mask that I purchased at The Greenhouse.  I can sweat thru 2 or 3 of these while in town…gross but true.

Shops are required to have a washing station – it can be as simple (bucket and soap) as you want it.  I LOVE being able to refresh on a hot day.

A look down the streets of San Pedro….very quiet.

It’s a good thing – it’s the only thing we can do to get these numbers back down.

Remember that our health care system is MUCH smaller and less advanced than that in countries like the US or Canada. MANY people live in smaller homes (often with one bathroom) with many generations living together.  And…the idea of a few people in our community getting extremely ill and/or dying terrifies many people.

Not in an “I’m irrationally terrified of dying from COVID way” but in a “caring about others friends, family and community way”.

What’s Ahead with COVID?

Good grief I wish I knew the answer to this.  We really learn SO much about this virus weekly if not daily.  It’s not as deadly as we first thought…but it is carried by people showing zero symptoms.  It’s not just a lung disease…it can have long term effects on the heart.  It seems ever-changing.  When we get good news (NO…Russian “inventing” a vaccine does not count!) – there seems to always be a but

As you can see above, our curve is only going up.   84 tested yesterday, 33 positive.  Those aren’t great numbers.

The consensus in town (this is the grapevine!  the coconut telegraph!) that this quarantine will most likely last longer than the 14 days originally prescribed.

Some are speculating that stricter measures will be taken.  I don’t know.  But until we hear news – stay home as much as you can – practice social distancing and wear masks in public!

We all wait for the daily update of test results from the Ministry of Health (we’ve been getting updates at about 9pm each night) and an announcement of a Press Conference from the Government of Belize.

New Hurricane Information to Keep an EYE on

For those who aren’t ready to think about Hurricanes…I’m WITH YOU.  I mean…can 2020 get any more ridiculously bad?  (Don’t answer that…)

The time, unfortunately, is now to get a plan together.

Atlantic Hurricane season lasts from June 1st to the end of November.  6 months.  And while 2020’s season might seem half over by that measure – that is NOT really the case.  The most active months, the warmest waters, are in front of us.

So far, we’ve had 9 tropical storms in all – 2 becoming Category 1 hurricanes:  Hanna making landfall in Southern Texas and Isias, which moved up the East Coast of the US.

No one needs to say it out loud but clearly a storm…would SERIOUSLY exacerbate the terrible economic situation brought on by the CoVID-19 pandemic.

This week an additional warning has been issued for a season that has already been predicted to be “above average” for numbers of storms.

Here’s what NOAA says:  With as many as 25 named storms now expected — twice the average number — 2020 is shaping up to be an “extremely active” season with more frequent, longer and stronger storms, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns.

You can read about some of the predictions here in Predictions for the 2020 Hurricane Season Just Got Even Worse  (fun title huh?)

You can get as deep into it as you like – the internet is a rabbit hole for weather nerds!  But August 15th to September 20th are expected to see a serious uptick in hurricane activity.

Let’s cross every single collective finger and hope this DOES NOT COME TRUE!

One thing that might comfort…maybe?…is this hurricane map.  This shows the track of all tropical cyclones since 2019.  Belize is just a tiny dot on this map.

Hurricane Tracks

For lots of interesting maps and statistics…which parts of the Caribbean are most likely to see a storm and which aren’t…see this page from NOAA.

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