Yesterday was Belize’s 18th day with no new cases of covid-19 and we were anxiously anticipating the GOB’s afternoon press conference announcing new and more relaxed regulations for our national state of emergency. The state of emergency was extended for another 60 days so borders remain closed through at least June 30th, the Ministry of Education basically wrote off the remainder of the school year (they’d previously announced that student for be given a pass on exams and moved up next term, they’re doing radio broadcasts as a form of distance learning), curfews are in effect and IF you go out you are to be “moving with purpose”- of an essential nature. No wandering “listlessly” and certainly no “gallivanting”; I’ll admit the Attorney General keeps things interesting with his choice of words.
So what was the outcome of the press release? What were these new lax regulations? I was keeping my fingers crossed that any district with no cases (us in Stann Creek, and south in Toledo district) could basically get back to normal- reopen all local commerce, salvage the rest of our school year, go to the flipping beach, eat a meal in a dang restaurant, have playdates, do the things! I was hoping for all that but I would have been satisfied with the initial quarantine guidelines of social-distancing-lite and limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. Afterall, the whole country only had 18 cases, and only 3 of those were still active (not officially announced “recovered” yet). After a month of isolation and Zoom pre-school classes, I was RIP ROARING READY to go! To go anywhere, to do anything!
But the new regulations seem a bit more restrictive. Aside from some extended hours of operation for businesses like banks and utility offices, and the soft re-opening of some other less essential businesses, nothing much has changed. We still can’t move freely, or gather, or exercise outside the designated time. Rather, we are ALL required to wear masks WHENEVER we leave our homes. Some retail shops have been given the green lights to reopen and we were told hotels can also operate again if they so choose. Of course, with the borders still closed, hotels would only be catering to local clientele. Why would anyone book a hotel right now? They can’t stroll the beach, swim in the sea, have a meal in a restaurant, or even use the hotel’s swimming pool. The AG basically said you could enjoy looking at a different four walls if you were so inclined.
What really grinds my gears is the mandatory masks. A broad sweeping: every ONE must wear it, every WHERE they go, for every THING they do. Yes, we are still exercising between 5a and 8a but now (NOW, why now?) we have to do it wearing a mask. I run about 6 miles three or four times a week; in 80-90 degree heat and soupy thick humidity. Lawd almighty, if I do that wearing a mask I’m done for! Call a coroner!
So the lockdown continues and we stay ‘trapped in paradise’ here at Driftwood Gardens but to keep things exciting we did get a visitor this week. It is not unusual to see evidence of raccoons having used (sometimes trashed) the pool overnight. Often in the morning I’ll see wet, greasy little foot prints around the deck and there will be debris left behind in the water. Sometimes you can even catch a whiff of the distinct (and disgusting) odor they leave behind. What is unusual is to come down in the morning and see a raccoon still in the pool- and showing no intent of leaving.
Earlier this week we spotted a raccoon exhibiting odd behavior. It was around 8am (pretty late in the morning to see a raccoon still out and about) and this dirty little bugger was crouched at the pool’s edge “washing” his hands. He seemed entranced with the feeling of the jet’s stream through his fingers. Like a spaced-out hippie, he sat there for long minutes in a zen-like state rolling his paws around in concise circles through the jet’s gentle blast. I videoed him, I walked right up to him, I asked him what he was doing here (he didn’t respond), and then I even bombarded him with insults about his hygiene. He simply looked up at me with a dreamy look on his face and continued fondling the jet. The audacity!
Long story short- I had loads of weird raccoon footage to share on my Facebook story and with my friend Marisa, who is in local wildlife management and while her focus is parasites, crocodilian and other apex predators, she agreed that this raccoon wasn’t right. Through her foundation’s work (the Crocodile Research Coalition) on the peninsula in all manner of wildlife research, she’s become aware of a new threat to the peninsula’s ecosystem. Distemper, a typically canine viral disease, is being seen in raccoon and wild fox populations. Late stage disease presents as neurological damage. Raccoons have been observed falling from trees, slowly stumbling around during the day, and getting hit by cars at unusually high incidence. At first it was suspected someone was poisoning the raccoons but that ended up not being the case. My dreamy-eyed, wobbly and weak visitor fit the bill for a distemper candidate. He could pose a deadly viral threat to pets and wildlife in our neighborhood. All my friends on Facebook told me how cute he was and how luck I was to get so close… they didn’t smell him! Ugh he smells like death! Last night I set one of PHS’s (I’ve written about the Placencia Humane Society before and we’ve trapped stray cats for their clinic in the past) live traps to capture the sick raccoon and it worked! Marisa contacted BAHA Belize agricultural health authority) and BWRC Belize Wildlife and referral Clinic and sent her staff (the exceptionally brave Darcy, who volunteers for everything especially if it involves kids or animals) to pick it up. While I waited on Darcy, I moved the cage from the pool deck to the shade and it was the most terrifying 45 seconds of my life. Not only did this thing reek like a grave filled with sewage, but it bark/snarled at me! If a Hollywood sound tech needs an audio clip for “evil” they could record this raccoon, it gives me chills now just thinking about it. So of course, I screamed like a queen in a low budget horror movie. This was at 6am, I’m sure my neighbors were rolling their eyes and grumbling but they’ll be thanking me when this fetid beast isn’t lurching around our yards anymore.
That’s the latest and greatest from Belize during the Covid Quarantine 2020. What have you been doing? What does lockdown look like there?