The pandemic has been a part of our lives since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first case in the United States a year ago. Many people were misinformed about COVID-19. I heard people making fun of the virus because they didn’t know how it would affect our normal routine. When I first heard about COVID-19, I thought people were exaggerating because it seemed so unreal to me. I also remember joking with my friends about it like a lot of people did. Then I started watching the news and realized that people were dying. I felt scared and overwhelmed, but not for myself. I was worried about my parents because they spend the whole day working outside our home, and they are constantly exposing themselves to everything. I remember the prom dress that I bought, because even though I knew that COVID-19 was something serious, I thought it would be over in a month because the government would take control of it correctly. Nowadays, I am used to wearing a mask and staying six feet away from others. Things that were weird for me a year ago are my new normal.
I decided to interview my friend Miguel, who is currently living in the city of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. Miguel immigrated to Argentina because of the difficult political and economic situation in our home country of Venezuela. He has a full-time job working in a restaurant, and he also works as a delivery driver, delivering food on his bike. Miguel has been saving money since the pandemic began because he said that he knew he could lose his job at any time. Since the pandemic started, he has been working a lot. People are using more delivery services due to the fact that they cannot go outside, according to Miguel. In addition, he says that public transportation services have changed since the beginning of the quarantine. Because of the quick spreading of COVID-19, everyone is required to wear a mask and no more than ten people are allowed per bus.
”With the money that I am making here, I have to support [my family] financially in Venezuela because most of them lost their jobs and the situation there is not suitable,” he wrote in a text message. He worries about losing his jobs because he is supporting his family back home in Venezuela.
Wearing masks is a strong example of the differences between Buenos Aires and Berkeley. In Berkeley, wearing a mask is a requirement to enter any business or public place. We have been encouraged to wear masks since the beginning of the pandemic. In contrast, after the first case COVID-19 showed up in Argentina on March 3, 2020, many people were not wearing masks. It is difficult to compare Berkeley and Buenos Aires because they are such different sizes. Berkeley has a population of approximately 120,000 people, while Buenos Aires has over 15 million. However, looking at national data from the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO), it is clear that both countries saw an increase in positive COVID-19 cases during the fall of 2020. Argentina’s peak came in October, while the US saw more cases in November and December, after the holidays. Currently, the US has nearly 700 cases per capita, while Argentina has about 290 cases per capita. Although both countries show the number of new cases decreasing, the data shows the US government’s poor management of the pandemic because the rate is so much higher here.
After conducting this interview, I learned that people who were not economically or legally established were seriously affected. When I think about what my life was like one year ago, I feel that I lived in an unreal world. Those experiences that I had before COVID-19 seem fictitious now. I feel disappointed and sad because I am losing my best years locked in my house. However, now I can appreciate being healthy. I also appreciate every moment with my parents, sister, and friends because I know that those moments are not going to come back; they are going to be just memories. I hope that this pandemic makes us reflect about doing what we want to do or being who we want to be, without fear or doubt. We have to be brave and choose carefully what we want for our future, because time that keeps passing doesn’t come back.