I arrived back from Zihuatanejo late Saturday night. I had been in Mexico since late February taking Spanish lessons in Puebla with my niece and celebrating my sister’s 50th birthday in Mexico City and Zihuatenejo. When I left, the world was a pretty normal place.
Our last week was a different story. My sister and I spent hours every day looking for earlier return flights, which was challenging unless you were willing to fly through the U.S. or Mexico City; less than ideal at the best of times. But with my sister’s eight-year-old son’s seasonal snotty nose, it was even more difficult as any common cold symptom could be misconstrued as COVID-19. On my return flight, everyone was popping cough drops or hard candies, or taking Tylenol or Benadryl as prophylactics for fear an errant throat clearing, sneeze or cough could cause someone to be rejected from their flight.
Once my sister’s little guy was symptom-free, they booked a slightly earlier flight back to Toronto through Chicago where, interestingly, there was not one mention of the pandemic. The same was true for my other nephew (26) as he returned from Cabo via Houston and New York.
American airports seem lackadaisical about COVID-19 to the extreme, which is very concerning for Canada and the world.
In Zihuatanejo, Air Canada asked us to fill out a health declaration form as we all waited in line to get our boarding passes. There were antiseptic gel stations throughout the Zihua airport, which we were often told to use, and we were asked several times through security and at the gate if we had any COVID-19 symptoms. And someone pointed an external thermometer three inches from my sunburned forehead as I entered the departure gate area. 37.2°, I passed! No one with a fever was allowed on a plane to Canada.
After multiple reminders to report any symptoms and to diligently self-isolate for two weeks during the flight, we touched down at YVR around 11 p.m.. At every turn in the airport, we were asked if we had any symptoms and given the directive to self-isolate. Customs was empty and I was through in a flash, again with the same questions and the directives.
It seemed an appropriate level of scrutiny to me although I heard some people complain that they didn’t think it thorough enough.
Democratic societies only function well when people act in the best interest of one another and people have trust in the systems that are set up to protect society in general.
Although I’m certainly counting down the days until my two-week self-isolation period is over, I don’t expect my routine to change dramatically until such time as this global crisis is diminished. I will keep a social distance, wash my hands often, avoid touching my face and hope my fellow global citizens are all doing the same.
Patricia Heintzman is a former Squamish mayor and councillor, and is a member of the board of governors of Capilano University.