As we close out Day 6 of Mexican Swine Flu Mania, it appears this virus has no intent of leaving the country quietly. A smattering of recent developments for anyone living under a rock:
- The World Health Organization has raised the pandemic alert level to phase 5 on a scale of 6, meaning there is “sustained transmission among people in at least two countries”. To get to phrase 6, the virus has to show an outbreak in two different regions. It believes “a global outbreak of disease is imminent.”
- There are now 99 confirmed swine flu cases and 1 death in Mexico; 91 confirmed cases in the US and 1 death; other countries are being added to the list continuously. (UPDATE Thurs AM: now 5 confirmed swine-flu deaths in DF)
- Mexico City has officially closed *all* restaurants; some are open for take-out only. The government will be paying them $50 PESOS a day to help offset their financial losses. (FYI, that is ~$4USD for the day.) No such financial offsets are announced for street-performing clowns.
- The Mexico City government has dictated a closure of all “non-essential government and private business activity” between the 1st and 5th of May.
- The financial impact of this crisis is currently estimated at $57 million USD a day in Mexico City alone due to the drop in economic activity.
- Suspicions regarding the source of the virus point towards a (seemingly absolutely disgusting) pig farm in La Gloria in the state of Veracruz. The farm is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, and townspeople nearby had 1,800 cases of an “acute respiratory infection” back in February that apparently didn’t get mentioned to the federal governement (allegedly). Check out this excellent description of more interesting pig farm details.
- Mexico is great for conspiracy theories; check this out for some hot proposals of how Obama secretly snuck swine flu into the country.
- A number of countries are considering/instituting bans on flights to Mexico, foremost those whiners the French. So far so good on flights to China…will I make it onto my plane May 8th???
Given that you are all probably well-saturated with data points about the swine flu frenzy, let me share how I have spent my last 24 hours (besides working from home). We did indeed make our wild venture out Tuesday night to Costco & Chedraui (local grocery store) to buy supplies for aforementioned friend’s birthday dinner.
As you may or not be aware about Mexico City, many of its citizens (chilangos) have sort of a fatalist attitude towards life, perhaps stemming from the crazy/random things that seems to happen to/in D.F. (as per prior post re. swine flu + earthquake in one day). So instead of approaching things from the standard, American, hide-under-your-bed-until-it’s-over point of view, we decided to embrace the apocalypse & host a pork-heavy Night Breakfast. (i.e. tasty breakfast foods for dinner, heavy on the bacon) Take that, pig flu!! We aren’t skerd of y’all. Anyway, pics below from grocery store trip + bacon frenzy.
John is fully prepared to fight our way through the crowds at two grocery stores with his blue-post-it-mask.
We came expecting a madhouse, but Costco turns out to actually be fairly quiet. Note conspicious absence of people near the pork section of the Deli on the left. Probably ~50% of people had masks on, but all store employees.
Contrary to Costco's belief, apparently Corn Flakes & Special K are *not* what people stock up on during a flu pandemic...
OK, this isn't super-relevant to the swine flu, but who was the marketing wizard behind this brand of hotdogs?? "See guys, the thing is, they really aren't food, since they are all just lips & *ssholes, so that's why we'll call them FUD instead. I already submitted the copyright. Whaddya think?"
One of the fine selections on offer at the Costco deli was this "Pastel de Carne". I realize this is meatloaf, but directly translated it says "Cake of Meat" (or Pie of Meat). Mmmm. Luckily we were not confused by the Spanish "cake" word usage & did not mistakenly buy this as a birthday cake...
As we left Costco to go to the normal grocery store (Chedraui) down the hall, we passed the Costco cafeteria. FYI: Do not eat here. While their hotdogs + drink for $1.75 or huge slice of pizza for $2 SOUND like fantastic ideas, they are almost certain to give you the Mexi-poops. Best avoided at all costs; go back and buy yourself some Cake of Meat.
In the commercial center that holds Costco, Chedraui, and a movie theatre, many of the other small stores were shut down Tuesday night. But not the PET STORE, generally recognized as a bastion of cleanliness and sanitation. Good choice, Pet Store Manager! Let's press our luck & see if we can get some Dog Flu action going here.
Inside Chedraui, activity was brisk but overall things seemed normal. The only sign of a run on supplies was this shelf that had been nearly wiped clean of canned soup & bags of pasta.
One promising item we observed for sale was this yogurty drink called "Svelty". I seriously considered buying a dozen to see if they could actually make me look svelty, despite all this sitting on my butt I am doing since our gym is shut down.
Our first shocking discovery at Chedraui was the number of pork products still for sale! Obviously there must be at least one sane Chedraui store manager out there who knows the swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork! Perhaps he should have a chat with Egypt before they make all their country's pigs take a dirt nap.
Next stop: the Chicharron stand!! For those unfamiliar, these are fried pork skins. We were curious as to how the chicharron business was faring with all the bad PR, but were not able to find any managers to ask about that nor how they felt about the Egyptians trying to flood the market.
We finally made it to the checkout. Here's me, getting the death glare from the people in line behind us as I prepare to pay with my FOOD STAMPS (job "perks" are a little different in Mexico). This is almost invariably a hellish process in which the checkout person cannot trust the amount of food stamps I have given them & so must count them 4-7 different times, each time rearranging/restacking the piles of food stamps to ensure no one knows exactly how much I am paying.
As you can see, my first outing in Swine Flu City was fraught neither with drama nor blatant interaction with swine-flu-carrying crazies. Whew. So then, on to the Night Breakfast! To prepare for the pork-fest, we created an impromptu ofrenda for the Swine Flu, similar to those associated with Dia de los Muertos here in Mexico (but less ornate). It seemed only fitting…
John spends a moment to reflect at the Swine Flu Altar, with the feast that we are about to receive. (and yes, he's wearing his Utilikilt, the defacto fashion choice for all men in times of influenza pandemics: www.utilikilts.com
Sasha confessed that being house-bound for days on end has left people slightly crazy, with a tendency to dress up their babies in things like Superman (or Superbaby?) costumes. I felt this was a good approach for making Ivan appear less vulnerable to viruses.
Sasha's claims were backed up by the arrival of Alan with newborn daughter Ruby dressed in a Syracruse cheerleader costume. :)
The guest of honor, Ben the birthday boy, boldly made the first dive into the sea of bacon, eschewing all talk of pig flu on his special day.
Despite his tough talk, Ben was later seen communing at the Swine Flu Altar, offering ground pork leftovers to Herman, Jackie & George in an misguided gesture of goodwill.
To close the evening, I brought our final piece of bacon to the Swine Flu Altar in hopes of exchanging it for a cessation of the virus's attack on Mexico City. This may have been foiled by someone eating the offering when I turned my head for 2 seconds.
That’s all the news tonite from the Hot Zone, but keep posted tomorrow for an expected update from the US Embassy & continued developments on the international flights front! Thanks to all for your thoughts & well wishes; we are staying safe and hopeful. May the bacon be with you.