Things That Matter

Ecuador Is Struggling To Combat The Covid-19 Crisis As Victims Are Being Buried In Cardboard Boxes

Around the world, governments are trying to figure out how best to respond to the pandemic – often with limited resources and little planning. Hospitals and morgues are at capacity – or in many cases, overflowing with Covid-19 patients.

In Latin America, Ecuador has emerged as the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic. The country has been hit especially hard as the government struggles to respond to the growing crisis.

Many fear Ecuador could be a frightening sign of what’s to come as the virus begins to spread across Latin America, a region that so far has fewer cases than the US or Europe – but also has more severe shortages of doctors, hospital beds and ventilators.

Ecuador is giving a glimpse into the pandemic’s potential impact on Latin America.

Credit: Luis Perez / Getty Images

In Ecuador’s Guayas province, where the bustling city of Guayaquil is located, the crisis is so bad and hospitals and morgues so overwhelmed, that bodies are being left in the streets.

The unfolding disaster in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, offers an ominous look at what could soon spread to other parts of Latin America – where inequality, weak public services and fragile economies are common.

“What we’re seeing in Guayaquil is what can happen in most of South America’s large cities, where pockets of cosmopolitan richness coexist with widespread poverty,” said Alexandra Moncada, director of international aid organization CARE, in an interview with the New York Times.

A country of 17 million, Ecuador has one of the highest official rates of coronavirus infections, and deaths, per capita in Latin America.

Ecuador’s official coronavirus death count rose to 272 on Thursday, the latest number available — higher than its larger and more populous neighbors Peru and Colombia.

Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, has warned that the real figure is much higher, but that because testing is limited the true extent of infections is impossible to determine.

The government is working on measures to accommodate the growing number of fatalities, according to Reuters. They’re preparing an emergency burial ground on donated land in Guayaquil and plan to bury about 100 people a day in the area, which can accommodate about 2,000 plots. Space has also been made available at two public cemeteries in the area that can hold roughly 12,000 plots.

Meanwhile, hard-to-watch videos and images on social media show a growing humanitarian disaster that’s taking its toll on victim’s families.

Credit: Marcos Pin / Getty Images

With health services, cemeteries and funeral homes overstretched and a strict curfew restricting movement, collecting and burying the dead has become a critical problem in Guayaquil.

Videos posted on social media in recent days show families burying their loved ones in fields or keeping bodies in their homes for days as they wait for them to be collected by the authorities. Lines of vehicles with coffins in the trunks or strapped to roofs have also been seen forming outside cemeteries.

Relatives who have lost loved ones say burying their family members is as agonizing as trying to get them care.

Hundreds died at home, left in family living rooms for days before overworked coroners could retrieve their bodies. Those who perished in hospitals were put in chilled shipping containers that serve as makeshift morgues.

The lucky ones are placed in cardboard caskets because wooden coffins have become too expensive or scarce. Their relatives then wait for hours outside cemeteries in pickup trucks to bury their dead.

Authorities admit that the situation is out of control but that they’re committed to providing a “dignified burial.” However, the current crisis in Ecuador is a heartbreaking reminder of what many countries, especially across Latin America, are facing as the pandemic reaches their borders.

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This Latina Is Making COVID Piñatas So People Can Take Their Pandemic Anger Out In a Fun Way

Fierce

This Latina Is Making COVID Piñatas So People Can Take Their Pandemic Anger Out In a Fun Way

Photo via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

Like many people, Carolina Tolladay Vidal’s COVID-19 hit her business hard. Tolladay Vidal runs a piñata business in Anchorage, Alaska, and with so many fiestas being canceled, her piñata sales were plummeting.

For fun, Carolina Tolladay Vidal created some COVID-virus-shaped piñatas to post to her social media page. And suddenly, orders for the quirky piñatas began to pile up.

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A post shared by Carolina Vidal (@the_pinata_shop)

Around July 4th of last year, Tolladay Vidal posted the following: “We’ve had it with you COVID19! This mama is tired of social distancing, postponing parties, canceling trips, juggling with kids 24/7, and this whole new lifestyle (I won’t lie, love the lazy days too!! So…prepare to die!! [laughing emoji] Want a chance to win this FILLED corona virus piñata? Stay tuned for details tomorrow!”

Her followers, dying to have a chance to unleash their pandemic-related anger in a fun way, immediately connected with her new product. “You are a creative genius!” wrote one of her followers. Another wrote: “Ja jajjajaja buenísima!!! [clapping hands emojis]”.

via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

Carolina Tolladay Vidal said that her inspiration for the COVID piñatas came from her own frustration at the way COVID has negatively impacted her life. “Many of the projects I had were moved to other dates,” she told Alaska Public Media. “Many were canceled.”

Tolladay Vidal explained that hitting the COVID piñatas was both fun and cathartic. “I think you really smash them and break them and hit them with meaning because it has been tough for everybody,” she said.

She also acknowledged how smashing the COVID piñatas was “bittersweet”–the sweetness from the piñata, of course. The bitterness from, well…being in a pandemic for over a year.

Carolina Tolladay Vidal learned the craft of piñata-making from her abuela when she was growing up in Mexico.

via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

“I have a memory of my grandma setting up all the grandchildren and helping her make a couple star pinatas with the seven points,” she told Alaska Public Media.

She created her own business, The Piñata Shop, when her daughter requested a very specific piñata for her birthday that CTV couldn’t find in stores. ““I had looked in the stores in town. I looked online, and I didn’t find anything,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Well, you know, it shouldn’t be so hard to make up a piñata.’”

A true jefa, Carolina Tolladay Vidal also runs an artisanal online jewelry store designing and selling Talavera jewelry called Folksy Bonitas. Creative genius, indeed!

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As The U.S. Expands Vaccine Eligibility Here’s What You Need To Know

Things That Matter

As The U.S. Expands Vaccine Eligibility Here’s What You Need To Know

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Starting today, everyone 16 and older can get in line for the Coronavirus vaccine. This is a huge milestone that has been months in the making after a very ambitious plan by the Biden administration.

But with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still on pause, many have been wondering what the vaccine program will look like – especially since nearly everyone is now eligible to receive a shot in the arm.

As of Monday, anyone 16 and over is technically eligible to receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

On Monday, every state in the U.S. expanded its vaccine eligibility to include all adults over the age of 16, meeting President Biden’s deadline which he established two weeks ago.

The country is now administering 3.2 million doses a day on average, and half of all adults have now received at least one dose. Additionally, 84.3 million people have now been fully vaccinated against the disease. These are truly encouraging figures in the fight against the pandemic but a lot of uncertainty remains.

Ok but can I get a shot?

Technically, yes, anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for the vaccine but your access to it really varies from state to state.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C., were the last to open up eligibility on Monday, after other states expanded access to the general public over the past month.

If the country’s present vaccination rate continues, 70% of the total U.S. population could be vaccinated by June 17 and 90% by July 25, the New York Times has projected. That timeline will likely depend on what happens with Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, however, as distribution is now paused following reports of blood clots, despite being statistically extremely rare.

So, what’s going on with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

On Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said that he believed the pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will likely be lifted on Friday. During interviews on talk shows, Fauci stated that he expected federal health officials to decide on the vaccine’s future by the end of the week and that he did not anticipate the vaccine being permanently banned.

One alternative to banning is to limit who is able to receive the one dose shot, perhaps limiting it to males over the age of 50. This is how Europe adjusted its strategy following similar blood clotting issues with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which was created using similar methods.

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