27 September 2020 – Sunday – #114

I waited in line to vote Friday. It was the line at the Correo, of course, because I have to vote by absentee ballot. “Estoy votando,” I proudly told the clerk once I made it inside the post office. “No más Trump.”

The clerk smiled and said something in Spanish I didn’t understand.

The line at the Correo when I went to mail my ballot.

Friday was a watershed day, many projects coming to fruition. I mailed my absentee ballot, paid a franchise tax on a corporation, received an insurance reimbursement, and bought Rabih’s book An Unnecessary Woman, a book I’d ordered for a necessary friend at one of the English bookstores in town. None of these projects seems earth shattering. In the U.S., each would have taken ten or fifteen minutes. Here, though, each of them took me about a month. It’s part of adjusting to a new country.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but there are always surprises during the most mundane tasks. For instance, when I started the absentee voting process, I needed to print application forms. I’ve given up on owning a printer. For the number of times I print in a year, the cartridge is invariably dry when I want to print. Instead of going to a printing shop to buy a fresh cartridge, I go to a printing shop and print.

I expected to print my absentee voting application at the shop around the corner, the shop with the handsome clerk I chat up those handful of times I print documents every year. Except, of course, this happened last month, and last month was August, and in August, I learned, shops are open at random times if they’re open at all. I’m sure my handsome clerk must have been sunning on a Sitges beach when I dropped by to print my absentee ballot application.

After walking past four other printing shops Google Maps offered me, all of which were closed for August, I found the one printing shop that’s open all year in Barcelona. If you should ever need it, you’ll find it along Av. Diagonal near the furniture stores. The task of printing applications that should have taken ten minutes took half an afternoon.

I don’t know why I didn’t anticipate another surprise at the end of my voting project. That surprise was the line at the Correo when I went to vote (image above). Instead of spending five minutes to get a tracking number for my ballot, which by now was invaluable with all the time it took to complete, I spent nearly a half hour in line first. At least it was pleasant weather outside. From the first step to the last, absentee voting took longer than expected.

I’m sure in a year or two I’ll have all these details of living in Barcelona worked out. I’ll know to look for the handsome clerk in Sitges in August instead of visiting his store. I’ll know the magic hour when there’s never a line at the post office. For now, though, I feel like a child learning new language and customs. In other words, I’m scratching the surface.

Also on Friday, I talked to Henrique about traveling next month. Henrique has expiring AirBNB vouchers and I said I’d go along for the ride. The prime candidates were the Canary Islands, Valencia, Sevilla, Girona, Llançà, and pretty much any other Catalan location since Covid-19 levels are good here.

Checking Covid-19 infection levels is now part of travel planning. Here’s a list of Spanish regions and their Covid-19 infection rates.

Covid-19 cases per 100k inhabitants by region.

I’ll tell you where we’re going when we get there, but here are a couple places we’re not going due to Covid-19. No problems with Covid-19 levels in the Canary Islands and it’s warmer there this time of year, but it’s a 3-1/2 hour flight from BCN. I wasn’t too excited about that. Andulusia would be a little warmer, too, but there aren’t any recent Covid-19 statistics. That left Valencia and Catalonia.

Madrid was out of the travel picture without even mentioning it. At 750 cases per 100k inhabitants, it is dangerous to be there. The Madrid region is tightening its Covid-19 restrictions. Simultaneously the central government said Madrid had to do more and offered 7,500 troops to help with testing and tracing.

The New York Times deigned to opine on Spain’s Covid-19 problems. I have a limited understanding of Spanish politics, but that doesn’t keep me from disagreeing with many of the points in the opinion piece. However, I completely agree with this point.

One of the keys to slowing the spread of the virus is to perform polymerase chain reaction testing on as many people as possible who have been in contact with infected people. But the average number of potential cases that Spain manages to trace is lower than Zambia (9.7 for every confirmed Covid-19 case), one-fourth that of Italy (37.5) and one-twentieth of Finland (185).

The New York Times, “There’s a Simple Reason Spain Has Been Hit Hard by Coronavirus,” 24 September 2020.

The countries that beat Covid-19 have several attributes in common including strong leadership and good testing and tracing. National wealth and system of government do not correlate with outcomes. More and more, evidence points to controlling Covid-19 outbreaks as the most effective step in economic recovery from the pandemic.

Public Health Professor Devi Sridhar describes correlation between Covid-19 control and economic recovery.

Sweden continues to be used as an example of prioritizing the economy successfully, but the arguments don’t hold up. Here’s a thread comparing and contrasting Covid-19 responses of Sweden and New Zealand.

Devi Sridhar compares Covid-19 responses of Sweden and New Zealand.

Trump is candidate number one for consistently poor Covid-19 decision making and leadership. He prioritizes the US economy over its public health. A former member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force describes how Trump distracts policymakers at meetings and overrules scientific determinations.

Oliva Troye describes breakdowns in Trump’s Covid-19 decision making.

Unfortunately, Trump supporters don’t connect his poor Covid-19 leadership with the prolonged outbreaks that are shutting down more businesses than necessary. One restaurant owner forced to close a family restaurant in Maryland recycles Trump’s rationalization that the cure is worse than the disease rather than pointing out the obvious: stronger testing and tracing would have got businesses open earlier and safer.

It’s like Trump said: The cure has been worse than the disease. People spent too much time at home watching the news all day, drinking in this hysteria until they were spraying down their groceries and afraid to leave home. It became another anti-Trump thing in the press. The impeachment didn’t work, the killer bees didn’t work, so let’s blow covid out of proportion and see if it hurts him. But it’s the rest of us that got hurt. It was day after day of failure. It was a slow and painful death.

Sunset Restaurant manager Mike Fratantuono

No matter where you are in the world, if you can vote in the U.S., please join me in voting. For all the hassles of voting overseas, it was worth it to post my ballot.

Some other Covid-19 tidbits from last week.

Please wash your hands, keep your distance, and wear a mask.

Here’s Dr. Fauci putting Senator Rand Paul in his place.

Later, one of Senator Paul’s patients explained his new community immunity!

Blaire Erskine on Community Immunity.
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