Coronavirus dispatches from Connecticut, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain and Italy

The coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is at the heart of an international pandemic that has touched virtually every corner of the globe. Interviews with five people in Connecticut, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain and Italy reflect the reaction, but in very different ways. 

As of yesterday, there were 69 deaths and more than 3,000 coronavirus cases in Connecticut, placing it among the national leaders. Living in Meriden, a small town south of Hartford, Damaris Viera is a 23-year-old bartender who hasn’t left her house since the end of February. She believes recovering from this will be tough. 

“My future has been put on hold,” she said. “I had just finished my semester as a senior in college and needed to take an additional test. Since places have closed, I’m unable to take that test and move on to my other studies.” 

She had also planned to move to Florida at the end of 2020, but she now has no income.

“This horrid virus has affected my life completely,” she said. “My job [as a bartender] was one of the first places to be shut down in my area.”

“I’m hoping everyone will stay inside and listen to what they’re being told so this can be over sooner than later,” she said, adding that some people are still out sightseeing and are not taking the right precautions.

Cuba has had scores of coronavirus cases and six deaths so far. More than 1,000 have been hospitalized with similar symptoms. Arnaldo Uwe García Méndez lives in La Habana, Cuba. This 26-year-old upcoming urban artist has stayed inside the four walls of his room for the past 2 1/2 weeks.

“I honestly don’t see a future for anyone if the virus continues to spread,” he said. “I do not know what the future will be, if for better or for worse, but I truly hope God hears our prayers.”

He believes that he won’t be able to live the same after this crisis ends. He explained that one does not know what will happen tomorrow, which is why we must do our best to take care of ourselves. 

“We now live with vital limitations to humanity and the coronavirus is a threat to humans all over the world,” he said.

Not only does he promise to himself to be much more aware of a better hygiene routine, but to live in the present and enjoy life while he is alive and healthy.

My fear is that tragic deaths keep surfacing and that there’s no cure for this illness,” he said. Yet, he still hopes that everything will turn out okay.

Karla Pagán, a 33-year-old mother of two, is friends with a young man who currently has COVID-19. Karla lives in Bayamón, Puerto Rico and has physically distanced herself from outside friends and family for three weeks now.

In Puerto Rico, there have been 286 cases and 11 deaths from the coronavirus. Pagán admitted to having money saved and that although this is a worrisome situation for everyone, it is especially for those who have no savings.

“Since the birth of my second child, I learned to save up money, and I now have enough to pay the next two [months of] rent and food,” she said.

She has spent her quarantine meditating and connecting with her family. She has also had some time to herself and has reprioritized her values in life.

“I only fear that my 68-year-old mother may get this disease since she suffered from cysts in her lungs two years ago … I hope some type of vaccine is found so that everything returns to normal,” she said. 

Spain has surpassed China’s death toll and is now third in the world with over 10,000 deaths from COVID-19. Hospitals have run out of supplies and three unions representing health care workers have demanded the government provide enough equipment to help cure those infected.

Virginia Gonzalez Vázquez lives in San Sebastian Donosti, España. She is a 47-year-old woman with a 20-year-old son who suffers from Down syndrome. Virginia has been quarantined for 35 days and although many of those living in Spain are at risk when stepping outside their homes, her city has not been affected as harshly.

I know many people in the world are suffering much more drastically and those people in specific will surely need psychological help,” she said. “I hope that it will not affect my future to this extent. My only fear is that any of my loved ones will get infected or loose their job permanently.” 

Gabriella Bongiovanni, a 62-year-old Italian grandmother, lives with her daughter, son-in-law and 13-year-old grandson in Rome. She said that the future is questionable but that businesses will have to start up after being closed for more than a month in her area.

Italians will need to unite, she said, which is something citizens in that country are not used to.

“It will all depend on our corrupt government, if they will do the right thing to support their citizens,” she said. Many Italians are still working from home, but she said the future depends on industry. “We Italians are very family-oriented and having to stay at home with our families hasn’t affected us as much as other countries.”

She clarified that not just Italians, but all humans on Earth, will be more aware of their surroundings and their health. Her fear is common and like many of us, she hopes her family will be safe and no one’s health will be affected.

“This is a dreadful pandemic, but I have faith that we will all be reunited and have our freedom back,” she said. Italy currently has more than 110,000 cases and 13,000 deaths due to the virus.

There are now more than 48,000 deaths worldwide and one million infected globally. This disease can be passed on with just a touch, a cough and/or a sneeze. In order to protect others during this pandemic, we must take care of ourselves first and stay home.

These are crucial times, but life will go on if we unite in prayer, social distancing and better hygiene. Be clean, be safe and be alert. 

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Edmarys Menendez is an FIU alumna who studied Broadcast Media. This journalist enjoys interviewing and finding out people's passions and hidden talents. Her goal is to become an on-air studio host with her own show. She is a freelancer and has danced for more than 10 years. This passionate and optimistic student is more than ready to fulfill her journalism career.