I wrote today’s article from Montserrat—a tropical island that remained blissfully free from COVID for most of the pandemic.
In fact, except for a few weeks in the very beginning, they managed to maintain their normal way of life.
Because for them, prevention has always been critical, as they simply do not have the resources to handle any significant outbreak.
They kept—and continue keeping—strict tabs on who comes in, periods of quarantine, and the testing and tracing process. All of which has proven largely beneficial! That is, until Omicron arrived.
Of course, Omicron not only knocked down the doors to this island, but it’s crashing through most of the world at alarming rates.
So, let’s talk about it—starting with how I watched a new wave of the pandemic unfold in “paradise”…
A different fight unfolds
This island is a place with extreme vaccine hesitancy—and mask-wearing was not very common, as most activity takes place outdoors. So in my mind, it was not a question of if, but when COVID would arrive.
And truthfully, it was quite interesting to watch it all unfold.
Don’t get me wrong. I was in New York City watching the beginning of the pandemic unfold right in front of me, too. But now, almost two full years in, I’m able to watch through a different lens.
We now have a lot of information and resources, different treatment options, simple rapid testing—and yes, even a vaccine. Omicron may have thrown a monkey wrench in the works. But this is still a very different fight than it was back in 2020.
I also realize that I live in a place that’s starkly different than the rest of America, even in the best of times. We live on top of each other and use public transport everywhere we go. We wear masks, follow protocols, get booster shots, and get our children vaccinated.
And not everyone can relate to those strategies/ways of life. But I believe it’s important to respect each other’s experiences throughout this pandemic, without anger, fear, or frustration over different choices.
With that said, Omicron is definitely presenting new challenges. And the recent chaos on this island provides a perfect example…
When you come to this island, anyone who has been fully vaccinated must quarantine for five days; the unvaccinated for 14. You are tested the day before quarantine ends, and you are released only if your test is negative.
That strategy was working… until it wasn’t. When I first arrived in December, there were no cases of COVID on the island. Then four days passed, and there were two cases. Three days passed, there were eight. And before I knew it, there were 31 cases, with contact tracing going on to 64 other people.
While that may not seem like many—the United States is racking up as many as 500,000 cases per day—keep in mind that this is a country of less than 5,000 people who all know each other.
Everyone was listening to the radio—yes, people still do that—to get updates. And they were changing rapidly.
To keep up with the rise in cases, there was a limit on gatherings up to 15 people. Two hours later, there was a curfew in place limiting activity from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Next came governmental closures, and announcements for employees to work from home. Then school opening was delayed for two weeks. Finally, the banks closed.
And to witness that firsthand, well… it sounds like something out of a thriller series on Netflix—but it was my (and these islanders’) reality.
Long story short: Omicron has caused a lot of disruption across the globe. And even though we’ve come a long way from the spring of 2020—it looks like, yet again, we have a tough winter ahead of us.
So tell me, how have YOU been faring in your neck of the woods? I’d love to hear about your COVID experience. Send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And in the meantime, continue boosting your immune system against COVID and any other virus that may be circulating during the cold, dark days of winter. For my top immunity tips, check out my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity.