January 21, 2022 5:07 pm

Summer paradoxes threatened by a wave

PUNTA DEL ESTE.- The sun’s rays that turn the sea into a mirror of the sky welcomed me. Punta del Este, a spa of my childhood and owner of indelible memories, he embraced me warmly. Peaceful, Everything looks the same, but nothing is.

The arrival felt like a leap into the void, after a few weeks of preparation. “They call you at the address,” my boss had joked, before they summoned me to carry out the summer coverage in Uruguay. Victim of anxiety and an obsessive foresight, I spent the days before the runs around the Newsroom writing down everything in my red notebook: who will be, where will the trends appear, what to look for. Venturing into a task of this nature requires preparation, but above all anticipation.

I had already had some experience in coverage in other cities in times of coronavirus: I had to report on the progress of the covid from the global epicenter of the pandemic, New York. Maybe that’s why I took on the challenge with some ease. In 2020 I lived with corpses in containers fridges parked around the corner from my house. After such a hostile experience, I thought: Punta del Este, easy-peasy. “Underestimate, it is wrong,” the Jedi master named Yoda would have countered.

Budget in Excel and medical insurance recheck. The journey began days before embarkation. Swab, vaccination certificate and affidavits in hand. The routine seemed very far from pre-pandemic times. I crossed the border with Uruguay over the bridges. After almost nine hours of undulating routes, the immense blue of the sea at Punta Ballena confirmed my arrival. “You have reached Punta del Este,” the voice of a narrator echoed in my brain.

That queseyó of the sea remains intact. Mansa or Brava. Imperturbable sorcerer and owner of such a peculiar smell (a quick search showed me that it is due to dimethyl sulfide, a foul-smelling gas generated by bacteria that feed on phytoplankton), the Atlantic is the only one that seems to have not changed in the East.

Summer arrived with great anticipation and optimism due to the high levels of vaccination. Everything was clear, but the advance of the omicron variant came to hinder life and make the horizon a very diffuse haze.

Day to day shows the nooks and crannies of a wave that has nothing to do with that of the sea. Vaccination certificate is used as cover letter and mask as accessory of the season. From La Mansa to José Ignacio, from El Chorro to La Barra and back to the peninsula. During coverage, hours are spent on top of the car in search of stories.

My cell phone’s caller ID is buzzing with alerts from Buenos Aires. With different urgencies, editors from different sections want to know: how was the New Year for celebrities? Does the health system supply? How do the youngest behave? With no time for the beach, I report to my bosses with an ocean view and not many hours of sleep while my dog ​​looks at me suspiciously.

With fewer Argentines than in other seasons, the distribution of western Rio de la Plata is concentrated almost exclusively from Manantiales to José Ignacio. In the Peninsula, the “Ché” was replaced by “Bo” of the Charruas, who dominate the Esteño heart among friends or families.

The clubs chose not to face a duel with the health authorities to adapt to the pandemic, although the private conclaves have been distributed every night since late December. The typical hefty man who controls entry at parties no longer only serves as a visual scanner, but as a filter for those not immunized against Covid-19. “Baby, you won’t pass without the certificate,” the men in black snort reluctantly.

I talk to teenagers on the most flirtatious beaches. Satisfaction is communion. They are not interested in the pandemic, nor the effects, nor what their contagions can generate. Many young people with symptoms prefer to go out the same and baptize it “The move of the positives”. I swallow hard and take a few steps back.

The dynamics of swabs in Punta del Este is so expensive (US $ 70, on average) and complicated – it requires hours of queuing in the sun or in the car – that complaints abound. “We are overwhelmed” they justify, while the vacationer – or laburante, in this case – protests and grunts with a frown.

Whether it is after the New Year’s party (which was not even aware of the pandemic) or because of the massive queues in supermarkets, not having Covid-19 or being in close contact is like getting out of the Quiniela. The third swab ended up giving me the annoying positive. “Virtual waiting room: María Domitila Dellacha, you have 46 patients waiting,” says the health insurance application on my cell phone as I write this column. Fever, cough, and myalgia. In-depth journalistic coverage? With more stories in the pipeline, I think we got it.


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