Updated: Nov 30, 2020
In this blog from “Adventures from Elle,” she describes the contrasts during the Covid-19 pandemic between her work and vacation environment in Jamaica. Elle is a writer, a multi-faceted person whose chosen full-time profession being that of a medical doctor.
We all are exposed to varying degrees of risk to the Covid-19 virus. So, most of us are learning how to reduce our risks through “safe distancing, “wearing masks,” “washing our hands frequently,” and using the internet.
Elle: I feel safer at a hotel which is being used as a quarantine site for tourists coming from Covid-stricken countries, than I do every day at work. Here’s why:
The Government of Jamaica announced two weeks ago that we have reached community spread of the virus. We however, have been witnessing coronavirus cases without epidemiological links for months so community spread should have been acknowledged a long time ago by our authorities. What that means is every single person with whom we encounter must be treated as Covid-19 positive until proven otherwise. It’s impractical however to test every single user of the hospitals in Jamaica.
We have also been seeing a rapid spike in our number of positive cases and a corresponding increase in the death toll. Despite this, many Jamaicans still aren’t heeding the common-sense advice of sanitizing or washing their hands more frequently, social distancing and wearing a mask properly in all public places. It’s mandatory to wear a mask when entering establishments. Take a drive around any town center or city in Jamaica and you’ll see dozens of people either mask-less or wearing their masks improperly– on their mouths only, on their chins or with one strap loose. They’ll pull it down to talk or laugh, and even touch the front of it. Many people don’t wash their reusable masks often enough either.
It’s crazy the things people are down here doing. As if the masks weren’t bad enough, the CROWDS! My word, Jamaicans just cannot not stick on to each other. I’ve come to that conclusion. Not even a deadly virus is enough to make people “keep their distance.” I would be out there minding my own business and a man will come up into my personal space or someone will brush past me with their shopping cart. People will show up to hospital with their respiratory symptoms WITHOUT wearing a mask, will try pulling it down when I’m clerking them rather than speaking up clearly, and I don’t see any improvement in the cleaning frequency of my workplace.
Another dangerous practice too is that staff members can’t effectively “social distance.” We have tiny, cramped staff quarters, several of us get break together and so we have to pull down our masks to eat lunch and can infect each other. Thus, every day I go to work I’m at risk of not only contracting coronavirus, but also transmitting it to an immunocompromised patient or bringing it home to my family.
Jamaica reopened its borders to all international tourists on June 15. This was on the premise that visitors and returning citizens planning on spending longer than 14 days in the country are mandated to self-quarantine at home. Only until their coronavirus test results taken at the airport are back as negative. Anyone spending less than that, say on a quick 5-day vacation, are to remain quarantined on their hotel compounds, meaning that they aren’t allowed to mingle with locals outside of their resorts. It is thought that the resorts should serve as quarantine locations, yet I felt much safer at a hotel with people travelling from countries with higher outbreaks of coronavirus than I did at my everyday job. Here’s why:
1. Greater attention to sanitizing
In between each guest at the lobby, there was someone waiting to sanitize the counter and pens etc. There were hand sanitizer stations EVERYWHERE! I couldn’t keep count. Sanitizing was mandatory at every restaurant, or you could choose to wash your hands instead. You would be assigned to a table as well which was sanitized in between guests. However, where I work, the hand sanitizer stations are emptier more often than they are full, we still have water lock offs which makes hand washing next to impossible; and we run out of personal protective equipment all the time. Or… someone in authority keeps them locked up, and the people who ACTUALLY are interacting with suspected and confirmed patients on a day to day basis either have to go without, bring their own from home or stand their ground and curse until someone sheepishly opens a locked cupboard and hands us the relevant gear.
2. The buffets have been banished
Normally at a buffet, one serves him or herself after eyeing the dishes available, but think of the exposures that would create to have hundreds of people touching all the serving utensils. Instead, they assigned a server for the food which slowed things down but I never minded one bit. Masks were also mandatory when interacting with the service staff, while... well, it’s often hard getting patients to comply with this rule. How do I ensure someone wears a mask when they’re receiving oxygen or nebulization?
3. Social Distancing
By virtue of reduced travel, the hotel was less booked which equals less guests and easier means of social distancing. However, there will be several hundreds of patients and relatives cramped into a tiny space waiting to see the doctor at our out-patient clinics and accident & emergency department. Plus, when you’re examining them, I’ve had people do dumb things like pull down their masks to cough and “keep the mask clean” thereby sending their throat flora in our faces and exposing us.
4. Large group activities were scaled back or discontinued
Activities such as live entertainment shows were affected. Yet... I guess we can’t cancel the clinic crowds.
Rant aside, the hotel which I’m comparing to my hospital is the Grand Palladium Hotel in Lucea, Hanover near Montego Bay. This hotel is truly a grand work of art from the sprawling lobby, the rooms, and their attention to details around the entire property. The hotel is a dream for people who love taking Insta-worthy photos with their multiple beach swings, hammocks, those trendy nest-like chairs and a signature humongous red chair labelled with the hotel name of course to make sure you remember your vacation. (The red chair was always full, so I never got my picture).
I’m always looking for deals, and while I’ve purchased other deals before from Gustazos Jamaica and Brawta Living, this was my first time buying a hotel package and they didn’t disappoint.
Here are some pictures of the hotel which I made my home for 2 days several weekends ago:
Do you see how empty everywhere is? Social distancing at its finest.
The highlights for me were:
1. There was Jamaican food everywhere!
It’s a pet peeve of mine how Americanized the meal options are at most resorts. Isn’t food one of the best ways to experience another country’s culture? It’s sad that many tourists are not going to leave the resorts, and with Coronavirus they can’t leave the hotels now anyway, so at least let them get to taste the food! Grand Palladium didn’t disappoint. You could get curry goat, brown stew chicken, jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish, callaloo and mackerel rundown at buffet daily. They also had a handcart with coconuts and guineps picked from the property for refreshments by the pools. If you wanted specialty foods like Asian or Indian, you could get it at their specialty restaurants. My favorite specialty restaurant was Sumptuori, this Asian restaurant where I had sushi for the first time as an appetizer, and then fried ice cream for dessert. The fried ice cream was the real kind (pictured below). Vanilla ice cream battered and deep fried, not the anti-griddle nonsense these popular fried ice cream eateries across Jamaica serve.
2. Their bathrooms were perfect
They looked exactly like how I want my dream bathroom to look in the future with lovely lighting, a rain showerhead and large jacuzzi.
3. They boast having the largest pool on the island
Yes, I agree that they’re right. I’ve never seen a pool this huge and I felt happy just looking at it.
The only things I didn’t like were the bug paintings in the room (found that choice of decor very strange considering many people dislike bugs), the fact that the waterslides were for the kids only and that the beach was very rocky. I understand that the beach is located on a protected reef so they can’t do anything about that. Perhaps our government shouldn’t have allowed a hotel to own a beach with a protected reef either but that’s another story.
For a more detailed review and video of Grand Palladium, check out my friend’s vlog on her new YouTube channel, Just Nella. Grand Palladium is a hotel I would recommend.
It’s interesting though that Jamaican hotels and attractions are putting out more and more deals and discount packages to appeal to locals when their focus has usually been on tourists. What an interesting turn of events! You could either choose to carry feelings and boycott or make use of the opportunity and see several places you may not have been able to afford previously. I chose the latter.
Continue keeping safe and making responsible decisions as best as you can. This pandemic will be with us for a while yet, as Jamaica just surpassed 10,669 cases with 251 deaths and counting (Figures on November 28, 2020). Wear your mask, wash your hands and sanitize, stay out of public places or away from other people as much as you can Do your best to stay healthy so even if you contract it, you recover or even remain asymptomatic. That means taking all your medications if you have a chronic illness like asthma, diabetes and hypertension, eating sensibly, exercising and getting lots of rest– something this job prevents me from doing while I try to take care of people who don’t always take the best care of themselves. Working through pandemics and disasters however is something we all signed up for.
Thanks for stopping by! ‘Til next time.
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Adventures from Elle is a blog about experiencing the best life has to offer on a budget, curated by Rochelle Knight. Her adventures are mostly in Jamaica, occasionally abroad.
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