Read: COVID-19 is upending parents’ birth plans
Spain has been on lockdown for a week. At least 1,350 people have died here. And nearly 25,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, 1,612 of whom are in intensive care. Spain is currently the fourth-hardest-hit country in the world, behind China, Italy, and Iran, and despite Spain’s advanced and affordable health-care system, the coronavirus could mean disaster.
Police in Spain now have the authority to question, fine, and arrest people if they don’t abide by strict lockdown orders. In Barcelona, Gaudi’s towering Sagrada Família, normally teeming with eager tourists, is eerily empty. The city’s sandy, once-bustling beaches are deserted. Outside grocery stores, some of the few places open, people quietly queue, graciously accepting the plastic gloves handed out by employees. At my local pharmacy, also still open, the pharmacist handed me a flimsy cloth mask when I told her I was pregnant. They had run out of medical masks days ago, and health professionals don’t have enough. “Put a menstrual pad inside,” she said, smiling, to help filter the air.
I can no longer freely walk off my morning sickness (or rather, all-day sickness) in the park, go to prenatal yoga classes, or grab lunch with a doula or a friend to calm my worried pregnant mind. Though difficult, to be sure, I am grateful for these emergency measures Spain has implemented. While I am otherwise healthy, I was born with a rare metabolic condition called medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, which, in short, means my body struggles to burn stored energy for survival. I survive mostly on my last meal, and live a pretty normal life. But in illness, my body has to work even harder to keep up. If my body can’t keep up, I could die. My MCAD, coupled with pregnancy, which means I’m slightly immunocompromised, likely puts me in the high-risk category—though research on pregnancy and COVID-19 is scarce.
Self-isolation and social distancing will save lives. I believe it could save mine.
Read: Coronavirus risk doesn’t stop at your front door
Lately, I have been scrolling through Instagram and wondering why friends and acquaintances in the United States are still going to parties, lounging in the sun at crowded pools, and living their life as if the coronavirus won’t disrupt it. Millions of Americans might need hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and hospitals are unlikely to have enough beds or ventilators. The U.S. could soon see infection levels as high as those in Italy, where doctors face the impossible choice of deciding whom to save, because they simply cannot save them all.
The other day, as my husband and I sat at my doctor’s office eagerly awaiting my first prenatal scan, I overheard a secretary talking on the phone with a pregnant woman who had called, frantic. She had all the symptoms of COVID-19, and she didn't know what to do. The flustered secretary told her not to come to the hospital, to instead call the government coronavirus hotline. But that hotline has been overwhelmed; too many people are calling in. I bit my lip to avoid crying, instead trying to focus on the thought of my baby's heartbeat, which I prayed we'd hear a few minutes later. We did, and I felt a moment of relief.