“Abuelita” Hugs By City Commissioner Rose M. Z. Gowen

Growing up in Brownsville my parents and grandmother made sure my sister and I learned “Hispanic” manners. I’ve been thinking about my parents and grandmother a lot these days, and remember well how I was told to always greet a relative or other person older than myself with a kiss and hug. If I forgot or did not notice someone enter the room I was reminded.

The huggable greeting is ingrained in who we are and as I grew up and traveled across the country, and beyond, I learned which cultures did not do that and which cultures had their own version of it. In France, it is not a one-sided kiss but a kiss on both cheeks. In other parts of the world such intimate forms of greeting are frowned upon.

Frankly, it is against our nature to stand or sit six feet away from the next person and to not give a kiss to a friend or family member …… not even a handshake. It honestly does not compute in our heads or in our hearts.

The COVID 19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. Social distancing is tough…..it is excruciating not to visit friends and family on a weekend, and nearly impossible not to gather for a celebration. We cannot even go to the grocery store without thinking how close we are to the next person in line.

All of the social distancing, sheltering-in-place, and re-wiring of lifestyle is vitally important. This is a virus the world has never seen before. It has taken over countries, and the places hardest hit are having to make tough decisions about how to prioritize the use of ICU beds, respirators, and other lifesaving equipment. Thousands are suffering, including a number of doctors, nurses, and health care workers who have been forced to make such unthinkable decisions, all while continuing to work with less than adequate protection for themselves (in some cases).

Here are some scientific facts. On average, every person infected with COVID 19 passes it on to two other people. The infection rate doubles every six days; if 10,000 people have it today, next week it will be 20,000. Many experts are concerned that 40-70% of Americans will ultimately be infected. These facts alone warrant our attention and every effort we can muster to practice social distancing, sheltering-in-place, and washing our hands!

We are all at risk, but our seniors and those with medical issues like hypertension, diabetes, and lung disease are at highest risk for severe disease and death. While most children may have only mild symptoms, they could be carriers and place those at risk at even higher risk of infection if they are not practicing social distancing.

Flatten the Curve means we need to slow the rate of infection to allow our healthcare system to provide the services that people will need without having to turn anyone away. If we do not Flatten the Curve, our healthcare system may be overrun.

I think our grandmothers would forgive us for not greeting each other with hugs. I think today they would say, “Mijita, I told you how important it is to wash your hands didn’t I? Andale!”

Together we can do this… Porque nuestra salud si cuenta!