It has been nearly a year and a half since we have had heavy restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 virus. This has changed everything at the Center. All our activities are controlled by public health mandates and government restrictions. Although the country is receiving vaccines, many restrictions are still in place.
When the pandemic first hit the city, we were told to close all services such as pre- and post-natal care, infant and child growth and development checkups, regular doctor’s visits, etc. All educational programs, such as Lamaze classes, were put on hold. We were allowed to attend only emergencies and deliveries. The laboratory was permitted to remain open for emergency use. Women arriving for delivery had to be screened first for COVID-19; if positive, they had to be sent to the designated facility that was opened for these patients. Those testing negative could remain here for delivery but were to be discharged as soon as possible.
How We Adjusted
Social distancing was required. Gatherings were banned and no one was permitted to wait inside. Plastic chairs and a canopy for sun protection were provided outside for patients waiting to be seen. All sidewalks and areas were treated regularly with alcohol, and the chairs were constantly wiped with alcohol. All personnel had to wear protective garb provided by the Center along with face masks and shields. Gloves were used for any patient contact. PPE costs went sky high for us!
No private cars were permitted to circulate, and public transportation was restricted. Curfews were in place, at first from 4 pm until 6 am, and changed gradually. At present, curfew is from midnight until 4 am.
The Toll Has Been Steep
As usual, the poor in Chimbote are affected the most. Since transportation is reduced, many are unable to get to the Center for care. Likewise, the staff cannot reach them via home visits without public transportation. At this time, it is uncertain when the home visit program will be able to resume. The poor have very challenging lives under normal circumstances, and this pandemic has made everything much harder.
Of course, the virus affected many of our personnel. Teresa Salinas, our director, died from COVID-19 early in the pandemic. Several of our personnel were themselves affected by the virus, along with their family members, which has complicated staffing at the Center. Sadly, numerous staff members have lost loved ones; 84 of their family members have succumbed to this virus as of August 2021.
Vaccines Have Finally Arrived
Thankfully, in March of this year, the first vaccines reached the provinces. Here in Chimbote those working in health care facilities were the first to be eligible. Before the end of March and early into April our personnel were covered with two vaccine doses. After essential groups were covered, with each new arrival of vaccines (mostly the Sinopharm vaccine from China, but now also Pfizer), the public health officials began distribution to the general public, starting with those aged 80 and up. Currently people aged 40 are now being vaccinated. There is little to no hesitancy to receive the vaccine in Peru. In fact, when vaccine shipments arrive, facilities are open 24/7 to accommodate the high demand.
How Things Are Today
The vaccine program has made a big difference in the number of cases. And as the number drops, restrictions change, but there are still restrictions in place. Anyone outside must be double-masked, and everyone is to maintain their distance. Stores and markets can only have a certain number inside at any given time.
Here at the Center, the Posta Medica (medical clinic) is open for almost complete services. The patients continue to wait outside. Our pre- and post-natal clinics are not open, but any women concerned about her pregnancy can be attended. The laboratory is functioning with full service and so is the ultrasound department. The infant and child development program still is not open. But since our childhood vaccine programs are functioning, the midwives are able to do exams while the children wait for their vaccinations. The Center attends between 800 to 1000 patients daily, but all are screened as they enter, temperatures taken, hands cleansed, and distance mandated.
The orphans we are caring for have been mostly isolated from all others at the Center and all outsiders. Those of school age attend lessons by Zoom. We have received two new orphans since the pandemic started, so we have 24 children here now.
Your Support Keeps Us Going
Everything has definitely changed, but the one thing that has remained stable — and deeply appreciated — is the support from our friends in Pittsburgh. Without you, we would never have been able to keep our doors open nor provide the necessary PPE materials that cut a hole in our budget. For this we will be forever grateful. The Bridge of Love and Hope was not affected by the virus, and our supporters have been steadfast… saving the Center for Social Works in so many ways. Thank you for everything.
If you would like to make a gift to support the mission, please go to our donation page or you may send a check to The Chimbote Foundation, 2900 Noblestown Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15205.