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Coronavirus in paradise: Impact of COVID-19 felt by Nora native who now lives in Brazil

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NORA–Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is far from the rural landscape of Jo Daviess County, Warren High School graduate Mack Hill has called the Brazilian metropolis home for nearly four years and sees Rio in a new light with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the South American country.

Hill moved to Rio in July 2016 in the midst of the Summer Olympics. He’d met his husband, Bruno, while studying at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale. Bruno’s family resides in Rio. So Hill made the decision to move with Bruno to Rio to become acquainted with the life, culture and family. They currently reside in southern Rio which is very populated and where apartments are more prevalent.

Hill works as a private English teacher. He gives classes to people who need English for their professions, for school or for traveling abroad. The classes are typically held in the home of the student, at an office during lunch, or before or after their workday.

Hill also teaches English classes online to Chinese children through a Chinese company. Hill finds that a fun aspect to his routine.

“I have actually started working more with them since I have cancelled most of my classes, with a few exceptions of doing class through Skype,” said Hill.

Hill said that they are fortunate because Bruno is capable of working from home for his job, so neither has to venture out for their careers. Hill said that many Brazilians also have the capability to work from home.

Coronavirus has changed the way of life for Brazilians as it has in the United States. With over 1,500 cases in Brazil and nearly 30 deaths, the numbers haven’t reached the magnitude that they have in the U.S., but many are taking precaution similar to those that have been taken in other countries.

“I do know some companies are still requiring their employees to come into work, but even that I feel may come to a halt soon,” said Hill.

The government of Brazil is taking precautionary measures including face masks to be worn by all hospital care workers and making sure that hospitals have extra beds for patients. The Brazilian government is also working to make more tests available. Due to the long process of test returns, many are being monitored by their physicians via telephone for at least 48 hours.

The flu vaccine is also being offered early as they are headed out of summer.

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“There have been few who think the measures are a little bit over-exaggerated, but in general people and government workers are taking this seriously,” said Hill. “Within the past week social isolation has become a top priority for everyone.”

Hill said people in Brazil are trying to spread as much information about the virus as they can and have been informing others about how fast the virus can spread.

“People have posted on their Instagrams or Facebook videos and little pieces of information stressing the importance of staying home, using hand sanitizer and washing their hands,” said Hill.

Other important pieces of information that have been sent out to people via social media includes having people go straight to the shower or to wash their clothes when they come home and to avoid gathering in large groups.

Hill said that gyms, dine-in restaurants and other public gathering areas have been prohibited. Areas have also shut down beaches and parks with security patrols being the norm in areas that are typically filled with people, including the famous Copacabana Beach.

Hill said that typically with the beautiful weather of the past two weeks people would be flocking to the beach and trying to leave work early to spend their early evenings at the park. However, he said the general public has been staying home and have been concerned about leaving their home.

“People are trying to minimize the spread of the virus,” said Hill. “Tests and masks are limited so medical professions are saying that if you have light symptoms to stay at home, only go to the hospital if your symptoms start becoming concerning.”

Life in Brazil and the United States are very similar in that both have seen mass panic buying.

“Everyone was out buying food for the next month, along with extra hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol,” said Hill. “Food delivery apps have become people’s best friends as they have had several promotions these past few days. Some delivery employees do request to meet them at the entry of the resident’s building in order to avoid more contamination.”

Even at this time, Brazilians have found ways to protest against their thoughts on the government and have been organizing window protests called panelacos. The protests are against Jair Bolsonaro who is not well-liked by many in urban areas or in the middle class. People go to their windows and bang on their pots and pans for 15-30 minutes at 8:30 p.m.

Hill says he has fallen in love with his new home and the people of the country and that the beauty of Brazil has been breathtaking.

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