Eleuthera is still beautiful. The water still shimmers its array of translucent blues and greens, the sand beach is still soft white with tiny specks of pink, and the verdant green palm trees still sway and rustle in the wind. But there’s an underlying unease in paradise. There’s a sense that nothing’s quite what it seems, and that you can’t trust anyone but your family and yourself. At least you hope you can trust your family and yourself. The coronavirus is now the welcoming agent in The Bahamas.
At first it wasn’t so bad. There were no Covid-19 cases in this island nation. It was widely believed that heat and sun slowed or maybe even stopped transmission. Bahamians kept working and tourists kept coming. Maybe there were fewer people than normal for early March in the bars and restaurants and on the beaches, but they were jovial crowds. Then one case was reported in Nassau, The Bahamas’ capital city. Airlines started reporting massive cancellations and no one wanted to fly. Then the one case became three cases in Nassau and misinformation was the norm. “I heard there were two cases in Palmetto Point” (on Eleuthera.) Hopefully that’s not true.
The Bahamians, normally a particularly good-natured lot, understand the gravity of the situation. They know there is no care anywhere other than in Nassau, 60 miles to our west and accessible only by boat or plane. If you get sick on Eleuthera there is a new small clinic that’s very good, but they’re certainly not set up to handle a pandemic. Hand sanitizer sits by every cash register in the small grocery stores that dot the island. If you talk to someone (and you usually don’t), both parties take a step backward first, then rush off to wash hands.
Now the Prime Minister has dictated that only essential businesses can remain open. Grocery stores, banks, not sure but we fervently hope liquor stores. If the apocalypse is coming I sure don’t want to address it sober. Tippy’s, the popular bar/restaurant next door to us is closing. Pineapple Fields, the boutique hotel across the street, is shuttering.
But amongst all this doom and gloom, tourists are still here. They’re still sunning on the beach and snorkeling. I saw one flying a kite today. It’s a strange dichotomy. On the one hand you have permanent residents like me and Bahamian nationals feeling the strain of closed businesses, lost jobs, and maybe most of all, fear. This contrasts sharply with the sun bathers. Maybe it’s safer here, maybe it’s not, but I don’t know how these people just merrily continue with their vacations. I have a hollow pit in my stomach all day everyday that sometimes makes me want to throw up.
I don’t know how long we’ll be here. Right now it does seem safer than the U.S. We have transportation lined up to take us back to Rhode Island when we want to go. Something’s going to have to nudge us that direction. Either a confirmed case of Covid-19 on Eleuthera or a potential closing of U.S. or Bahamian airspace would motivate us. We still cling to the hope that heat and sun slow transmission. We are well stocked here and probably could live for at least two months without visiting a store. We’ve got 68 rolls of toilet paper (I counted.) And this is, you know, paradise.