Why Wearing a Mask When You Travel to Latin America Is Important

Wearing a mask BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of BELatina.

With COVID-19 cases in the United States slightly decreasing, more and more people are thinking of traveling to other countries to continue working remotely or simply for a vacation. I get it — we are tired of being home and want to escape our remotely working reality. But even though our nation’s COVID-19 cases are declining, that doesn’t mean other countries’ rates are too.

According to the CDC, yes, the U.S. COVID-19 cases are decreasing. “The current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (37,147) decreased 28.8% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (52,156),” the agency explained.

However, it is highly encouraged for potential travelers to consider the protocols of the countries they are thinking of visiting — and recognize our own privileges.

It is still essential to wear a mask when and if you decide to travel. We may have the privilege of having free COVID-19 rapid at-home tests at our disposal for many months now, but other countries, such as those in Latin America, may not have the same luck. 

For example, when we were preparing for the Omicron surge with our free at-home rapid tests, those who live in Mexico City were not as fortunate. In fact, COVID-19 cases doubled, causing their hospitals to collapse. According to the Boston Globe, “since Jan. 3, occupancy levels have doubled to 58 percent, according to a federal database for public hospital availability that samples about one-fifth of all hospitals.” This is something to consider when looking up flights – not every country is at the same level of decrement, and every region seems to be moving at a different pace.

Like the United States, Latin American countries are also mostly fully vaccinated. According to the Congressional Research Service report of Jan. 21, 2022, the top three Latin American countries that are fully vaccinated based on an approximating percentage are Cuba with 86.22%, Chile with 88.57%, and Uruguay with 77.6%. 

Based on this same article, the bottom three Latin American countries to be fully vaccinated are: Paraguay with 43.22%, Venezuela with 40.71%, and Guatemala with 30.28%, as of Jan. 2022 (since this report, countries have increased a few percentages). To put the United States in perspective, nationwide, 65.8% of the population has been fully vaccinated. 

However, that still doesn’t stop the surges and the contagious aspect of COVID-19. Even with Argentina reporting a 75.37% complete vaccination in the Jan. 2022 report, they were one of the highest Latin American countries affected by the COVID-19 variant Omicron during their January summer season. 

Argentina also experienced a surge in hospitals. “The Omicron variant is driving a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Argentina and putting testing centers and primary care facilities under severe strain, although authorities have been reluctant to impose restrictions that would put a damper on the summer holiday period,” EFE reports. 

This is something to think about when potentially traveling and possibly causing a spread of the infection. Latin America may sound like a great getaway — especially in their high seasons – but would these countries be ready for potential COVID-19 infections? Should U.S. citizens be carrying the virus? It’s time to think about humanity and keep the masks on – it’s better not to risk the contagion.

The United States may be loosening its mask mandates, but that doesn’t mean other countries you visit are doing the same. As a part of the whole Latine society, we should also think of those who don’t have the privilege of escaping their country. 

Thinking of the upcoming summer, what if foreigners create a surge in the high season? I’m thinking of rural areas like the popular tourist spot Tulum’s outskirts, with less access to hospitals and technology. What will happen to these people should they experience an increment of COVID-related infection? What’s comforting in some ways is knowing that many people are vaccinated and would potentially be less contagious than last year. Still, even then, it’s something to consider. So, mask up! Think of others who are not as privileged as we are.