Walking the streets of Xalapa, Mexico, during the weekend, 21-year-old Cody Miller noticed fewer people wearing face masks, or "tapabocas", than last week.

"People do seem to be relaxing now," he said by e-mail Sunday. "Word is quickly spreading that the flu seems to be stabilizing."

Miller, a Messiah College student who grew up in Windsor Township, is studying at the University of Veracruz for the semester.

He has lived in the east-central Mexican city of Xalapa since February and is quick to point out he's far from areas with major swine flu outbreaks, such as Mexico City.

"I have heard four different people today in Xalapa use the word 'tranquila' (calm, still) to describe the general feeling of the city," he said.

Last week, most official buildings in town were closed, as well as the libraries and computer labs at his school. Teachers were assigning homework electronically.

Stores and markets remained open, but most people in town wore masks in the streets and suspended customary greetings that involve person-to-person contact, Miller said.

But at a get-together he attended Sunday, Miller noticed "about half of the 20 people there greeted each other with a kiss or handshake, which would not have happened a few days ago."

"Of course, the flu is still a main conversation piece, and people are still taking necessary precautions. Restaurants are emptier, the streets are emptier, and many people are still keeping themselves isolated -- but there is a clear lessening of tension.


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Miller has contacted family and friends to assure them he's healthy.

Steve Miller, Cody's dad, said he talked to his son online over a Skype connection Sunday.

"I was a little worried, but he's saying that they're making more of a deal out of it than it is," Steve said.

"I don't think he'd do anything out of the way to take an extra risk. . . . He said he doesn't know of anyone in his town with the flu."
771-2024; mburke@ydr.com

MEET CODY


Name: Cody Miller

Age: 21

Hometown: Windsor Township

School: Messiah College, where he is a junior majoring in psychology

Studying abroad in: Xalapa, Mexico, at the University of Veracruz