I keep hearing, reading, and using the word crazy (as in, these crazy times). The word crazy feels right because almost nothing feels normal.
Like many of the people who are fortunate to have a job that can be done remotely, I have been working at home for nearly two weeks.
There have been many beautifully sunny days. I look out my window and have this odd feeling. I think to myself, “How can there be such a menace looming on such a beautiful day?” It feels a bit like a horror movie, in this case the disease is the monster, waiting to jump out at me. (That doesn’t stop me from leaving the house for a daily walk.)
I often think back to a day at the end of February when I was coming back from a business trip in Austin. it was during that trip we started hearing about washing our hands and not touching our faces.
Understanding almost nothing compared to what we have learned now, I said to my friends, as we walked through the airport, “If we are all going to get the disease, I would like to get it soon and get it over with.”
For two weeks after that, I continued to not worry about getting the disease. My main health concern was for my parents, who are in their 80s.
Then I learned the importance of social distancing to slow the spread and flatten the curve. If we don’t flatten the curve, we could overwhelm our healthcare system. So, I adopted all the recommended social distancing habits.
Social distancing can be confusing because most of us feel 100% well. However, we can have this diseases for a while without any symptoms – perhaps even having a case so mild we never realize we had it at all.
Recently I read that there are quite a few very bad cases (or worse) for people under 60 (I am 57), which made me realize I shouldn’t feel so invincible. Even some young adults have come down with cases that have required hospitalization and possibly permanent damage (or worse). That made me worry about my kids, all in their mid-to-late 20s.
Meanwhile, the stock market has been tanking. This has been distressing for many people.. For those who don’t need the money soon, most experts recommend leaving the money in the market and waiting for it to eventually bounce back. But not everyone has the stomach to deal with the wild swings and precipitous declines the market has been experiencing.
And more directly, many people have lost their jobs. This is creating extreme hardships.
A friend sent me an article wondering why we have to shut down everything and do such damage to individuals and the economy versus having the most vulnerable people (people over 60 and those with other medical conditions) self-quarantine.
That’s a tough sell. Fear of personal and societal economic calamity is a huge motivator, but fear for health and life is an even bigger motivator.
This disease moves incredibly fast and the changes to our lives have come faster than anything most of us have experienced. When we look back at what life was like a week ago, the amount of change seems like a month’s worth. Or more. And that makes it feel like time is crawling.
I am being realistic about this disease and while I have no idea where this is all going, I am also being optimistic – because that’s how I am. I gravitate to articles that make me feel better about the situation, such as the following ones.
From an article by a favorite author of mine, Atul Gawande, as summarized by Axios: Gawande is a staff writer for The New Yorker who continues to work as a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is out with a hopeful piece about lessons that Singapore’s and Hong Kong’s success is teaching us about the pandemic…the “fact that these measures have succeeded in flattening the covid-19 curve carries some hopeful implications” for the U.S.:
One is that this coronavirus, even though it appears to be more contagious than the flu, can still be managed by the standard public-health playbook: social distancing, basic hand hygiene and cleaning, targeted isolation and quarantine of the ill and those with high-risk exposure, a surge in health-care capacity (supplies, testing, personnel, wards), and coördinated, unified public communications with clear, transparent, up-to-date guidelines and data.
Our government officials have been unforgivably slow to get these in place. We’ve been playing from behind. But we now seem to be moving in the right direction, and the experience in Asia suggests that extraordinary precautions don’t seem to be required to stop it.
Those of us who must go out into the world and have contact with people don’t have to panic if we find out that someone with the coronavirus has been in the same room or stood closer than we wanted for a moment. Transmission seems to occur primarily through sustained exposure in the absence of basic protection or through the lack of hand hygiene after contact with secretions.
Next Draft is a newsletter I get five days a week. Curator/writer Dave Pell has gone to seven days a week during this crisis. I found this very long article about food safety excellent and very helpful. A few excerpts:
According to multiple health and safety organizations worldwide, including the CDC, the USDA, and the European Food safety Authority, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging. Previous coronavirus epidemics likewise showed no evidence of having been spread through food or packaging. The fact that every person eats multiple times a day and thus far no link has been found between eating and viral clusters is strong evidence that no such link exists.
(That said…) A good rule of thumb is to treat anything that comes into your home from outside, whether food, mail, or other people, as potentially contaminated and act accordingly. Wash your hands after bringing it home, transfer to clean containers and/or sanitize packaging when possible, and wash your hands before, during, and after cooking.
The article also has ways you can keep yourself safe at the supermarket.
With all of the challenges we are facing, I urge everyone to focus on self-care. I have been taking a long walk with my wife nearly every day (it was raining and miserable out two days ago). We have had several virtual dinners with family and friends using Zoom or FaceTime. My daughters told me they are taking on-line exercise classes. My friend is taking daily, on-line yoga classes.
My wife and I are eating more healthfully than we normally do – and we are already health-conscious eaters. I worry that people who don’t eat well are eating worse than they normally do. Please do not let that be you. Please use this time as an opportunity to make new positive habits. You may have already adopted new habits such as working at home, social distancing, and not going out other than for essential trips. Please use this time as an opportunity to make some positive eating and exercise habits.
I loved this take on why we should be optimistic we will find a solution to this problem (hopefully sooner than later)… For the first time in human history, the entire world is focused on one problem.
We are all in this together, we just need a bit of space. So, I love a suggestion I heard, to think of “social distancing” as “spacious solidarity”.
Similarly, in closing, I share the following, from an email I received, from the wonderful Lama Surya Das, about staying connected with each other:
Humans are social animals, and coronavirus threatens those connections. Human beings evolved to feel safest in groups, and as a result, we experience isolation as a physical state of emergency. If stress is a certain pathway by which fear and loneliness damages health, then even beyond its direct dangers, coronavirus is a dual threat and anxiety can spread like a pathogen.
The physical retreat and isolation which is necessary from a medical point of view, does not mean we are really separated nor alone. We are all alone together.
Stay safe and well!