It is early April, 2020, and most everyone is self-quarantining, social distancing, and for the most part, being careful about catching the dreaded coronavirus called CoVID-19.
Regular folks are catching this virus, the symptoms of which are not pretty. How can you avoid it?
Allow me to preface this article by saying I am not a medical professional and I am not providing medical advice. But I am a bit of a germaphobe, and my mild paranoia might be able to help someone who’s never had to think too much about the impact of germs. Maybe even save their life.
Why Social Distancing?
The short answer is that the virus can be transmitted in two ways: through the air, and on surfaces. The airborne transmission is why we have the mandate to stand six feet away. If someone next to you happens to sneeze, cough, or even speak with some emphasis, there are little droplets that are emitted from the mouth or nose that can travel up to six feet. So, sorry cell phone guy, your conversation is not necessary in public in the first place, and you’re definitely gonna wanna keep your distance in case you’re infected and not even know it, and happen to laugh hard at your conversation and a little spittle heads my way.
And it goes without saying that if you’re already sick with symptoms of sneezing or coughing, seriously - stay the heck at home.
This virus is so insidious that you could unknowingly get infected and not show symptoms for 14 days. Anyone that thinks they’re fine should still not go out until this quarantine period is over. Period.
It’s what’s on the surface
Yes, the airborne transmission is a big one, but then it’s where those infected sneeze or cough droplets land that matters. Viruses are found in water droplets, but once they land they can live for quite some time. I’ve heard varying reports on different surfaces, like the virus can survive on cardboard for 24 hours, on plastic for 3 days, on metal for 5 days up to two weeks (more details here). I can’t confirm these numbers, but suffice to say that it can live a long time so be ultra cautious about everything you touch and what you’re bringing into your home.
Keep it outside the door or kill it first
I now have rules about what comes into my home. Mail, packages, groceries, take out food, and anything that comes to my doorstep either gets quarantined in the garage or wiped down with antibacterial spray before it enters my house. I went to Target for supplies and the non-perishables like cans and plastics sat in my garage for three days. And even then the non-essentials are kept in a storage room. No need to bring a trace of the virus inside. The perishables like meat and produce got a thorough spray-down with an antibacterial spray and towel.
A little much?
I’ll pause to acknowledge what some might see as paranoia. It might seem that way, but I rarely get sick because I’m cautious about what I touch. See, EVERYTHING you touch is a potential threat. And hey, if it keeps me alive, I don’t care what name I’m called. I've gotten sick before and reverse-engineered how I caught the bug. I've been in plenty of public restrooms and saw some dude flush the toilet inside a stall and walk right past the sink and soap. In a lot of ways, people are pretty damn gross, or at best unaware of the germs spread around.
I’m confident things will settle down and this virus will die off and things will get back to some sense of normalcy. Until then, let’s be careful together. What do I do?
I’ll use that grocery trip as an example; I consider everything I touched. The grocery bag that the cashier touched. The stock person that touched the can. The unseen customer who touched the apple and then put it back. They could all have been infected. You almost need to consider everyone a transmitter. Not intentionally, of course, but germs travel far and wide, and as I mentioned above, you could be infected and not show any symptoms for two weeks. Consider everything that’s outside your house has been infected. It’s probably not, but pretend that it is, like a game. Humor me, at least for the next month, and let’s play this game together. We’ll call it a tie and we both win.
Every move you make
Back to the grocery trip example. Say you’re leaving the store. Then consider everything you touched after that - your keys, your glasses, the car door, your steering wheel, the shifter, the blinker. The door handle, the refrigerator door, the cabinet door, the faucet handle. You almost need to treat yourself like a surgeon going into the operating room. I’ve taken to either having my wife open the door for me and I march straight to the sink to wash my hands for at least 20 seconds with sudsy soap, or I’ll use a napkin or towel to shield what I touch until I’m able to wash my hands.
Going out? The business’ door handle. The shopping cart. The pin pad for credit cards. The pen you sign with. The gas pump handle. I know, it’s a new awareness of what you touch. But you need to think of these things to stay safe.
And for gosh’s sake, DO NOT touch your face! Rubbing your eyes is the worst thing you could do. So no more fingers near the eyes, nose, mouth… or even your skin after touching some foreign substance. Deal? The virus enters through mucous membranes like mouth and nose. I know, you had an itch, or something in your eye. Use a tissue or your shirt instead. Think of it like a game of hot lava like we had as kids. You’re just not allowed to use your hands the same way for a while.
Oh, I almost forgot about your phone. You know, the thing most of us touch multiple times per hour. That gets sprayed down anytime I’ve been out. Same with computer keyboards and mouse. Are we having fun yet?
Yeah, it really does. We just have to tough it out to keep safe. Mentally, it’s not easy. Not connecting with people and staying inside your four walls can create a sense of cabin fever. But you are allowed to go outside for walks or bike rides. You can go for a drive around the block if you just need a change of scenery.
I like to reframe situations sometimes though. So instead of saying “I’m stuck inside,” say “I’m safe inside and get to enjoy my safe home.” And look, Anne Frank lived in a cramped attic for over a year to avoid getting killed. Another month or whatever with TV and music and dormant hobbies at your fingertips is more than manageable.
We’re going to get through this. Things may be different on the other end. We’re going to lose some people we know and love. It will be hard. But we are survivors and strong people. Lean on each other. We’re all in this together. Take the precautions I’ve listed above as you wish, and we’ll both live to tell our grandkids about it.
Stay safe, stay strong, and be well.