The country – indeed the world – is in a mess. I’m writing on March 23, 2020, and the coronavirus has a strong foothold on humanity. It’s contagious, tenacious, and invisible, which makes it a hard thing to defend against. Those infected can spread it for days before they have any symptoms. The virus lives on surfaces for hours or sometimes days. It’s like the ultimate brain teaser: with some forethought, some science, and yes, some luck, you have a chance to escape this illness.
There is no vaccine. There is no treatment. If infected, there may be supports for you, but basically the disease will run its course. If you are strong enough, if you are lucky enough, if your case is mild enough, you will survive.
Starting at midnight, Michigan will be under a “Stay Home – Stay Safe” executive order by our governor. The order is set to run for three weeks – unless, of course, it needs to be amended.
In order to prepare for this essential lockdown, first I had to decide if I was going to accept isolation. I work for an “exempt business” which can continue to operate under this executive order, so I could continue to work. My work is done in a solitary office, some days I see no other staff the entire time I’m at work, and I almost never interact with the public. I walk through a public lobby when I arrive and again when I leave. My boss and I work opposite days, and we’re both borderline fanatics with wipes and hand sanitizer. Overall, it looks like a low-risk situation.
However, I also share a stairway and a breakroom with others. I handle papers, checks, money that have passed through many hands before getting to me. We receive deliveries from all over the State – and who’s to say those drivers, their boxes, and their paperwork are virus-free? The virus lives about 4 hours on cardboard. I haven’t heard how long it survives on paper, but both are similar surfaces and it seems like it would be close.
In the meanwhile, I am also the oldest employee at my employer’s business – well past the warning flag age for “seniors.” I’m recovering from having pneumonia last month. I’m diabetic, more red flags for surviving the coronavirus. I’m married to man who is now over age 70 and has a long, long list of pre-existing conditions, many of them respiratory in nature. Reading one list, the only thing that didn’t apply to his state of health was pregnancy. How could I risk bringing the virus home to him? The answer is… I can’t. Thank God for understanding employers.
After work yesterday (my last day of work for an indefinite time), I went to the grocery store. I shopped with the goal that it would be the last time I would be away from the house for the next three weeks, the duration of the governor’s stay-at-home order. I bought fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables for now, and canned, frozen, dehydrated goods for later. I bought half & half as a treat to use in our hot drinks during confinement, and later remembered that a dose of half & half to enrich powdered milk makes it a lot more palatable. Another means to avoid the grocery store.
I froze a few packages of cookies as well as some meat for later. Other things like fresh potatoes, citrus fruits, and certain vegetables will last for a while. I hid some bags of potato chips (from myself!) to be able to have them in a few weeks. We have flour and other ingredients so we can cook and bake. I always make up bread machine mixes ahead of time, so we have many in the freezer; we aren’t in danger of running out of bread. Overall, it looks like we’re in good shape. No hoarding – the only “last package” of anything I bought was dog treats, and there were plenty of other brands available.
We have a few simple goals for the duration: physically leave the house every day. Eat well enough. Sleep well enough. Waste as little as possible. Play with the dog. Exercise. Clean or organize something every day. Reach out to others, every day.
Wash your hands often. Wipe keyboards and doorknobs and light switches behind you. Pray. Do things and watch things on TV besides coronavirus news. Look for uplifting stories and funny memes, and share them. Help others to cope. Remember to take a deep breath. Know that you are loved, and share that love with others – from a socially acceptable distance.
(c) 2020, J. L.Cools