Since I live with people who are at high risk for a bad outcome if they contract COVID-19, I have appointed myself “Chief Forager” for the household. If we need something, I’m the one who’s out there trying to find it. This covers grocery shopping, fuel buying, medicine gathering and a host of other tasks.
Thinking about how NOT to bring COVID-19 back home when I’ve been out in public has been quite the adventure. I’ve got a pair of “outside shoes” that get worn everywhere outside my house, which I take off in the garage as soon as I get home. I’ve got a couple of sets of clothes that also go only from the outside world to my home laundry room and then back on if I need to run errands. I’ve got a special ball cap that lives in a sunny spot to make sure it absorbs lots of disinfecting UV rays. I’ve even got a special area in the kitchen where I put anything I bring home, like groceries or household supplies, and clean it safely with a diluted bleach solution in a spray bottle (see these CDC guidelines on how to make it).
And if anyone has seen me out of my house in the past two months, it was from behind a black facemask that covers from above my nose to below my chin. I even make an effort to smile continuously behind the mask, hoping some of it will get through, even if it’s just from my eyes! I miss being able to use those facial cues to communicate to my friends and neighbors. I’ve got four or five of these masks to wear when I go out, and as soon as I go home, they go straight from my face to the washing machine. On the good side of mask-wearing, I had no idea how susceptible I was to allergens this time of year, and wearing the mask when I’m edging or cutting the grass has really helped me feel better! Small blessings.
I grocery shop once a week. As you can imagine, to feed three of us for a week, I go with a pretty long list. I’m so impressed and appreciative of the folks working in the grocery stores and drug stores. On my most recent trip, I was able to find just about everything I needed , and for scarce items (ricotta cheese, anyone?), the store employees were doing the best they could with what they had. All the staff wore masks, wiped everything down and were really trying to keep us safe. They had even put directional indicators in all the aisles and stickers on the ground so all the shoppers could see how to maintain social distancing. They created a simple but very slick system to help us feel safe while running essential errands.
As you can see, I’ve put a lot of thought and a lot of elbow grease into these things. Unfortunately, not everyone appears as worried about these hard-working employees and fellow community members as I am.
C’mon! What’s that about?
I recently went to two grocery stores in the same day (STILL no ricotta cheese!). And in both stores, I saw fewer masks on customers than I’ve seen in a long time. I saw them sidling up close to store employees to ask them questions, getting right in their faces. I saw customers ignoring the directional arrows and stickers for social distancing, and I repeatedly had people coming straight at me. In other words, I saw a lot of people neglecting their fellow shoppers and store employees who are trying to keep everyone healthy while still serving us. And, several of those people, like my own family members, might have chronic conditions or immune system issues that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. It was dang disappointing.
C’mon! Can’t we do better?
I’m finding myself even more worried about what’s going to happen now that our state will enter Phase 1 of relaxing stay-at-home restrictions. Will we all let our guards down? All the COVID-19 forecasting models health officials and others have put forth predict a quick resurgence of cases if we don’t reopen the economy with some restrictions in place and with all of us still practicing social distancing. I understand why people are anxious to get back to their usual activities, especially those whose ability to work was interrupted by staying at home. But, we need to balance the desire to do what we want with the price of not following restrictions. And, we all need to follow common-sense health guidelines and adopt some new habits, no matter how odd or inconvenient we may think they are.
There are still more than a thousand people in our state who are hospitalized with severe symptoms from COVID-19, and about 150 of those are on ventilators. COVID-19 is still killing people, and it’s way too early to stop taking this health threat seriously, in my opinion.
C’mon! Think of Your Loved Ones!
Here’s the thing: COVID-19 hits hardest the people who are over 60, or diabetic, or who have high blood pressure. So, let me ask you this: Do you have any diabetics in your family? Any people with high blood pressure? Anyone over 60? I’m betting you do, especially since Louisiana has had some of the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease in the country since before COVID-19. And I’d like to see us continue to watch out for those folks – and for other people’s at-risk loved ones.
I’m not proposing we keep our economy shut down. Nothing like that. BUT, we need to make sure we reopen in a way that doesn’t trigger a big resurgence of the virus, and we all need to be mindful of what we’re doing and how we do it, so we’re not spreading illnesses. Health officials say they still don’t fully understand how the novel coronavirus spreads, so all we know and have to go on is that it does spread. Easily. Quickly. Unexpectedly. I’m confident medical scientists will develop an effective vaccine to protect us from COVID-19, but that is at least several months away.
C’mon! We can do this!
I’m not trying to be preachy. I personally know how aggravating it is to live with your guard up all the time. But I’m asking all of you, as Straight as I can make it, to keep watching out for your fellow Louisianians and follow the rules. Be courteous and use common sense. Straight Talk is, life WILL come back to some semblance of normal. We just can’t rush it.