Coronavirus take 2: Who’s stupid and common sense measures no one talks about

Coronaviruses illustration/CDC/James Gathany
An illustration of the morphology exhibited by Coronaviruses. (Image Credit CDC, James Gathany)

Right now, no one seems to know if you can buy seeds to plant in Michigan. After protesters in North Carolina—reportedly in their cars with windows up—attracted the attention of the police department, officials made the situation a national issue by claiming protesting is “a non-essential activity.” Amid all this reportage we are missing common sense measures and we are witnessing what amounts to stupid.

President Donald Trump is delivering routine briefings broadcast on daily news. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is doing the same in a state so hard hit by the virus even the panhandlers have vanished from Manhattan where there are few passersby who might drop some cash.

Handwashing image from CDC
Photo: CDC

I ventured out to the grocery store last week here in North Florida. It was the first time I’d gone anywhere, other than a brief car ride just to get out of the house, since March 11. My daughter Rebecca had a solo show at Ragtime Tavern that night, and I went with her as is the custom. The place was busy, and she did a fantastic show. On the way home, I warned her it would likely be her last in-person show for awhile. I was right—the cancellations began the next morning, erasing a large amount of income for her and her bandmates.

Governors are scrambling, and so are various agencies in the federal government. Few of us have experienced anything like this in our lifetimes, even if we’ve dealt with hurricanes shutting things down temporarily.

Civil rights are being moved to the back burner right now, with some protesting and others saying they don’t care as long as what is done helps to stem the spread of the disease. We haven’t yet reached draconian measures like those allegedly taken in China. CBC-Radio Canada reported officials in Wuhan welded apartment doors shut to keep people inside to stem the spread of the disease many say began in the city’s wet markets.

Officials in the US, including in my home state of Florida, are doing all they can to slow the virus’ spread and save lives. Personally, I think we’re our own worst enemies right now. Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis hasn’t gone to the lengths Cuomo has, but we in Florida haven’t seen the deaths New York has either.

It seems to me we are missing some common sense options, and our gossipy, partisan legacy media appear incapable of thinking outside the political box.

For instance, we know nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to the spread of this virus. Ageing facilities, a very low margin in costs versus revenue, and indoor air quality contribute to this vulnerability. At one Virginia nursing home, 45 residents have died, reportedly from this virus. Virginia isn’t alone. If you do a search using the terms “nursing home deaths from Coronavirus,” you will see deaths in these facilities are a commonality across the country. This is not surprising. When you have a population of elderly people, often in poor health, in a dense situation, any virus will spread easily.

I wrote two different columns in an attempt to call attention to air quality in nursing homes and other facilities. While special filters do help keep air cleaner, the most robust option for keeping air cleaner is air purification. You need a special device for that. Few media outside the HVAC industry have even broached this subject although, indicating most of us have more common sense than media, air purifier sales are booming. Coronavirus or not, these purifiers will help improve health overall.

Individual choices can also make a big difference. When my husband and I were at the grocery, we used masks. I also took Clorox wipes in a small plastic bag. I took two small plastic bags to put over my hands while I shop—that’s also what I use when handling meat as I cook at home. Overall, it was a pleasant experience with shoppers maintaining distance, and I saved a lot more money than I have with delivery services. I also got the products I wanted with no problem instead of substitutions. I noticed all manner of people wearing masks, but one group in particular stood out for not wearing masks. Older people. My husband and I were perplexed about that because older people are supposed to be at higher risk. These folks reminded me of a saying my grandmother liked to apply—“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Right now one inconvenience for me is not being able to get my hair done. I can’t imagine being a hairdresser right now, having to deal with this, but it seems to me there might be a partial solution.

Why can’t hairdressers make house calls? If the hairdresser used a mask and the customer did, and if it’s just a dry cut where close proximity as in the shampoo process isn’t in play—why can’t those who are willing do this?

Same goes for retail. It makes no sense to me to deprive people of shopping for what some politico deems non-essential goods. We are a capitalistic society (technically). If you limit capacity, and people are willing to mask up, I do not see why we can’t do this.

Restaurants and bars could also operate at less than capacity, with ample social distancing. Options include disposable menus (or ordering via your phone app), to-go packages of condiments, and even disposable dinnerware.

Personally speaking I think density is key to the virus’ spread, and I’ve read that in a number of articles. Where you have large populations of residents on a small amount of property, packed public transit systems, and packed sidewalks, you have excellent conditions for Coronavirus to take up residence in more hosts.

Meanwhile, if employers are willing, let those for whom it’s appropriate work from home. This could apply to older workers, pregnant workers, or workers who have a suppressed immune system.

Most of us are taking steps to avoid catching the Coronavirus, an illness little understood at this point. The United States is a very diverse society, and I’m not talking about the political issue of skin color. I am talking housing, transportation choices, and age demographics. The president rightly drew heat yesterday for errant comments about the power of his office, but on the other hand, I applauded the media finally discovering the Tenth Amendment ignored for decades by different presidents and members of Congress.

Overall,  the work done at the federal level and in my home county and state has, in my opinion, been aimed at saving lives. However, most decisions about this virus and our response to it are best made at the state and local levels.

I’ve witnessed many people complaining the federal government didn’t act soon enough. I don’t feel that way. The last thing I want in the White House is an authoritarian who knee jerks at every crisis and completely throws civil liberties out the door.

In the end, our survival is largely up to us. If we do stupid things, we may pay a big price for it. We know the risks, and it is a good idea for those of us who are seniors to offset those risks as vigorously as possible.

Those older folks in the grocery store not wearing masks or some kind of face covering? The only word I can come up with is stupid.

Additional Reading

On the “ambiguous” executive order by Michigan governor at Mining Gazette

Coronavirus: Protesters in North Carolina at News Observer

(Kay B. Day/April 15, 2020)

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