One week down, who knows how many weeks to go.
The timing of California's order totally messing with my grocery shopping plans - I'd planned to make what I hoped would be my last grocery run for two weeks early Friday morning. My Google maps data indicated that would be a relatively empty time in the shop. But when the order came, I knew there would be another run on the shops (like there was after the schools closed) and decided to go that night. The grocery store is ~2 minutes from my house, so I'd say I got there within 10 minutes from when the order was announced. When I arrived, the shop was pretty empty - it was easy to stay several feet away from other shoppers. When I left, there was a crowd. I got some fruit and veggies, which I had not been able to get last week. The produce section was well stocked. But this week, I couldn't get Pumpkin's lactose-free milk. Or butter (or margarine). Or eggs. Or juice. Or pasta. Or bread. Or flour. Or bagels. And of course, no paper products of any kind.
I don't know how we get out of this mass panic/hoarding response. I actually don't even know how much is mass panic/hoarding, and how much is people trying to buy a little more to limit the number of times they have to go to the shops. My husband also pointed out that a bunch of people who probably usually eat out most meals are now buying from the shops so that is probably also messing things up.
Despite all the shortages, we have enough food that we will be able to wait a couple weeks before shopping again. My decision to start slowly stocking up back in February (which felt a bit silly at the time) turns out to have been a good one. The person who is going to suffer the most is my lactose-intolerant Pumpkin, who likes a bowl of cereal with her lactose-free milk every morning. We'll run out of that this week. I bought some rice milk for her to try (almond milk was also cleared out), but she's skeptical. Last week when I couldn't get her milk, I bought some toaster waffles. I can make bread and she likes toast. She'll be OK, but I was hoping to let my kids eat their normal food as much as possible.
Anyway, let's have some links.
Here's some advice about how to safely grocery shop right now. And here is a post by a virologist about how to decontaminate things you've bought. Figuring out how many of the more extreme steps to take is the hard part. I wear cotton gloves while shopping. Cotton because I'm saving my small supply of vinyl and latex gloves (which I always keep on hand, thanks to some earlier experiences with norovirus) in case anyone gets sick. Cotton won't work if I touch something wet, but I'm not touching anything wet. Also, I learned good glove technique in grad school so I feel reasonably confident I can wear them without making things worse. Gloves on triggers a habit to be aware of where my hands are at all times. My husband never worked in a lab to learn that habit, and opted to go the "hand sanitize often" route when he went shopping last week. I am sure you can find an online tutorial about glove technique if you want one, but most of what I was taught for the situation where you're wearing gloves to protect yourself (as opposed to protecting your sample from you) boils down to: assume your gloves are contaminated as soon as you put them on. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE.
My process is to put the gloves on as I go into the store. NOT TOUCH MY FACE while in the store. Take the gloves off before opening my car door. Get in and immediately hand sanitize (we have plenty of hand sanitizer, also because of earlier experiences with norovirus). Go home, wash my hands thoroughly. Unload the groceries. Wipe down any plastic with a paper towel soaked in household cleaner, which I change frequently. Put everything away. Wash my hands thoroughly. Clean all counter tops and cupboard doors with household cleaner. Wash my hands thoroughly. Change out of my "going to the shops clothes" and put them straight in the wash pile. Shower.
If you're concerned enough to take measures, you should read the two links above as well as this article from Laurie Garrett that I linked to earlier and make your own decisions about what level of precautions you need. My process is by no means perfect, but it was what I settled on as sustainable and yet still risk-reducing.
I haven't been wearing a mask, but will start doing so, partly because none of us can be sure we aren't infected and so it is nice to try to block the spread of any germs we have. Back when it became obvious we'd be cleaning our own house for awhile, I ordered some cloth masks to help me block the dust (which inflames my asthma). Those arrive Monday. I need to look through our fire/earthquake "go bag" and check what masks I have in there. I think they are N95, bought based on recommendations about how to protect asthmatic lungs during fire season. If they are, I will set them aside to donate to my local hospital if our county has a shortage (right now we do not). Here's one of several articles from experts pushing back on the "don't wear a mask" advice. But don't wear a medical mask, and definitely not a N95, unless you are instructed to do so by your doctor.
If you'd like a better understanding of the results of the early clinical trials on potential COVID-19 treatments, Derek Lowe has provided a nice write up. Click back and forward to read more of his posts about the situation.
If you want a summary of the scientific data about why this particular coronavirus is causing so much trouble, Ed Yong has a good one.
This article by Atul Gawande about preventing spread of coronavirus in health care settings is encouraging. Yes, it was a terrible wasted opportunity that we didn't ramp up production of masks and other PPE (as well as ventilators) in January. There were many, many failures in the Trump administration and elsewhere. I am very angry about that. But that article made me feel less despondent about our chances.
This Atlantic article by two public health experts should also give us hope. It feels like we are in a never-ending lockdown, but there is a way out of it even without a vaccine. I don't trust the Trump administration to lead us there, but State Governors and public health systems are starting to fill the gap. That makes me think it will take longer than it should, but we'll get there.
This op-ed by anti-Trump Republican operated Stuart Stevens is an honest reflection about how we got here and although it won't change any minds, it made me feel better to read it.
Here's where I am at: our Federal government failed. We'll need to find out why later, although I think we can all guess the broad strokes of it. Our state and local governments are stepping up in some places, but not in others. I happen to live in a place where the state and local governments are stepping up, for which I am grateful. We're facing some critical shortages. People are trying to fill the gaps. You have probably seen the articles and tweets about distilleries making hand sanitizer. Fashion houses, theater seamstresses, home crafters, and more are stepping up to make masks. Big businesses are starting to respond and ramp up their production of things, too. We should have gotten into an "all hands on deck" response mode faster, but we lacked good leadership. We're getting there now.
I can't fix any of the mistakes that were made, and I don't have any special skills to offer to the response. The best thing I can do now is stay home and keep my little family healthy, both physically and mentally. I can look for ways to help people in my community who are losing income. I can reach out to friends remotely so that we can all feel better. And that's going to have to be enough.
In slightly less coronavirus-y news:
One thing this lockdown is showing is just how much our activities pollute the air we breathe. See, for instance, our SoCal air which is remarkably clean right now. This has been helped by getting some rain this week, but still:
It is probably too much to hope that we'll learn from that and change our behaviors when we get back to whatever the new normal will be, but if we do, we'll need mass transit. Matt Yglesias makes the case that we need to bail out our mass transit systems now.I am just stunned — absolutely stunned — by the air quality levels in Southern California right now. pic.twitter.com/hxf8CaRWFf— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) March 18, 2020
we are entering an era of unprecedented recipe substitutions— Shay Spence (@chezspence) March 19, 2020
This made me laugh:
Here's your bunny for the week:wombat in the washer pic.twitter.com/VKQfp8ZPDr— ralph waldo cybersyn (@atomicthumbs) March 19, 2020