Friday, March 13, 2020

Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
By this point we've all heard about social distancing and flattening the curve. We know that events are being cancelled and schools are telling students not to leave for spring break, or to go home and do their learning online.  We've heard about the travel bans and we're all watching Italy. It's safe to say that a lot of people are scared and even more people are concerned.

I'm here to tell you that concern is warranted but fear is not. We are preppers, and we are ready for this. We all ought to have at least a month's worth of food, water and other supplies in our homes, which means we don't have to engage in panic buying. This is a bug-in event, and despite fears of "social disruption" it appears that there will be no disruption or loss of critical resources like water pressure, electricity, communications or emergency services, which will make this a lot easier than some of the disasters for which you've practiced. Unless you or a family member is immunocompromised or otherwise in a high-risk group, this is no worse than hunkering down for a Category 2 hurricane, or taking shelter in your basement during a tornado warning. It may be a little bumpy, but we'll all get through this as long as we follow appropriate recommendations.

If you or a loved one is at higher risk for infection, then things are a bit more complicated, but you can handle this. You know what you need to do to keep from infecting them/yourself, and social distancing right now is actually the best thing for them and for you. It is a drastic action that will hopefully be seen as an overreaction in later months, but a scenario where people go "This was all a big nothing" is actually our best case. To put it another way, think of this like carrying a gun for self-defense: you aren't afraid of being attacked or victimized, but you acknowledge the possibility exists and so you take adequate precautions.

Flattening the Curve
For sake of completeness, here are things you can do to minimize infection of yourself and others:
  • Wash your hands before touching your face, eating food, or interacting with the at-risk. Wash your hands after sneezing in them, using the toilet, or interacting with strangers. 

  • Practice social distancing by staying out of areas where a lot of people go (unless those areas are being cleaned regularly), avoiding mass gatherings (more than 10 people) and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
  • Use disinfectant wipes on things you must touch, such as door knobs, grocery carts, etc. If you're opening a package, either wipe it down or spray it with an aerosol before touching it, or wash your hands afterwards. (Or both.)
  • Sneeze or cough into the elbow of your non-dominant arm.
  • Avoid being around people who have been out of the country, or who are sneezing and/or coughing, or who have been in areas where COVID-19 is present. (As COVID-19 is highly contagious with a long incubation period, the answer to that last category could very well be "everywhere", which is why social distancing has been implemented.)
  • Wear masks if and only if you are sick (to prevent transmitting your illness to others) or if you are interacting with the immunocompromised or at-risk (to prevent infecting them if you are in the incubation period). 

Social Distancing
(Special thanks to my friend Cathy Madsen who wrote this for her Facebook wall earlier and who gave me permission to include this.)

If you are frustrated at the thought of social distancing -- not in the sense of  "How will I get access to essential services?" but rather " How long am I going to be stuck in this house?", here are a few ideas to help you get through it with your sanity intact:
  1. Downsize events and move them to your place. I guarantee that you can sanitize your house better than harried staff can sanitize a restaurant or event space. Your house could probably use a good cleaning anyway -- mine certainly does. 
  2. Take events outside if weather permits. Sunshine and fresh air will not cure you if you're sick, but it's harder for the viral particles to survive on surfaces exposed to the elements, especially ultraviolet light. As a bonus, movement outdoors is good for you and will help those feeling cooped-up (especially children) burn off some energy. 
  3. Order groceries and supplies to be delivered to your door or car-side pickup rather than shopping onsite. If you must shop onsite, try to pick less crowded times; many chain grocery stores are open until after 10 PM, and they are pretty sparsely attended at that hour. The same goes for Walmart and drug stores (CVS, Walgreens, etc). 
  4. Make a deal with another parent to swap days if you're stuck at home with young children. In an ideal situation they can entertain each other while you get some work done, and then the next day is your chance for peace and quiet.
  5. If you need restaurant food, call it in and go pick it up. Tip anyway, so that the employees can keep their jobs.
  6. The same goes for any businesses you want to support. The larger ones like Walmart or Home Depot have "find online and pickup in store" options, and smaller ones will be delighted to take your phone call and set stuff aside for pickup.
  7. If you are spiritually inclined, practice doing your devotions at home. Most traditions say you should be doing this anyway in addition to attending whatever service; now's the time to demonstrate your paying-attention skills.
Don't Forget Your Tribe
Just because we are distancing ourselves socially doesn't mean this is "everyone for themselves". We are an incredibly connected society, so check in on people by telephone or email or Facebook to see if they're all right. If you're healthy and they aren't, ask of there is something you can do for them. The last thing we need right now is societal breakdown, so check on your neighbors and help them out. There's plenty that you can do for them without risking infection, and there might be a time when you're sick and they're healthy and you can ask them to return the favor.

Final Words
I won't lie, we do have concerns ahead of us. There is a very real possibility that we will experience an economic downturn due to lost revenue from social distancing; however, that is in the future and not a matter for immediate worry. I'm not an expert on finances so I can't tell you what you should do, but now would be a good time to consult with a financial expert about how to reduce expenses and maximize savings and investments.

Again, we are preppers: we have this covered. Rely on your preps and use your best judgement to avoid risky situations -- in other words, keep doing what we always do when events or the environment act outside the norm -- and we ought to get through this with little difficulty.

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