Sunday, March 15, 2020

Going on Coronacation

Like many in the United States, M and I are currently practicing social distancing in response to the threat of pandemic Covid-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. In this post, I want to share why we're doing it, what it looks like for us, and some opportunities to help.

M and I are both healthy and young, so we're not in the high-risk group for Covid-19. At the same time, we're listening closely to the advice of public health specialists, epidemiologists, and medical researchers out there so we can be part of the solution when it comes to protecting vulnerable populations. We have a lot of loved ones who are immunocompromised or older or would have comorbidity with other conditions like high blood pressure or respiratory problems. We also have a lot of friends working in the medical field who are trying to keep their heads above water and help prevent the system from being overwhelmed. We're going to do our best to minimize the risk of spreading the new coronavirus to folks like them, especially now that it seems clear the virus is quite contagious even when the carrier is asymptomatic.

So what are some of the things we're doing to help keep our community safe? These are some of the simple steps we've taken in recent days that might be worth considering:

  • Teleworking (if possible): M's part-time teaching job is already fully remote, and my full-time Korean classes are finally switching to full-telework starting this week. If you can work from home, it's a great way to limit a lot of the exposure risk. At the same time, it's important to recognize not everyone's work is so flexible--M still has to go in for the family business because it's physical work that needs to be done on site.
  • Skipping the gym: I just temporarily froze my gym membership. (If you attend an Orangetheory Fitness, you can do this easily with a phone call and email.) It's simply too easy to contract this disease in such close quarters with lots of circulating air and shared equipment. If you can use one of the many great YouTube channels for home workouts (my favorite is Blogilates) or if you can go for a run in an open space like a wide park, that would be much safer.
  • Limiting large social gatherings: We're staying home from restaurants and parties for now. The more people you're physically near during this time, the riskier it gets. There's obviously a huge spectrum between having a best friend come over to hang out for a little bit (relatively safe) and going to a crowded bar (please don't if you can help it).
  • Reasonably (!) stocking the pantry: The "reasonably" is crucial here--I am not advocating for this mysterious toilet paper obsession that has seemingly spread across our society even faster than the new coronavirus itself. It helps to go to the store only if you need to, and even then it's better if you try to go early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer people there. Grocery delivery might also be a good option for folks. Either way, stocking up on shelf-stable and freezer foods in bulk is a great way to stretch what you have and stay fed while minimizing additional trips out into the public.
  • Keeping the Sabbath at home: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, like many others, has temporarily suspended our usual religious services around the world. Thankfully, I have some wonderful Priesthood holders in my life who are visiting with me on a more individual basis so I can still take the weekly Sacrament. I'm sure this decision isn't easy for any religious leadership, but it will help protect the maximum number of worshippers.
  • Upholding #StopReflectVerify standards: If I see you sharing fake Covid-19 news on social media, I will call you out right away. There are a lot of malicious, opportunistic folks trying to capitalize on the panic. We should all be checking the legitimacy of our sources, confirming when information was published to see if it's up-to-date, and not buying into misinformation marketing campaigns. For example, I saw this fake news doing the rounds earlier: that if you gargle salt water it will completely kill Covid-19 and you'll be safe. This is not only untrue but dangerous. You can gargle salt water and still catch this virus as well as spread it to others. Let's stop, reflect, and verify before we share or comment online.
  • Cutting back on non-urgent volunteering: I usually try and volunteer at a rest home once a week. Needless to say, the residents there all fall within the highest-risk category for this pandemic and I will not be visiting them in the near future. A few friends of mine who usually volunteer in person have taken the opportunity to try and find volunteer opportunities online, which is a fantastic idea.
  • Refraining from travel: We are refraining from travel at this time and are re-evaluating our ability to go on trips we'd planned for the future. Yes, it's frustrating, but the risks outweigh the inconveniences.
  • Maintaining personal hygiene: This is probably the most important one of all. We're continuing to regularly wash our hands correctly and trying not to touch our faces. I'm notoriously bad about touching my face, so I can't promise perfection but I'm trying my best!

So given that life is clearly a bit different right now, what else is worth thinking about as we go through this together? Someone pointed out that volunteers in many areas tend to be older and at higher risk for the worst consequences of Covid-19. So if you are young, healthy, and low-risk, you might want to call a local food pantry or meals on wheels and see if they need help meeting demand right now. Another good idea I saw circulating online was to buy gift cards and generic merchandise like t-shirts from restaurants that are probably struggling right now. Those gift cards can always be redeemed well after the crisis has passed, and it helps businesses with already narrow profit margins weather the storm.

I hope this blog post was helpful or maybe even just resonated with a few readers who are stuck in the same boat. In the meantime, I hope everyone has the chance to catch up on reading, writing, art, memes, or anything else that helps us beat cabin fever during this "Coronacation" in our homes. We'll look forward to the day when everything can go back to normal but prioritize protecting and helping others until then.

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