I ran my weekly errands this morning, and it does look like the panic shopping is a real thing. The shelves of things like toilet paper and dried beans were empty. Fortunately, I stocked up on toilet paper a couple of weeks ago, mostly because Target was having a sale and was giving a $15 gift card if you bought $50 worth of household items. But that means I’m set for a few months. I haven’t stocked up on dried beans, though I do have a couple of bags of lentils. I wonder how many of those panic-bought beans will ever be cooked.
I think I could survive two to three weeks without leaving the house, if I had to. I’ve figured out meals I could make with what’s in my pantry and freezer. It might be lighter on veggies than I usually go, since I eat a lot of fresh produce, and I might have to cut back on dairy. I have some shelf-stable and evaporated milk, but that’s mostly good for cooking or putting in tea.
I’m not too worried yet, though there has been a Covid-19 case in my city. If it ramps up, I may avoid people more than I usually do, mostly to reduce the risk of being a vector. I used to work with the epidemiology department when I worked at the medical school, and one thing I learned then was that something like this can spread exponentially. One person can spread it to multiple people, who can each spread it to multiple people. The cluster they have in New York now came from one guy. Each person you remove from that chain can drastically reduce the number of infections. Even if you’re not at high risk, you may spread to others who are. If you’re not infected, you can’t spread it.
It’s probably good that they’re canceling big public events. One of the things that allowed the 1918 flu to spread was a parade that wasn’t canceled. Anything that slows it down helps, and bringing hundreds of people together really amplifies all the vectors.
The big thing is washing hands with soap. That’s more effective with this kind of virus than alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before handling food, which I hope everyone is doing already. A new habit to make is washing your hands when you come home from being in the outside world, before you do anything else. I’ve also started intermediate cleaning measures, keeping a packet of wipes in my car (hidden in the console container so my car doesn’t get broken into), and when I come out of a store, I wipe off my hands and the surfaces on the car I touch, like the steering wheel, parking brake, gear shift, and door handle. Then I do a more thorough washing when I get home. Avoid touching your face, if at all possible (which is tough when you wear glasses that tend to slide down your nose and when you have wispy hair that likes to get tangled in your eyelashes). Fortunately, I’m set for soap for ages, thanks to gifts and hotel soaps. Dish soap is also quite effective because it’s designed to break down grease, and this virus has a lipid layer, so the best way to kill it is to basically de-grease it. Panic buying soap, to the point you have a year’s supply and you’re hoarding it, is silly. You need everyone around you to be able to wash their hands in order to protect you, and if you’ve got all the soap, you make it harder for them to do that. A couple of weeks ago, I was in line at Target behind a guy who had literally an entire shopping cart full of hand sanitizer. I hope he was buying for something like a school or office building. If he was just hoarding it or planning to profiteer, then he’s part of the problem.
Because of allergy season, I’ve already been using a saline nasal rinse when I come in from outdoors to get rid of pollen. I don’t know if that’s at all effective for getting rid of a virus, but I do know that keeping those tissues moist can help protect you, in general. That’s what they’re there for, to catch things before they get into the lungs.
Take care of yourself to maintain your health, in general. That means sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hydration.
We really are all of us in this together. This kind of thing can bring out the best and the worst in humanity. I really hope we see the best.