Right now a virus we have no familiarity with is whipping around the world. It’s killing people. And here’s a tricky part: 30% of those infected show no symptoms at all. You may be infected and not know it, not ever know it. But you can still pass that thing along. For those who show symptoms, a “mild” case of Coronavirus can include walking pneumonia. Walking pneumonia doesn’t sound “mild,” but it is when compared to a virulent case of Coronavirus. Those who get that virulent case may need hospitalization for life-sustaining ventilation while the virus does a number on their lungs. Life on a ventilator is no fun at all. In other words, this Coronavirus is serious. It’s something like ten times more perilous than the flu.
You can feel fine and pass on a death sentence to someone else. Given what we’ve seen in China, Italy, France and Spain, you are mostly likely to pass on the virus to someone you live with. I’m gonna submit that person is someone you care about, someone whose illness would break your heart.
We don’t have a cure or a vaccine or really much of anything to combat this virus. What we do have is old-school preventative actions. Every single one of us has four really good actions we can take every day to battle this thing back. We’ve got: frequent hand washing, no face touching, frequent cleaning of surfaces, and social distancing.
Why Hand Washing with Soap and Water?
Frequent hand washing with real soap for the duration that it takes you to sing the chorus of Raspberry Beret is in fact a fabulous, positively patriotic, potentially life-saving act. Soap works. Really well.
To get why hand washing works, we should understand how Coronavirus got dressed this morning. The thing is covered in lipids and proteins. Have you seen a picture? It’s pretty gaudy. When soap and water hit the virus cell they literally dissolve the lipids and break down the proteins. Wash for that whole chorus of Raspberry Beret and you — and the soap and water — cause superhero level destruction for that virus. Pretty sweet.
I miss my face
I’ve been told time and time again to stop touching my face. I was so clever, the day before we locked down our household I had a facial scheduled. Social distancing seemed like a great time to do a peel. Now my face is flakey and I’m not supposed to touch it. Not the smartest choice I’ve ever made, but I will have beautiful skin for no one but my family to see in just a few days.
So why is it that I’m not supposed to touch my face? Turns out, the virus hitchhikes from wherever it was before onto my fingers and then, when I put my hand on something else, the virus hangs out there too. Coronavirus depends on us for transportation. When I touch my face to rub my eye, pick my nose (no never, of course not), or lick a finger to help me turn a page I’ve given the virus a backstage pass to my body. If I don’t touch my face, the virus will just hang out on my hands or whatever I touch, until the Raspberry Beret treatment kills them off.
Keeping hands away from my face keeps the virus outside of my body and that is exactly where I want it.
Clean the Counters
I managed not to touch my face, but I touched a bunch of other surfaces in my house and the virus could be hanging out there now. In commonly trafficked areas I’m trying to spray stuff down. Countertops, doorknobs, bathrooms. I’m not very good at this. But I keep trying, on the every-little-bit-helps strategy. It’s impossible to keep a sterile environment; I live with three other humans. But I can try.
I’ve found my emotional well-being isn’t helped out by seeing my home as a hazmat site. I clean the counters daily. Try to hit handrails and doorknobs too but if I really get obsessed with all the places that damn virus may be lurking, I’ll send myself around the bend. There is no way to have a totally sterile home; there is just our best efforts. Deep breath.
If you live near me in the San Francisco Bay Area you are under a shelter-in-place order for the next several weeks. Congratulations, you are already doing one of the most important things you can possibly do to combat the progress of this killer. For those of you not locked down by the local authorities, allow me to argue why you should do it to yourself.
FaceTime not face time
Fundamentally every meeting with another person exponentially increases your risk of contracting the virus. You get together with just one other couple, there’s four of you for dinner. You sit at the same table. You maybe ‘forget’ what’s going on right now and share a little food or a common serving utensil. All four of you are exposed and maybe infected. Maybe one of you has an undiagnosed heart issue. Maybe one of you is caring for an elderly parent. It’s not worth the risk. FaceTime/google hangout each other from the safety of your own homes.
I know some people are organizing group hikes during this down time. This is not an awesome idea. You need to stay AT LEAST 6 feet away from each other. You won’t really be able to talk to each other on the trail with those distances so what are you doing? Go for a walk alone, or with someone in your household. Don’t allow yourself to get near anyone else.
Because we still don’t know exactly how this thing works. There’s a bunch of studies showing it can survive in aerosol form for hours. It flies through the air when someone coughs. The Google tells me that little cough cloud could hang in the air for up to 45 minutes. You could walk through that cloud. The droplets could settle and land on stuff that you touch. Or if you’re close enough it might just land straight on you. So not touching each other simply isn’t enough. Not being near each other is required.
We have two high school seniors in our household. We’re towing the ‘wash your hands, forget your face, clean the counters, and stay home’ regime to try to save prom… and Grandma. What are you hoping for this year? What are you trying to save? The more we do now, RIGHT NOW, the better chance we have of surviving and thriving in 2020.