Our Covid House Rules and Strategies

I once had a wood shop teacher who was fond of saying, “always have a plan.” This sage advice lives in dialectical balance with Mike Tyson’s quote, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Working class people, “essential workers,” small business owners, health workers and the elderly have taken a lot of punches in the face during the Covid crisis and will take some more in coming months. People in the “Zoom” class such as us, have fared better. I’ve been struggling for a metaphor for our times this week and settled on the idea that we’re in for a multi-year version of the Fyre Festival. While I was working on this metaphor over the weekend Kelly let me know that a not very good Washington Post editorialist beat me to it. While the Fyre Festival analogy doesn’t work all that well, there’s a sense in which we’re all stuck on the beach waiting for Blink 182 to show up but knowing that they never will. And isn’t it pathetic that we’re waiting for Blink 182? Why can’t we have better music?

While, for now, we have our styrofoam packed cheese sandwiches and bottled water we probably shouldn’t expect Ja Rule and that entrepreneur dude to keep us fed. We’re going to have to improvise. And the virus guarantees that our lives will be consumed by a tricky ethical calculus that changes on an almost hourly basis. I felt the need this week to write down some game rules for the next few months. We’ve figured that Kelly may be in a risk group for this disease. And relatives that she is responsible for are also at risk. So here’s what we came up with as of ten minutes ago.

Minimizing trips to the grocery store
Many restaurant distribution companies have pivoted into home delivery. Johnnie at Granola Shotgun blogged about a Bay Area service he tried. We tried it this week via  The Chef’s Warehouse. It worked great. The food was delivered in two days. Quality was decent. Some things are available only in huge quantities but you could easily split stuff with friends and neighbors. If you’re in Los Angeles here’s a list of restaurant wholesalers now selling to the public. We also tried Vons’ parking lot pickup service. It worked okay but they were out of some items. And our local farmers market has a new app for pre-ordering produce that we’re going to try. Yesterday we ordered some takeout from a local restaurant we like and picked it up instead of using those parasitic delivery apps.

Seeing other people
We’ve decided that, for now, we’re not going to hang out with other people even if we’re all outside and everyone is wearing a mask. This is not just for our sake but to help stop the spread of this disease. For many of us the impact of Covid is out of sight and out of mind and it’s easy to think that it would be okay to start to go back to normal social practices. We’re just not there yet and I’m expecting another wave of infections. Travel is out of the question right now, in my opinion, and I don’t think it’s cool for city people like us to go out to the country and put people in rural areas at risk.

Building maintenance and construction projects
I’m attempting to follow the advice of my wood shop teacher and plan before running to go get supplies. When it comes time to get stuff for a few of the projects around the house that need to be attended to I’m going to patronize the sort of lumber yard that caters to high end professionals rather than big box stores. Generally these places are not as busy and you always get better service. This would be a good practice even if we weren’t in a pandemic.

Mental health
I’m trying to slow down and focus on details. I feel there’s a need to pay attention to the news but not get immersed in it. I’m attempting, not always successfully, to limit exposure to social media and news sources. I’ve been doing a few solo bee removal jobs and this has really lifted my spirits to be able to get outdoors and do something useful.

Community resiliency
We have a weekly Zoom call with our neighbors to check in, chat and see if anyone needs anything. Our church has a program to call and check in with people. Several months ago, after my volunteer work with the Bernie campaign ended, I joined the Democratic Socialists of America and have participated in book clubs and online organizing.


Masks

It’s sad that this has become so divisive. Wearing a mask is a common sense way to respect other people. There are many other cultures in this world (such as the Tuareg tribe of the Sahara desert and folks in many parts of Asia) where facial covering is an old practice and no big deal. While I have no evidence for this, I suspect that mask wearing coincides with cultures that have greater respect for elders. Here in the U.S. and, I’m looking at you Sweden, old people are disposable.

Areas for improvement
I’ve been bad about exercising. I’ve got Zoom fatigue. I want to see other people but know that we’re not there yet. I need to construct storage for bulk goods. The crisis has caused me to have a short temper that I have to be vigilant about. I feel like I’m really out of touch with the people who are risking their lives in low-paid work.

Non-conclusion conclusion
We’re lucky. We’re thankful to have a roof over our heads, a garden to tend and a backyard to enjoy. But I’m also trying to be realistic. Our comfort could end. A lot of people are suffering. Far worse things than Blink 182 could be slouching towards Bethlehem. But if I’m wrong and Blink 182 does show up and is less pathetic than I remember at least we’ll have a better bulk goods game and a few less weeds in the garden.

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19 Comments

  1. The socializing thing has really taken off in the last week or two….really the last week. Even in my own family I’ve been a bit dismayed at how loose with the ‘rules’ they are being. I’ve been privileged enough to sequester ourselves (me, hub, 5 year old) mostly at our house. Hub is the primary errand runner and we’ve both been up to our work office at different intervals to do some work we can’t get done at home with said 5 year old. Luckily no one else is in that office and it is 10 minutes from home so we can do that. I haven’t been in another building other than my house and that office since mid-March! Not that I haven’t looked wistfully at anything. We’ve also decided not to risk take-out food, though I was hoping to start doing that soon but Texas decided to go haywire too soon so that will probably continue to be held off for a bit. Probably good for our wallets and health! hah!

    As for exercise I finally started riding my bike and have been putting in miles most every day since mid-April. I live in a non-urban area so there isn’t a need to be masking up or have the pretense for that, just wave as I ride by to folks and keep on. I can see that being a problem in other locales.

    I am very squeamish about people going back to the gym this week and I just can’t fathom being that excited about hanging out in a germy gym like that yet!

    Sorry, this was rather lengthy—in all, I’m trying not to judge but fully admit to being rather judgy on the sidelines of what I’m seeing.

  2. This is all so sad and depressing, but posts like this are also encouraging. I now know that my pod and your pod (and probably most of the people we know) ARE being respectful and careful. That means the world. I’m in the Zoom class myself, but I am glad at least I can stay home and help reduce the load. I know it’s not fair for those who have to go to work, but at least I can do that. Best wishes to you!
    PS How are people doing all this home improvement and also working full time and doing all the cooking and basics? Maybe I sleep too much (I’m blessed or cursed to need and get a lot).

    • I agree with Johnnie that we should prepare our own households and am so grateful for the practical things I learned from this blog and podcast, including the one with Johnnie! I (finally) purchased water storage jugs, and now that I’ve fully stocked up our regular pantry, I am systematically identifying our essential items, figuring out how much backstock we want to always have on hand, and then I can obtain storage containers and additional goods as needed. I felt overwhelmed at first, but the approach of systematically rotating through the things we use every day really makes sense to me and now I feel I can put in place some preparedness and then no longer fret.

      The one thing I don’t know what to do about is my husband’s prescription medication – he needs to take a pill every day since he had his thyroid removed (cancer) and our insurance doesn’t cover “stocking up” in any meaningful way. So we’re in great shape right after the 3-month supply arrives, and then I get progressively more nervous. After the last hurricane in Puerto Rico, where a lot of this particular pill is produced, people in the U.S. had a hard time getting their meds, so I feel quite nervous about this one.

      We live in Brooklyn and I’d say a bit more than half of people wear masks covering mouth and nose. I see a lot of mask-on-the-chin, pulling it on and off, etc. When I go out I can physically distance almost all the time but sometimes get surprised by someone coming around a corner, on the other side of a parked car, or something like that. There are noticeably more people walking around than two weeks ago, and we are still under the stay-at-home order. I think we are likely to have a resurgence of cases when that is lifted, given the blase attitude around masks and our density. Every car on every subway train is now a mass gathering, I guess. I decided my only jobs right now are to stay away from unmasked people and try to hold on to my Zoom-class job where I can work from home. Our financial resilience is good so I am glad I’ve been frugal all these years.

      To increase our giving to food pantries, I am having clients from my side business (teaching people DIY taxes and finance, which I now do via videochat) make donations instead of paying me. It’s not a lot of money but everything helps.

  3. Here in Northern California we’ve had a few years of massive back-to-back forest fires. The local gas and electric company has been responding to legal challenges by simply cutting off service at the first sign of trouble. Now Covid-19. And the economic dislocations. There could be an earthquake waiting in the wings… And who knows what else?

    Every location around the country has its own vulnerabilities. Floods, hurricanes, crop failures, poorly managed elderly nuclear power stations waiting to pop.

    I notice most people are unaffected by each individual event. But each little crisis knocks out a certain percentage of the population. Most folks survived the fires. But a few lost theirs homes and just disappeared. Most people lived through Covid-19, but a few died. Most people held on to their jobs, except for the ones who didn’t. Most of the population will navigate the next earthquake. But others won’t…

    Some of this is pure luck of the draw. Some of it is structural to how society organizes things. Some is personal preparedness. I suggest we all get our ducks in a row on the household level since that’s the one thing we have some control over.

  4. The objection to mask wearing is nothing short of political.

    Who, short of essential workers and those constantly exposed to the public, has to wear one for more than an hour or 90 minutes at a time? That’s a hardship or an egregious offense when it protects others? So suddenly a whole army of Americans feel honor bound to stand up and protect their freedoms? The same folks who are OK being told their shirt has to have a collar to go on their private golf course?

    Here’s a purely anecdotal story from my area (Woodland Hills). Last weekend there was a “spontaneous” demonstration of the Masks-Are-for-Communists-and-CNN-Viewers crowd. Apparently, they turned all their posters to the traffic on heavily travelled Topanga Canyon Blvd. side. On the other side of the park they faced their huge Trump banner and supporting posters to the apartments and condos on quiet Owensmouth.

    Reports were that there were about 200 in attendance.

    A day later on the neighborhood online forum some folks got angry to hear it described as a Trump rally. But the VERY few (2-4 people) who have continued their bleating about being required to wear masks have been overwhelmingly drowned out by people supporting the need to provide for public safety. I mean seriously overwhelmed. And then they got belligerent about being attacked by a mob.

    I suspect that they were among the few who spontaneously went to the rally in sincerity and that they expected their other 190+ “neighbors” to back them up. It’s my belief they never were neighbors and masks wasn’t their concern.

    • I should have been more clear. It was the anti-mask posters that faced Topanga Canyon Blvd while all the Trump stuff stayed out of view of the general public.

  5. I had a plan when I called the governor’s office to ask a perfectly reasonable, non-political question about my industry’s return to work. And then that went out the door when I got punched in the face with a response so deliberately obtuse and ridiculous that I am still angry eight hours later. (There was a follow up letter)

    My temper is also short. I am the go-along, get-along, follow-the-rules, stay-at-home, keep-business-close, mask-wearing good citizen right until I smash into obvious injustice and a complete lack of thinking. And then I think I get MORE upset because I have been the one carefully following the rules. If I am going to follow the rules and then get treated deliberately unfairly…then the temper flares.

    • Which governor?

      My husband’s been in weekly teleconferences with the office of Gov. Newsom of CA about opening his industry. He’s found them interested, responsive and cooperative. They haven’t fully completed a plan yet. There will be many people performing many different tasks whose safety has to be protected. But I think my husband’s assessment is that it’s been a productive and successful endeavor.

      I hope wherever you are, you get to a more successful resolution over time.

  6. YES. Here in Michigan, we have GFS (Gordon Food Service); they’ve been trying to compete with a newish Costco for a year or so and started carrying ‘grocery store size’ items and product mix. We can order most of it online for curbside pickup. I also try to support as many small businesses as I can — we have a local natural food store and a small farm-alliance co-op store, plus I am lucky to be in the local farmer/food crowd and we have opportunity to get quality food and pay equitable wages to those who grow it.

    Also, nice Sunnyslope reference…

  7. “While I have no evidence for this, I suspect that mask wearing coincides with cultures that have greater respect for elders.”

    Or they just don’t like breathing sand.

    • Excellent! Where I live, most of the older people who are out and about (and there are plenty) are not wearing masks, and many younger people are wearing masks. Also, the vast majority of mask-wearers of all ages wear them pulled down under their noses. And so it goes . . .

  8. Does anyone know of a way to keep eyeglasses from fogging up while wearing a mask? I keep having to remove my glasses to defog them so I can see what is on the shelves in the market. It takes me longer to shop now and I really would like to get in and out of the market faster.

    • For my cloth mask, I purchased (off eBay) some aluminum strips that have adhesive on one side, so I could just stick them on the outside of the mask and then bend to my nose shape. They stick on through several hand washes of the mask, and then all the stickiness is gone and I stick on another one. I think my 100 pack of strips was under $10. This helps with glasses fogging a lot. I read that some nurses use a drop of dish soap on each lens and then rub the soap around and off (without water), but I have not tested this trick myself yet.

    • Morningglory, put a folded tissue between your mouth and the mask. It will absorb the warm, moist air and prevent your lenses from clouding up.

  9. @morninglory
    If your glasses are fogging up it means the mask is not properly sealing. A good mask that is properly fitted and worn, should seal all around so no air goes in or out without being filtered. That said, if it is a homemade mask, that is more difficult. If so, I would recommend buying a non – N95 mask (so as not to deprive health workers) and take the cushioned malleable metal piece from it and attach that to your mask so you can at least seal the top part to keep from fogging your glasses and be better protected.

    • Great info. Thanks for telling me this! The masks I am using are surgical masks. I’ll look for the other kind or try and find the aluminum strips mentioned by Stephanie. I knew if I asked here I could get a good answer! Thanks!

  10. A thoughtful and measured response that speaks to your specific and unique situation. I feel similar. I’m not ready to be “social” … and have reasons for it beyond being an introvert. Where I find myself lacking is in holding my mental tongue of judgement against those I see in the park in groups of way more than 6 (here the “recommended” max). But I realize I have to just let that go.
    We are continuing on as we were. Canada has only recently advised wearing masks and it feels odd but is worth it I believe.

    • Forgot to mention I had to google the blink reference . That group must have been off my radar back in the day . Cheers

  11. Excellent article.
    It is quite intersting to see how different people are facing this pandemic in a different way.
    But I can say that I agree with most of your thoughts and to what you are doing.
    Please, stay safe!
    I hope this pandemic ends soon!

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