The past few weeks have been disorienting to say the least.
For one, I never thought I’d see Washington state on a list of Top Places Not to Visit if You Don’t Want Coronavirus.
China, Italy, Washington.
We hit the list when residents at a nursing home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland were diagnosed and many subsequently died.
Three days into our explosive outbreak, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft closed their campuses and noticeably less people were commuting to work in general, but more wearing face masks. Co-workers nervously huddled to discuss the ghost town around us and who’d coughed on their way in.
That same day, a lady on NPR reported being distraught because she couldn’t find alcohol for a craft project at the grocery store. We have harsh winter storms and earthquake drills that clear store shelves, but pandemic panic-buying was another creature altogether.
I didn’t need anything, but out of curiosity that drives a lot of my behavior, I went to a drugstore, hardware store and a major retailer at lunchtime and the shelves were indeed bare of alcohol, along with Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, masks and toilet paper. I’m still trying to unravel the connection between a super virus and toilet paper and why people don’t already have a small stock of toilet paper at home? Were they previously buying a single roll at a time?
One of the members of my Nextdoor.com neighborhood group, who is semi-disabled, sadly posted that she lost faith in humanity after being shoved out of the way over the last package of toilet paper at our neighborhood Wal-Mart.
Although, on a bad day, my anxiety level hovers lazily around two, it was getting pretty hard to ignore the growing death and confirmed case counts and jitter spread.
A few days later, school districts closed, public events were cancelled, restaurants and gyms emptied and my employer sent an email allowing us maximum practical teleworking until further notice.
Amidst so many social distancing firsts to increase public safety, the Girl Scouts still launched their seasonal cookie sale. My panic level inched to three when I saw a masked couple outside Costco, with a pallet full of toilet paper, stop for an armful of Thin Mint boxes. That was a craaaaaaaaazy visual.
It hit me then though that I still didn’t really know what Coronavirus was, other than that it sounded like a hoax beverage circulated at a Mardi Gras party. It could kill you if you were old enough for retirement or had a serious pre-existing medical condition, or get you quarantined for fourteen days. It wasn’t the flu, but what was it? Google and CDC said it was a highly infectious, respiratory virus that appears to have hit China first in December 2019, mainly ravaging the elderly, and is now world-wide. Symptoms: High fever, dry cough, trouble breathing.
Although it has put a damper on my birthday that I am not-so-secretly pouting about, avoiding/surviving coronavirus seems manageable for these reasons:
- I’m healthy and wash my hands regularly with soap.
- Although remarkably okay nibbling street food here and abroad, I was probably already on the cusp of being germaphobish and keep Purell in my purse, car, gym bag, and office.
- I’m addicted to immune supplements and rely on things like Echinacea and Elderberry, electrolytes, garlic, essential oils and good sleep for defense. Rarely does the office or commuter cold or flu defeat me.
- Turns out that I naturally have cough-and-sneeze paranoia. It is my M.O. to make Matrix moves away from sickly people in public places. I don’t know – maybe I think I can outrun germs. I even circumnavigate several co-workers who always look ill. I don’t cheek swab or drill them, so for all I know it could be allergies or disagreeable food, but I’m still getting away.
- My freezer and pantry are three-fourths full most of the time, so it’s weird to be out of things like salmon, vegetables, soup ingredients, toilet paper, water, toothpaste, applesauce, peanut butter, tuna, olives, or macadamia nuts. I could easily self-quarantine for a month if I needed to.
All in all, my coronavirus anxiety is back to a solid two. I’ve scaled back to sensible caution and calm over things I can’t entirely control. (Diffusing lavender essential oil also helped with that).
Sure, my birthday feels like a bust. I’m not flying out to celebrate, others aren’t flying in. Not having a spa-cation with hours of other hands pampering me. No group cooking class or fancy restaurant dinner, followed by a play or movie. No Dave and Busters.
But, I won’t be trapped on a cruise ship regretting my exotic travel decisions or hunkered down with the whole country of Italy. I’m not in retail or the service industry or on a sterilization team that has to clean up COVID-19 contamination. I can telecommute. I have great health insurance and lavender oil. I’m counting all of these blessings twice.
I see us coming through this, better for it. Better at self-care, better at other care, better at hygiene and emergency preparedness. Things are going to be okay.