Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Views of the Virus - Part II

     Like everyone else, my wife B and I are mostly staying home these days.We read books, watch Netflix. Our big event of the day is going outside for a walk, making sure to give a wide berth to anyone we meet on the street.

     The weather has been pretty warm where I live in eastern Pennsylvania. Spring is arriving early. The forsythia is coming out. The trees are budding. The daffodils are blooming.

     So I've spent some time outside cleaning up the garden beds, cutting back the hedge by the fence. I was raking up some leaves in the front yard on Saturday afternoon when I saw Ryan, our next-door neighbor, walking his two babies. They are very cute, identical twin girls, five months old.

     We got talking, and it soon became clear that Ryan's attitude toward the virus is more like my wife's casual approach than my ultra-cautious view. I asked him if he was working at home. He said he probably could, but didn't really want to. He works in Montgomery County (which has seen 20 "presumptive" Coronavirus cases, compared to only three in our county, meaning people have tested positive but the results have not been confirmed), but he believes the whole thing has been overblown. So he's not worried.

     He couldn't understand the run on the grocery stores. "What are people doing?" he wondered. "And why are they buying up toilet paper? That makes no sense at all."

     I agreed with him about the toilet paper. This is not a virus that affects the gastrointestinal tract. So why does anyone need extra toilet paper?

     B had been to the store earlier in the day. People have been told to stock up on ten days worth of food in case they have to self-quarantine, which is what authorities are recommending for anyone who doesn't feel well, who has been in contact with a suspected Coronavirus case or been overseas recently. Ten days worth of food? That's a lot of milk and orange juice and cereal and dinners.

     But B and I agreed we could easily get along on spaghetti pretty much every night, if we had to. For me, breakfast is simple. It's cereal. For her it's usually a banana and peanut butter.

     At the store the raisin bran (my favorite) was sold out. She got a half gallon of orange juice, because all the quart bottles were gone. She bought a bunch of six bananas -- any more than that and they'd just go rotten. She did not buy any toilet paper, because we have a supply from Costco down in the basement from before we went on vacation. But she did buy more pasta.

     "Was it crowded?" I'd asked her.

     "Oh, yeah," she'd said. "It was crowded."

     Anyway, my neighbor Ryan is in his 30s. I suggested to him that maybe he didn't have to worry too much about the virus, but it is much more dangerous for older people. Deaths in the U. S. have been in people over 60, and most of them had underlying medical issues like diabetes or heart disease. Many of the deaths have occurred in assisted-living facilities.

     I do not live in an assisted-living facility. And to my knowledge I do not suffer from any underlying illness. But I am definitely over age 60. And by the way, I don't want to have it explained to me that . . . oh, what do you know, it turns out you do have an undiscovered underlying medical issue, just as they're hooking me up to a ventilator.

     I joked with Ryan that I'm beginning to think the Coronavirus is a plot against senior citizens. "You Millennials are behind it," I said. "You want to get rid of us Baby Boomers so you don't have to pay our Social Security."

     He laughed. But it's no joking matter. That very evening I found out a national emergency has been declared. Our schools are closed. The libraries are closed. The parks are closed. Our governor has decreed that all non-essential stores, including bars and restaurants, are to be closed. I guess Ryan will be working from home after all.

     I saw an article at Time online called Here's Why Americans Are Hoarding Toilet Paper. It explains that the disease makes us feel helpless, and so we try to regain some control in our lives by doing something. Toilet paper is primal. It's a basic need. And since we are social beings, we're afraid to be seen as unclean or unwell which may result in our being shunned. "Our panic buying," says psychologist Mary Alvord, "represents one thing we can control. In an uncertain moment at least it's something."

     So I'm embarrassed to say, I ducked down in the basement, just to make sure. I counted them up. We have 33 rolls. Think that's enough?


Fred said...

I am already hearing anecdotal stories of people using paper towels and clogging up their sewers in our city. Can't think of a faster way to get exposed to corona than being a plumber right now.
People don't realize just how fragile our society is. With over 70% of our GDP derived from consumer spending we are the most susceptible to a long term shutdown. We will also respond the fastest to a resurgence. We have not even begun to hear the stories of dire circumstances for state/private pensions & annuities. They cannot survive in an almost 0% interest rate environment and a crashing stock market.
Let's hope the weather change puts this to bed quickly. If it drags out we may see a generation forever changed,as the adults that went through the depression were.

gigi-hawaii said...

I think women use more toilet paper than men for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

I think I really never before in my lifetime (I'm 65) ever wonder how much toilet paper and paper towel we use. Shortages occur because people panic and start hoarding supplies. Common sense should rule but usually never happens.

Barb said...

I would say it should be fourteen days not ten, because if you self quarantine due to being exposed that is the timeline you need to stay home. And since you can not have the syymptoms for awhile but be contagious, any of us could be having it. I am not leaving the house except to take a long drive occasionally, but my sister still works for the state and my sons job is also not remote at this time So I'm distancing but....

I am not a hoarder so I did forget both tp and sanitizing wipes. and we could seriously use at least a fourpack of TP lol.

Carole said...

Read an interesting article yesterday suggesting that viral load impacts on how sick someone gets with COVID 19. They found that health care workers who contract the virus tend to get much sicker than those not in the health care field. It may explain why a 40 year old ER physician is in critical condition in ICU (no underlying health issues).

Your neighbor Ryan may feel like it's not a threat to him, and maybe it's not, but if he catches the virus and passes it along to someone vulnerable, then he has contributed to the rapidly expanding pandemic.

I'm with you Tom; I'd rather hunker down and not take my chances of getting sick myself, or transmitting it to someone vulnerable.

Celia said...

Being 78, my kids virtually have me quarantined. We oldies are the most likely to die from this. So far we have no one here with C-19 but we live in Washington and virtually everything in our town is shut down. I ordered my online delivery from Safeway yesterday. I sent my son and daughter in law a case of 48 rolls of TP as a joke but it turned out to be a good thing, there's 9 kids in the house and they hadn't hoarded any.

Juhli said...

We definitely are all in this together and those on the front line of healthcare have a right to be afraid of what is coming and their risk level. We are following the science, being cautious and evaluating day by day what appointments to keep and when and where to source supplies. Right now my neighbor is standing on her porch talking to my husband on our porch with 2 driveways between them. Good to keep social contact but be at a safe distance. I had to hand my dog to the vet tech this morning as the dog won't live without her monthly shot. Tradeoffs.

Rian said...

I had to laugh (I know the situation is serious, but...) when I read your quote "You want to get rid of us Baby Boomers so you don't have to pay our Social Security."
I had just said almost the same thing to DH... mine was "Do you think this is the universe's way of getting rid of us baby boomers?"

Arkansas Patti said...

I'm prime fodder for the bug being 80 with COPD so I doubt I'd have even talked to Ryan (possible carrier) with out having to shout:)) I too have said in partial jest that this is all a plan to salvage Social Security.
Each day brings us new info as to how massive this is. I plan to just hunker down and hope for the best.

Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged said...

I'd like to shake some sense into people like Ryan... except I don't want to touch him for fear of contamination. They remind me of antivaxxers: "I'm ok so screw you." We truly are all in this together and we need to protect everyone. If I have to stay home for a while, so be it. It's a small price to pay to get us to the other side of this virus. I agree with Fred (I'm sorry there wasn't a link to his blog) this is becoming much more than a medical disaster.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Isn't it interesting how people are viewing this? I sometimes wonder if a lot of our different perspectives boil down to what news station we are watching (or not watching at all!) Thom and I just walked around the block with our dog and we stopped and talked to different neighbor. One is a young man in his 30s, a school teacher, and the other man is from Egypt but he and his family have lived here for a long time and he is self employed. One of the first things both men said was how devastating this was going to be for the economy. While I agree that is a concern, but what about how devastating this will be for people? While I did keep my opinion (mostly) to myself we did end up having a relatively nice conversation (and avoided politics as well). But again, like you I find it very interesting how different people are seeing this experience. While none of us know for sure what will happen from day to day, at this point I think it's wise to get comfortable with uncertainty. ~Kathy

Savoring Sixty said...

Schools are closed here for the next several weeks and possibly longer. I am currently teaching my students online which is a challenge with third graders (and their parents)! One of our daughters lives in the California Bay Area and she sent us a text yesterday regarding an update that schools may remained closed until the fall. She has six children so that should be interesting! My husband and I are trying to make the best of it and he is keeping me grounded. We are both over 60 and as far as we know we don't have any underlying health conditions. I am the more cautious one and he is the one who is willing (although he is getting more cautious) to go out among the population. As long as we have each other, Netflix, and dog treats for the dog we should be good to go for awhile!

Olga said...

I am happy enough to stay away from crowds and I am certain I can go for a month or two without needing to buy toilet paper since I stock up when I get to Florida. I have been going outside as much as I can because I convinced myself that sunlight kills germs and I come here for the sunlight in the first place.
But I am still overwhelmed and worried about the world. I have plenty of time and plenty of reason to meditate and pray. May we all be safe and well.

Laura Benjamin said...

I'm taking this day by day. As a retiree, I'm mostly home anyway but
did stay in touch with working friends and participate in a club that
meets monthly. Also did crafts biweekly with others, but the last
time only three of us were there so that's going away.

I am not a hoarder but I do stock up constantly using sales to save
money. Therefore I expect to buy a little extra for the freezer and
the pantry each week that I still go shopping. We are in an area
that hasn't had a case yet, but we also have tourism from affected
areas so this could end any time.

Fortunately we have more than enough at home to occupy ourselves so
as long as we have food and TP, we'll be fine right here. The joke
about Social Security is with us, too, and we intend to keep cashing

DJan said...

I was able to get an appointment to get my hair cut, but now I'm worrying about whether or not it's safe. Even if she disinfects between clients, she is in close contact with so many people that it's a bit scary to contemplate it. Sigh. Other than that, I'm home, reading and watching Netflix.

Janette said...

We had to figure out how to pack bags for the people losing jobs. Our entire staff is over 60. We decided to come in one at a time, wash down the area to work in and then pack.
Otherwise we are home. I did buy ahead when I saw it coming from Hong Kong. I have been in a long(4 month) lock down situation before overseas. When my friend told me it was coming, I bought what she suggested. I don't have a problem with being ahead.I don't have more then 3 months---and 33 rolls will get you pretty close. I live in a farming area, so milk and eggs are still easy without big stores. I can make an awful lot from my pantry. I learned how to be creative last time! My daughter and son are taking notes....
DJan, I just talked my hubby into not going to get a haircut tomorrow. :).
Will this change everything in the country forever? I think so.

Janette said...

PS- I Love the idea of a sliding scale of a paycheck for every adult in the country. Those who lose their jobs or at the bottom of the ladder need the most. It is heartbreaking.

Snowbrush said...

In the words of British journalist, Jeremy Warner, the virus is proving desirable for "culling" those who represent an economic drain on the economy. From that perspective, if one is young and healthy, and has a mild case of the virus, then it would be a service to society to intentionally spread it around. I take it that, at a minimum, your neighbor shares the view that if the virus isn't likely to kill him and his children, then he really doesn't care one whole hell of a lot about those whom it is likely to kill. Now that it's proving to be fatal to more young adults and children than first thought--and their healthcare providers--maybe he will start to give a rip.

I suppose you know that Sean Hannity is even now framing the virus in terms of "liberal hysteria" and an effort to defeat Trump in November. I don't know how he can have it both ways, but in at least two recent Marist polls, conservatives were still not taking the virus seriously, and also claiming that they trust what Trump says about it more than they trust what the medical community says. In fact, they aren't even listening to the medical community.

Peggy and I have around 80 rolls of TP, but then I've ALWAYS been a person to stay stocked-up, so when something bad happens, I tend to do more of what I was already doing.

Anonymous said...

you boomers are shutting down the entire economy because you're afraid of a flu. Seriously, can you boomers kill yourselves? You are the most selfish generation to ever exist. You don't give a shit about climate change, why should we young people give a shit if you get sick and die of some virus? I HOPE the virus gets much stronger and kills you all.

Linda Myers said...

We're pretty much hunkered down in our little place in Tucson. I went for a walk today with three friends who kept their distance. We've got plenty to eat and enough tp to last for a couple of weeks.

My husband went to give platelets yesterday. He thought it was worth the risk to go out.

I believe community is absolutely crucial and I have spent a lot of time online in the last few days making those important connections with people I care about.

I have an empty calendar for the first time in decades. And books and magazines and movies. I'd planned to write an ebook this winter. Maybe it will be this spring instead.

Friko said...

Yes, I think that’ll do.
As you have seen from my post I have little time for people like your neighbour. For Goodness’ Sake, we are all at risk, as people in Italy know to their cost and the whole of Europe knows.
This is serious.

Snowbrush said...

Anonymous said: "Seriously, can you boomers kill yourselves?"

He's just pissy because his boomer parents gave him that awful name. Yet it is true that prejudice against the elderly is one of the few forms of bigotry that continues to be socially acceptable even among liberals.

David said...


thank youu

Monta E Smith said...

We buy toilet paper in bulk from Amazon and had just gotten a case before all this started. It was amusing to watch all these younger, self enlightened people scramble for basic needs. On a similar note, my lovely lady friend pointed out today that we prepare most of our food so our supply was always there. The younger people seemed to flock to the prepackaged "heat and eat": foods that tended to be sold out when we went shopping.