Friday, March 20, 2020

What is coming to the U. S., part 2 - full lockdown

Sorry, America, the Full Lockdown Is Coming writes Laurie Garrett at Foreign Policy. Politicians won’t admit it yet, but it’s time to prepare—physically and psychologically—for a sudden stop to all life outside your home.

Garrett is “a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer.”

NB: I’ve tailored Garrett’s article to focus on those of us in retirement.

Whether you are reading this in your living room in Vancouver, office in London, or on a subway in New York City, you need to think hard, and fast, about two crucial questions: Where, and with whom, do you want to spend the next six to 12 weeks of your life, hunkered down for the epidemic duration? And what can you do to make that place as safe as possible for yourself and those around you?

Your time to answer those questions is very short—a few days, at most. Airports will close, trains will shut down, gasoline supplies may dwindle, and roadblocks may be set up. Nations are closing their borders, and as the numbers of sick rise, towns, suburbs, even entire counties will try to shut the virus out by blocking travel. Wherever you decide to settle down this week is likely to be the place in which you will be stuck for the duration of your epidemic.

To appreciate what lies ahead for the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, pay heed to Italy, France, and Germany. The United States, for example, is currently tracking exactly where Italy was about 10 days ago. France and Germany, which track two to five days ahead of the United States, are now revving up measures akin to those taken by Italy, including lockdowns on movement and social activity. In a matter of days, the United States will follow suit.

If you live alone, have no family members or close friends who require your special attention, and have no alternative living space, you have no decision to make. You are where you will be for coming weeks.

Once tough location decisions have been made, the household must be readied for a long siege. While panic-buying has led to stockpiles of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, getting through eight months of confinement with others will require a great deal more, both physically and psychologically. …

… Everybody in the household must understand how the coronavirus is spread, and what steps each should follow to eliminate their personal risk of passing infection to others in the home.

The virus is transmitted by droplets and fomites—it isn’t like measles, capable of drifting about in the air for hours. It dehydrates quickly if not inside water, mucus, or fomite droplets. The size of the droplets may be far below what the human eye can see, but they are gravity-sensitive, and will fall from an individual’s mouth down, eventually, to the nearest lower surface—table, desk, floor. You do not need to clean upward.

However, a newly published study, backed by the National Institutes of Health, found that the virus survives in “aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.” This means an uncleaned surface can pose a risk to members of the household for a very long time—a doorknob, tabletop, kitchen counter or stainless steel utensil.

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have posted cleaning guidelines, indicating which simple, inexpensive products can eliminate the coronavirus from surfaces in your household or work areas. Give special attention to the most commonly shared surfaces in your home or work area: door knobs, light switches, phones, faucets, toilet handles, kitchen utensils, computer keyboards, and remote controls.

The virus is killed by ultraviolet sunlight, and air flow will hasten dehydration. Do not create air flow by turning on building central air systems—you will spread contamination. If there are windows, open them wide and leave them open whenever weather conditions allow. If there are curtains or shades, open them and let sunlight pour in.

If available, wear latex or heavy-duty dishwashing gloves while cleaning anything that an individual suspected to be infected with COVID–19 has had contact with. Place all used gloves and other disposable contaminated items in a bag that can be tied closed before disposing of them with other waste. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after removing gloves.

… all residents should be asked to please be mindful of contagion courtesy, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing and teaching children to do the same. After coughing or sneezing into hands, do not touch public surfaces in the building such as elevator buttons, banisters, and door handles.

Everybody needs routines, including exercise and recreation. Shared burdens of cooking and cleaning should be offset by shared play and fun.

Boredom and stress can suck the lifeblood out of a person. Before your home goes on lockdown, make sure your download accounts for movies and television are paid. There are plenty of good books around the house, and games and decks of cards are handy.

Plan now for your state of siege. Don’t delay. Choose where you want to survive the pandemic, with whom, and how. Your window of opportunity to act is shrinking, very fast.

(h/t AZ Blue Meanie)

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