A TGB READER STORY: Marilyn of My Young Dreams
Stress in a Time of Virus Demons

Trying to Do Coronavirus Safety Correctly

As I walked back from the mailbox a couple of days ago, I stepped off the path about six feet to keep the prescribed personal distance between me and a neighbor walking in my direction.

“How are you doing?” I said, as she passed.

She answered slowly, “This is really hard”.

No kidding. The rules for surviving this pandemic aren't necessarily unclear. It is that there is so damned much to keep track of and that makes it easy to screw up.

That day I had faced my usual mailbox confusion. Do I need a mask for the 200-foot walk and back? Should I wear nitrile gloves? I wore the gloves and mask that day. Sometimes I don't.

Back at my apartment, I dumped the two envelopes and one package on the porch table where I had left a bottle of antiseptic spray, paper towels, a trash bag, a paper shopping bag and scissors.

After cutting the package's plastic wrapper open, I dumped the contents into the clean paper shopping bag and stuffed the wrapper into the trash bag.

Then I opened the two envelopes, dumped them in the trash bag (recycling has become less of an issue these days when I am concentrated on avoiding the virus), and wondered if I needed to wipe down the contents.

I decided that since it had taken several days for them to arrive in my mailbox, any viruses were probably dead so I didn't need the antiseptic spray after all. Then I took the paper shopping bag, scissors, spray bottle and paper towels into the house, leaving the trash bag on the porch.

After removing the gloves into the kitchen trash, I started washing my hands to the tune of Happy Birthday when fear hit me: I had not taken off my shoes before entering the house and I had held the package, as I walked home from the mailbox, against my sweater.

Holey moley. I stepped out of my shoes and walked barefoot back to the laundry room where I ditched the sweater, my cloth mask – and, for good measure, my pants - in the washing machine.

All that after just a five-minute trek to get the mail.

I will spare you the details of the much longer cleaning routine after grocery shopping. But even on this short foray outdoors I screwed up, so you can imagine how badly it goes with the more complicated, twice-monthly food runs involving both store and home with many more possibilities for contamination.

Never yet have I done all this without mistakes - it doesn't help that I am constantly refining the routine. And so I worry then, for a week, waiting to see if symptoms appear.

My neighbor is right – it is hard trying to keep ourselves and those around us safe during a dangerous pandemic. Of course, this is new to us. We've never done it before which may account, in part, for the mistakes I keep making.

Another part is that it takes so much time from, for me, an already shortened day just because I tire so easily and it takes me much longer than during most of my life to do all the ordinary tasks I hardly noticed before: washing up dishes, sweeping the floor, folding laundry – you know, just normal, daily stuff.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?


COVID-19 has presented us with a logistical nightmare - so much planning ahead!

According to an article at NPR where virologists & other scientists were interviewed, clothing, food packaging, cardboard & plastic are less of a concern because the virus loses viability on these surfaces. If I worked in a hospital, I would treat my body, clothing, car interior, etc. as infected because I would be working in an enclosed contaminated environment.

I have searched & haven't found anything about the viability of respiratory droplets outdoors especially on a windy day (where I live it’s usually windy). All of the tests were done in laboratory conditions.

Frequent handwashing, wiping down the shopping cart before use & wearing a mask in an enclosed space with strangers are recommended. You can leave cardboard packages outdoors for 24 hrs to be on the safe side. I can’t because I have no porch but I have left them inside by the door.

I think the best we can do is frequent handwashing, wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

It is hard. It is stressful. I have a friend w/ a heart condition who is particularly stressed.

It’s almost strange to read all of this and not once think “Ronni’s going too far here”. This virus is scaring the hell outta me (and the backs of my hands are the proof—all my knuckles are chapped or bleeding from washing so much). For the last 3 weeks, I’ve been waiting until 11-1130 pm to get my mail. I live in a high-rise, and you’re far less likely to have to ride the elevator with anyone at that hour. So last night I head down, get my stuff, rub my tired eyes on the ride back up—“Oh Doug what the hell’s wrong with you!” and come inside, wash up & promptly go to bed.

I click on my tablet to look at youtube before going to sleep, and I’m greeted with a video of security camera footage from a man in Vancouver, who also lives in a high-rise, getting off on his floor—but not before looking about to see if anyone’s watching, then spitting on the button panel. People are evil. I hope the residents of his building get his ass kicked out of there PRONTO.

On the bright side: Flu avoidance will be a breeze this year and flu incidences should be
down! B

Oh Bernie, thank you for the bright side!
I had a moment yesterday in a big hardware store. They were taking all precautions, plexiglass in front of the cashier, a clearly marked pathway, only 3 customers at a time, etc etc, and I thought I was taking proper precautions too with my face mask. Should have worn gloves but left them in the car. Anyway, for some reason the card tap didn't work so the cashier told me to insert it which meant pressing all the proper buttons, but that didn't work either. So the cashier reached, with her bare hands, for my card and attempted to make it work! I watched in dismay. Finally I said, let's start over again, and this time the card tap worked. But now I had a 'contaminated' card in my bare hand.

We're all learning, hopefully we don't end up dead as the result of a failed lesson.

Yes! It's exhausting just trying to keep all the pieces in place. In my house we do seem to have figured out a good system for the mail. It only works if you're not expecting anything urgent to arrive.

1. Head out to the mailbox across the street, slipping on outdoor shoes, and leaving the front door slightly ajar.

2. Take mail out of the box, sort on walk back to the house.

3. Discard recyclables in bin on the way back to the house (our bin is at the end of the driveway)

4. Kick shoes off and use shoulder to open and close the front door

5. Immediately take mail into spare bedroom, where I have labeled six pieces of paper with the days of the week, placing them in a row on the bed. (No Sunday)

6. Put the day's mail in the appropriate spot next to the day of the week (hopefully one can remember what the heck day of the week it is!), to remain for three days.

7. Go into bathroom and wash hands.

At any point in any day, I can go in and retrieve the mail from three days (or more) earlier and safely open it. So - that means our mail is running three days behind schedule, but mostly it's bills that can then be paid, as well as magazines or other non urgent stuff.

We also do this with any boxes that arrive via UPS. That part is almost kind of fun, because by the time we can open any given box, we've likely forgotten what might be in it, so there's a bit of a surprise element. Not too many good surprises these days, so I'll take what I can get.

But wait! Ronnie, I was 100% with you, even chuckling over the same porch set up that I have. But shoes????? Sweater????Okay, I'll go look it up. Triple feeling here.......disbelief, frustration over one more possible f------ thing to do, and laughter, who knows why. I get confused. If I grab the spray bottle to spritz that package of raisens, then should I wash my hands, come back with a different spray bottle and spray the first spray bottle? Then repeat? Could this go on into eternity? I think it could, I think we could all go nuts.

Reality check..........while we privileged types contemplate the finer points of germology, a woman in a trailer near me, in her sixties, very frail, chain smoker, very poor, is working in a nursing home with 61 cases of covid. So let's all not get too crazy about ourselves to say a prayer, shed a tear, do a good deed for someone in a worse situation.

I worry about virus on things intermittently but have decided I am not going through this routine of disinfecting bags, packages, and mail, and food. I wash my hands after unpacking the groceries. And I have worked on not touching my face with my hands. I do have my groceries delivered now because in California they asked us to stay in if at all possible. I think we could all drive ourselves completely nuts worrying about virus lurking everywhere. I think it is fine to wear gloves and masks when going to the store or pharmacy or any place where you are in more of a crowd and keep distance from people outside.

I will echo Elizabeth Ann and say "Oh Bernie, thank you for the bright side!" Staying as positive as we can is best for all of us.

In addition, Bennie's comment about a breeze made me laugh! We truly need a "breeze" to blow the flatulence coming out of the big house on Pennsylvania Ave AWAY!!

And Re: Doug's comment "People are evil":
No, "people" are NOT. Some people make bad decisions some of time for reasons totally unknown to any observer.

"People" I encounter have turned to the bright side and are noticeably kinder and friendlier at this point in time than earlier in this very large city of Portland. I am grateful for all of it . And for the grace, idea,s and wisdom Ronni's blog brings to us.

I signed up for USPS Informed Delivery so that I can see ahead
of time whether it's worth a walk up to mailbox.

If I go out to fetch mail or garden/yardwork. I don a large long sleeved hooded smock (over clothes)which I keep stored in a sack between washings.

I wear a washable mask-- mostly to protect from pollen and remind passing neighbors.

I keep disinfectant spray by the door way for delivered packages, door knobs, light switch
and shoes/boots on the shoe tray.

I can understand how exhausted you must be. This virus is exhausting us all physically and morally. My routine is simple, I don’t go out at all, have not been out of the house now for 32 days. I see the mailman through the window. He places the mail in the little box adjacent to the front door on the porch. With gloves on I reach for the mail from the front door, and then dump it on the floor for 3 days. I go and wash the gloves then my hands, take a swipe and go back and clean the door knob and that’s it. Not been outside at all.

My daughter who is a physician sent me the link to an article by the JAMA published on 3/26/20 by Dr. Lydia Bourouibia, titled "Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Emission." In it the study says that the 6 ft separation is more against the droplets but that there are aerosol particles from breathing and talking that can move with the wind up to 9 ft and a sneeze to 25 ft. It’s an interesting article, Google it under the title if you like, it comes right up. These aerosol drops can stay longer in the air inside such as a grocery store. Since there are many people jogging and walking their dogs in front of my house without masks my daughter told me, to be on the safe side, not to go out anywhere. She sent for some groceries for me on 3/24 and I’m still working on that. I guess the longer trajectory of these aerosol particles would explain why so many people are still getting infected quickly as most people are observing the 6 ft separation. Take care.

I read the NPR article last week and try to go by it without all the disinfecting of packing. And Salinda has an excellent point on privledge.

Oh Salinda...
I've been there with you way too often thinking about do I need to have a second spray bottle, spray the first bottle, etc. etc.

I'm also there with you about perspective - thinking about all the people taking their chances to care for the sick, delivery the groceries, etc. etc.

Who knows what is enough vigilance and what is too much. I just know that if I get the virus, with my hugely damaged lungs, I'm done for. So I keep trying.

I stand corrected, I was too general in my “people are evil” comment. I know that on the whole, there’s more good than bad. But I still hope the jerk who made the bad decision to spit on his building’s elevator buttons gets his sorry butt booted out into the street.

You are so right, Ronni! The amount of vigilance must, in some way, depend on our physical situation, and too, our location. I think about my slightly damaged lung from pneumonia some years back, but that is nothing at all compared your situation, I would have done well to make that distinction.

Salinda points out something that I think about a lot -- privilege -- and how it's involved in almost every scenario of our lives and what that means. It's not that I expect those who have the means to not avoid all possible exposure, it's just that it's so blatant how many people are unable to avoid it, and that's rather painful to process again and again and not be able to do more about it. Although prayer saying and tear-shedding are easily and often done, sometimes good deeds are still possible, too. Some places have been set up around my town and I'm sure others, for accepting drive up donations of baby supplies (especially diapers and wipes -- think about having to add that into the mix of your worries) food (we've probably all seen pictures of ridiculously long lines of vehicles at some food pantries recently) and other basics that it's so easy to take for granted if you either don't need or are able to secure easily.

Personally, on the prevention continuum I'm probably somewhere in the middle, not taking such extreme measures as some describe here, but quarantining, wearing a mask and gloves when I venture out about once a week and washing my hands fairly regularly, but I don't wash my clothing just because I've gone out, or sanitize my mail.

I really appreciate your comments as well as everybody else's. The concern of trying to do everything right is a huge stress for everyone. I'm doing the gloves, mask, frequent hand-washing routine. Confession: My big guilt is not cleaning and disinfecting the apartment and everything in it. The place was last cleaned five weeks ago by a woman who came once a month (obviously that is now in the past) for that job. The worst part of my home is my husband's section because he is a hoarder and new mail packages keep arriving daily. He is unable to control his hoarding compulsion. He is doing his best with masks, gloves, hand-washing, but everything else is just too overwhelming for him. So it's up to me to do the massive cleanup, and the not-doing of it is gnawing away at me.
My big relief for which I am ever so grateful and do not take for granted is being able to walk outside every day for one or two hours (while taking all the required precautions, of course).

I'm with Deborah.

I'm doing my best. Asthma and COPD makes me high risk. I feel just plain nuts some days. Haven't been out except to drive around in the car once a week and look at the mountains or scenery here. Getting my groceries delivered. You know its bad when (as my doc did) calls you to remind you not to go out at all. She gave me a pass on my scenery trips.

Last post, promise! After looking around online, Ronni is..........natch...........right on target about the virus bacteria on shoes (soles mostly) and clothing. Drat. Don't yet know what I'll be doing with the info, it'll take a day or so for this to sort out. Thanks, Ronni.

Norway hasn't done anything different than usual and their numbers are similar to ours in the U.S. Percentage wise.

I will stand corrected as well ...it is Sweden , not Norway that didn't lockdown.

I take Wet Wipes with me, individually packaged, as I've carried these for decades and used them when I'm out, running around.

I no longer take my purse when I shop, just my keys, phone, driver's license and credit card.

No mask, no gloves.

Now that the stores are wiping down the grocery carts, I don't have to use my Wet Wipe for that. I do my shopping, and as I'm finishing up at the check out stand, I take out the Wet Wipe, wipe my hands, the basket handle, and then when I get to my car, the door handles.

When I get home, the bags go in the house, I take off my shoes, change clothes, wash my hands, unload the bags, then wash my hands after I toss the bags in the recycle bin.

We don't have food delivered or do take out. I bring the mail in but feel quite safe with it, just as I have all these years. I ordered some terra-cotta pots from a local company and the manager delivered them to my porch shortly after I made the order. I kept the bag she brought them in.

I got a good laugh reading everyone's "system" for doing the best we can to stay healthy.

Like most, (and especially with a high risk husband), I hand wash, use gloves and a mask when I grocery shop, and then follow up with the "leave packaged food in the garage for 24 hours" routine along with the shoes, etc.

Whenever I get stressed about all this stuff, I remind myself that with everything I go through to keep the virus at bay, I need to continue to be grateful I'm not in a hospital connected to a ventilator with health care workers that are putting their lives on the line without the protective equipment they need desperately.

Let's keep it all in perspective.

IMHO we need the kind of testing that was done in China before anyone talks about opening up the country. My sincere wish is that the Idiot-in-Chief just shut up because he does more harm than good. Where is that cane that used to come out in cartoons to hook the guy off the stage? Why are we not manufacturing millions of tests?

I feel pretty safe living alone and having gone out only three times in five weeks -- twice to the drive-thru pharmacy and once to the mailbox a block away. Groceries are delivered to my front porch. I wear a mask when I'm out, observe social distancing, don't touch my face, and wash my hands thoroughly when I get home. That's it. No gloves, sanitizing of mail or groceries, etc. Am I living dangerously? Time will tell.

Stay safe and well, everyone. (Oh, the elevator story reminds me that I saw a suggestion to use a knuckle or a pen/pencil/stylus to punch elevator buttons.)

One favor I did for myself pre virus, was to do auto pay for monthly bills. That stops snail mail(regular). More and more I see vendors, my local agencies etc. offering online ways to pay invoices etc. Can do by credit card, direct link to bank account. The tech world has wanted us to go paperless and I've jumped on. I know when,dates, my credit card statements arrive so that's when I check mail box. No need to check daily, most is junk mail which never makes it way into the house. I don't correspond with anyone via mail, all done on internet ,cell phone in some manner. Many of the niceties of life have gone bye bye for me and I'm good with that. I use Amazon for just about anything, including foods for delivery. Since I live in the northeast, much of what I do, has been a habit anyway. Winter here,ice and snow keeps me in.. gratefully I've set up my other options.

I’ve have to go out once a week for a medical procedure and safety precautions have increased each week like using my elbow to push elevator buttons, putting my mask and clothes in the washing machine immediately. I already converted my door knobs to levers but I never gave my shoes a thought until after the last time I went out. Now I’ll leave my shoes outside or wash them too.

After watching the graphic about the variation of how contagion spreads depending on how much isolation is practiced I figured it’s not if but when. I don’t want to be denied a room or treatment because of my age and lack of availability.
Meanwhile I’ll hope I can hold out until there is a vaccine.

It indeed does take constant thinking to manage how we stay healthy these strange days. But another concern is how the residents of a community will survive financially if they are working for small retailers, restaurants, and other services. Please buy locally. A phone call to order from a small business can help it survive. Amazon does not care if your local stores ever open again. And you could get delivery to your door, happy to have your business. I quit watching prices to make sure our small local businesses reopen whenever they can do safely.

I had to go to Walgreens the other day. They had a small glass of cotton swabs next to the credit card machine. You could use one to press any keys required on the credit card machine and then throw the swab in the trash container next to it.

Guess we each decide what we’re comfortable doing or not doing. I, too, consider the 6 ft distance possibly inadequate as Vagebonde’s nurse Dtr described, and based on articles I read, so I consider the environment I’m willing to go into. That said, I have not been in any store for weeks since before the general rush for groceries. Am beginning to use pickup, will try delivery (especially if free or not too expensive.). When I go outside at home or to my car I wear a mask. I do occasionally frequent a select few drive thrus, can use Pharma for free delivery, another with Drive thru.

Had to get gas and in Calif. we only have self-serve, so miss full serve. I wore gloves which I removed and trashed before getting back in car, grasped credit card by edges, then dropped in env in plastic bag which had env — also had 2nd env with my drivers lic, AAA card and 2nd cr cd, just in case of reject which happened. I don’t carry purse any more either. Will allow those cr cds I used to remain untouched for a few days just as I do my mail which I’ve grasped between a disposable paper napkin or piece of paper towel to retrieve from box.

Cardboard pkgs are rolled or carried inside to remain untouched for days. Lots of hand washing, occasional hand sanitizer but use sparingly as don’t have much. Don’t touch banana peel, using disposable napkin or piece paper towel to hold then trash peel. Went to ATM, same care with that card as cr cd, used piece of paper towel when touching keys/screen — process took longer as less sensitive to touch — may try using a bit of disposable thinner Saran Wrap over finger another time. Need to save my gloves as have limited supply. No doubt I’m slipping up in a variety of ways but could be crazy-making for me otherwise.

I laughed a lot, all of us are becoming psychotics. In France , where I live, it was first said : masks are useless, but soon we will be obliged to wear them !but impossible to buy any of them ! My precautions at home are the same as yours, I feel crazy sometimes ! Take Care.

I know you don’t allow links, but a good article on that we are overdoing the grocery cleaning is from NPR. called "No you don’t need to disinfect your groceries, but here’s how to shop safely."

Oh, I hear you. It all gets very tiresome. But when I get frustrated or irritated about it all, I stop and think of the people working in the grocery stores, gas stations, medical offices and hospitals ... and I give them all a silent thank you, and then thank my lucky stars that I can do my part just by staying away from other people.

Who is to know what is overkill and what is protecting yourself. You must do everything in your power to stay safe. Nobody will do it for you. You are a sensible woman with common sense. You are taking proper steps to keep yourself away from infection. Hang in there Ronni :-)

I strongly agree with Sheila:
"Please buy locally (if at all possible -Kathe). A phone call to order from a small business can help it survive. ****Amazon does not care if your local stores ever open again.**** And you could get delivery to your door, happy to have your business. I quit watching prices to make sure our small local businesses reopen whenever they can do safely."

Yes, to make it all more convoluted, I am still in a nursing home.

I find myself irrationally defiant. I'm certainly separating from other people. I live alone and haven't been within 6 ft of others except in the grocery store (where I wear a cloth mask). But I refuse to read too much about all the transmission possibilities. Or to frenetically clean everything. I wash my hands, sleep with lotioned gloves at night to help the dryness, and, despite the horror of dying on a vent, I find myself so sad missing all the performances and hugs with friends and feeling of openness and happy freedom that was present in the world, that instituting abundant self-protections seems like capitulating to the virus itself. Irrational, I know.

Unlike the other "Katie" above, I obsessively read everything I can get my hands and eyes on, pertaining to this virus (although I totally get the "irrationally defiant" thing she mentions and have gone that route many times in my life over other issues. But not this time. This time I'm coolly and rationally gathering every bit of credible evidence I can find, to help with good decision-making, to help stay alive. For my children; for my three shy cats who adore me and vice versa...who would never be okay again should I die. That probably sounds nutty, but it's nonetheless true).

I'm Canadian and I've never before been so grateful that this is so. Every morning I listen to our Prime Minister give his calm, science-based updates on the latest measures to help Canadians survive this pandemic, both medically and economically. Every afternoon, I listen to our top medical health officer on the west coast give her calm, gentle, reassuring updates on where we are in our Province on "flattening the curve"...the most successful in Canada so far, because of early intervention. That's not bragging, it's just a tribute to science-based decision-making. And as she humbly points out, a degree of good luck.

And every day I read the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian (UK edition) to find out what is happening elsewhere. And then I weep for all the suffering around the world. For all the suffering that could have been prevented if only humans were more wise and less arrogant. I marvel at the raw courage of health care workers facing a possible horrific death every day of their lives, in order to be there for their patients. Would I have that kind of courage? I'm not at all sure that I would, unless it was for the family members I adore. I'm humbled all over again by people who are braver than I.

I grieve for the refugee camps, helpless to help themselves; for the poor, forced to work in horrific and dangerous conditions. I try to think of how the hell I can help all those so much less fortunate than lucky me, and make my meager attempts to compensate with donations to organizations I know to be legitimate and compassionate.

I have a long-time friend who lives on a remote island "up the coast" from where I'm located. She emails me that everything is pretty much normal there. That she still goes kayaking with her daughter; still goes for daily walks with her best friend; still has the occasional wiener roast around a roaring fire with friends. She writes that "this is the best place to be". I'm astonished, but not remotely envious. I wouldn't want to be separated from this time. I want my heart and mind to be totally engaged with what we are going through as a species on this earth, right now. I want to be aware of all our possibilities, both the good and the horrifying, for changing ourselves and the way we interact both with each other and with every other living thing with which we share this planet.

In the early mornings, I step outside and breathe in the cool quiet morning air and listen to the birdsong and am always amazed at how normal everything on the earth is, except for the humans. The robins are nesting, the chickadees are singing their upbeat little song, the flowers are bursting out of the ground, the sunrise is as glorious as ever. It's as though they're comforting the anguished humans who have caused this mess. And they forgive us our myopic stupidity.

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