A TGB READER STORY: I Am Guilty
From Sex to Old Age, From Ram Dass

Coronavirus Prevention - Crabby Old Lady is So Confused

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Crabby Old Lady was curious about how people react to COVID-19 news and what their impressions are if, unlike her, they don't read as widely. So Crabby took a break and cut her news consumption in half for a few days mostly in regard to the virus.

She didn't take notes and is relying on memory for this post which is probably more like most people read.]

* * *

Wearing a mask any time a person is among others and keeping a distance of six feet between any two people make sense to Crabby. Especially so when you know these two practices along with frequent hand washing are the only tools we have to help prevent COVID-19 infections.

But the information we get is inconsistent, confusing, changes frequently and sources of it are not always trustworthy.

MASKS
Remember a hundred years ago – oh, all right, three months ago – when they said we the public don't need masks, that they are for healthcare workers? It turns out that was lie told, according to some, only because there were not, in the beginning, enough masks to go around.

Others say masks protect others, not one's self. Crabby has never bought that but she wouldn't bet money on what she know about science or medicine. What she does understand is that she feels more protected wearing one and is happy to help keep others healthy.

Masks are becoming more available now and there is a fairly large cottage industry of home-made masks throughout the United States. Still, Crabby has questions.

Every recent mention of wearing masks specifies “cloth” masks. But Crabby sees people wearing black face masks that appear to be made of rubber or pliable plastic. Are those better than cloth? What about the usually blue-colored paper masks with the folds? Do they do the job? No one is telling Crabby.

SOCIAL DISTANCING
They say we should always be at least six feet from other people. That is, Crabby guesses, unless you are a White House reporter. Last week, the White House moved the Rose Garden chairs for the press corps close together because, according to reports, the president not only refuses to wear a mask, he doesn't like seeing crowds all spread out.

Like mask wearing, social distancing seems to have become a personal choice. Crabby doesn't go anywhere these days except to the pharmacy and the supermarket - all in one building in her case.

There are arrows on the floor making aisles one way streets. Handy, but most shoppers appear to see this as a suggestion only, and the two shopping-carts between people rule? Hardly anyone does it except at the check-out counter where checkers refuse to continue until a too-close second person backs away.

It's frustrating. In the apartment complex where she lives, Crabby spends a lot of time stepping off the pathways to avoid other residents not wearing masks on her way to and from the mail box and trash bins.

WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
At first, they said old people and those with compromised immune systems were most in danger of infection and death. Then some little kids became seriously ill and some have died.

There are some new reports that younger adults, age 20 to 40 are now considered equally susceptible to the virus but others maintain that it is still elders who are most at risk. Crabby has no idea what is correct.

Over last weekend, Crabby read several reports that current spikes in infection numbers are not the so-called “second wave” - that we're still in the first wave.

Then on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the United States may not see a second wave in the fall and that the number of hospitalizations is more important than infection numbers in determining that. But as of Monday, it was reported that several states are running short of hospital beds.

So where are we? First wave? Second wave? Getting worse? Getting better? As far as Crabby Old Lady can tell from conflicting reports, there is no way to know.

OPENING THE ECONOMY
In the past couple of weeks, a whole bunch of states have allowed restaurants, hair salons, gyms, bars and other businesses where people congregate in close quarters to reopen under certain rules. The rules were broken as soon as the doors opened and the number of infections is skyrocketing.

Crabby could go on but it's repetitive. There is no one source of reliable information and as soon as one “expert” says XXX is so, some other “expert” says no, YYY is so. Is it any wonder Crabby is confused? How about you?

AN UNRELATED NOTE FROM RONNI
On Monday's post, quite a few of your responses repeated my “bugger that” comment. It is not a common phrase of mine and I suspect it reveals that I have been watching way too many old episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles.

“Bugger that” or “bugger all” is a favorite epithet of Hetty Lange, played by Linda Hunt, when she's pissed off.

Comments

I rely on what I know from 20-years working on sailors and marines. Back when I lived in a mask, gown, and gloves, I was protecting my patients from germs I carried. Working with contagious patients, I was protecting myself from their germs. Today, with COVID-19 believed to be droplet-spread (but perhaps able to linger in the air longer on smaller droplets), it's kind of a mix unless one or the other of us knows we're carrying. Until we know, I'd protect us both.
Assuming that COVID-19 behaves like a cyclical disease (which is likely) it wouldn't need to cycle until the present cycle is exhausted, perhaps after the campaign event in Tulsa if they're still feeling lucky. With more than 7 billion people this could go on for a while, especially if they don't behave themselves.

Oh, and the people who leave their nostrils out over their mask either haven't read that COVID-19 seems to prefer to attach in the nasopharynx or don't know where the nasopharynx is.

I tried to follow government guidelines ( UK ) which flipped and flopped and left me angry and confused. I slowly realised our Prime Minister has lost all interest in the safety of others since he’s had Coronavirus himself and now feels “safe” personally. His guidelines are now based on his ratings in the polls.
The other night I was greatly impressed by the the editor-in-chief of The Lancet who spoke forcefully about how our government has changed the rules to suit their backers and even how government scientists have colluded in this. He laid out his own guidelines to reduce personal risk:
•Wash hands regularly
•Wear a mask when out and about ( the fabric should make the blowing out of a candle impossible when worn over nose and mouth )
•Keep a sensible distance from others.
•Avoid large gatherings
This feels like a realistic way to live for the near future. x

I'm going with the common sense approach: mask, social distancing and avoiding large groups. Because I'm retired, pretty much staying home unless absolutely necessary. Developed an Excel contact log for when I go out--stating where and when(time) I went and who I came in contact with--and then note when 14 days pass with no signs of illness. Also indicate if anyone did not practice social distancing.

Using common sense, this means that I will not be going to a Father's Day event at one of my son's homes because not only are our family members invited, but all of his wife's (large, extended) family group will be there...none of whom seem to follow masking or social distancing rules. Nice people, but not worth the risk as I would be the oldest in the group at almost 70. In a small state with 3k Covid deaths.

Trump clearly believes he lives in a special world where no rules apply. They may apply to other people but not to him, so there's no need for him to wear a mask. People who attend his Tulsa rally have been asked to sign a waiver saying they won't hold the campaign responsible if they get sick.

I too am confused about what I should be doing. I walk outside without a mask, but I do wear one when I go into a store or restaurant. I don't understand why people resist so much. It isn't comfortable, but it seems to me to be a small thing and worth doing to protect oneself and others. The 6 feet rule is harder when you're trying to converse, but it can be done, and again, seems like common sense.

As to bugger all, I think of that as a Britishism. I first heard it on British shows; I don't watch NCIS Los Angeles.

Are we still just washing our hands or can I shower yet? B

It seems clear that non-surgical masks protect others from the wearer, not the wearer from others. I'm using a little mask trick that I've never seen anywhere but that seems logical to me. I'd like to know what people think of it.

Soap kills coronavirus -- we know that, yes? That's why we wash our hands so carefully. So I take a bar of Ivory soap and rub it over the outside of my and my husband's masks. If we're wearing paper masks, I use the soap dry. If cloth masks, I wet it first and then let the mask dry before wearing.

Now, wouldn't that soap film tend to repel any coronavirus molecules that it encounters?


Oh duh, I just don't get it..............if the mask is keeping my germs from getting to you, why, oh why wouldn't it work the other way around also?????
At this point, I'm mostly a hermit........curbside pickup, might hit the farmers' market, I hear everyone there's very covid conscious. Two friends at a time is tops, we sit outside.............today on the porch as the weather's rainy. Wipe down chairs before and after, they bring their own refreshments. Oh la.

N95 mask for the small amount of outside shopping I must do. Since most people are not wearing masks at all I have to make sure I wear the one that protects me best, and that is a tightly fitted N95 with or without vent. I have both.

I wear my sunglasses so they go over the top of the mask and cover any small gap that may be under my eyes.

When I get home I spray it all over, inside and out with Lysol spray, (purchased in February, thank goodness) and air dry till next time.

Yes, the initial guidance was a lie - I suspected it then and I know it now. If an N95 mask protects a medical person, why won’t it protect me ? How stupid did they think we were?

@ Salinda Dahl: Yes, it is counterintuitive that blocking transmission outward at the source is easier than blocking transmission in. (The Atlantic Monthly piece that explains this is called "Don't Wear a Mask for Yourself.") In short, the standard "civilian model" (non N95) works the other way around too, but not nearly as effectively.
@ Diane Darrow: Seems like that makes sense, but soap needs to be used with water to work. There is an article in The Guardian that explains exactly how, called "The Science of Soap" by a professor of chemistry. Think about it, you would not add soap to your washing machine, no water, and expect your clothes to come out clean.

As someone pointed out the other day -- wearing a mask with the nostrils uncovered is like wearing a condom with the tip cut off.

I have a black mask, and from a distance it may not look like fabric, but it is. I wash it regularly and use a nice scented soap along with a stronger disinfectant, leaving a pleasant lemon-coconut aroma behind.

And who really knows what's effective and what's not? I'm constantly surprised by how little we seem to know today, a century later than the last go-round.

I have made about 200 masks that have been donated and gone to family and friends. My husband and I, in our 80s, wear a mask even when we leave our unit to go down to the lobby to get our mail. I use a high thread count quilter's cotton on the inside and outside with a layer in the middle as a filter. I am currently using polypropylene, recommended by WHO. These masks are thrown into the laundry with other stuff and then in the dryer. They should be washed every day, after use. The black masks you see are just black fabric. The fabric must be breathable and obviously, rubber would not be! I think masks can help for protecting the wearer as well as those the wearer comes in contact with. This is my 2 cents on this - for what it is worth.

Ronni,
I am confused, too. The news seems contradictory and the reporters must be going nuts trying to keep us informed.
I am grateful for your well informed readers, since I always learn something. I certainly did today.

Bugger ALL those lying Politicians! And bugger all their mindless followers!


I sewed masks out of polypropylene grocery bags. They are three layers thick yet still breathable, but now that heat and humidity are upon us they are almost unbearable

We recently bought plastic shields that cover our entire faces. I feel better wearing those, as the protection goes both ways. We now wear thinner masks over nose and mouth, under the shields.

We only go to stores once every 7 to 10 days, and we hang the masks and shields outside on the clothesline for exposure to the elements before bringing them inside. The virus cannot sustain itself for long on these particular materials, so it is an added step before washing them.

No, not confused. Of course masks help. Duh! Still washing hands, wearing a mask outside and sadly, isolating. I'm 78 with COPD and pretty sure if I catch it I'm toast. And should you survive the disease the after affects can leave you damaged, especially your lungs, for the rest of your life. The NYT has an article about the outbreak in Yakima where a woman relates her step-father who survived is now on oxygen for the rest of his life.

I have been in a store twice since this started. Both times very early and for produce. I get my groceries delivered but not crazy about the produce selections. My kids pick up RX for me if needed. We do have family meet-ups outside widely spaced when the weather is nice.

And Ronni, I live in a condo complex of about 40 units and my neighbors rarely seem to wear a mask while wandering about the grounds either for garbage or whatever. Peculiar, the number of cases here in Walla Walla are small (we are small 30,000) they have steadily begun to rise in the last 10 days since we went to phase 2. I really don't believe this is going away for some time to come.

I'm down to washing hands after going out, wearing a mask around others, and maintaining social distancing. Easy to do since I live alone and only go out to pick up prescriptions at a drive-thru. Groceries are delivered. I note all possible exposures on my calendar. I postponed all spring doctor appointments (3) to September, but am now thinking I'd like to move them up if possible to avoid what may or may not be a second wave starting in September. I fear getting COVID and being hospitalized and never getting to hug my son and grandkids again! (It's already been 3+ months since my last hug.)

It is sad that we are left to try to make sense of the conflicting information and our President is in a delusional state and lies anyway about what is going on.

As an RN since 1973 I walk outside in the early morning without a mask when few are out and if I see someone I give them a wide space in passing. I avoid going out except for mandatory trips to the store where I always wear a mask.

Ronni thank you for keeping this blog going even as your time shortens. I can only hope writing it gives you a an iota of what you give to us.

I worked in the hospital for years and used to wear masks frequently both for patient protection if they were compromised or for my own if they were contagious. It seemed to help then and I can only assume it helps now. There is no perfect way to protect yourself and others so I just try to do the best I can.

At 89,,with 2 underlying health problems, I rarely go out.
When I need to see a doctor,I’m using a fabric mask . It’s very difficult to breathe, but I believe wearing a mask and social distancing are our best weapon.
FWIW -
I read that wearing a cut to size paper coffee Filter to a cloth mask adds greatly to its protectiveness

I don't think it's called the "novel" coronavirus for nothing--nobody knows anything about it because it's so new. Even infectious disease experts are learning as they go, much as they had to with HIV in the '80s, as the amazing Dr. Fauci reminds us. Even after 100+ years, influenza is still very much around. Viruses are extremely efficient survivalists, and they take advantage of some humans' inability and/or unwillingness to take even simple steps to avoid transmission.

For the first time since February, our housecleaner is here today--which makes me nervous! We've been social distancing since March except for curbside grocery pickup and takeout food. I wipe down our groceries and spray mail and packages before opening. My husband doesn't go out at all (he's 90), and I wear a mask if I can't stay at least 10 ft. away from others. I wash my hands more times a day than I can count.

I'd hate to have it all be for naught at this point, but despite my best efforts, our house really needed a thorough cleaning. Still, our cleaning pro goes into other peoples' homes, and who knows their infection status? That's worrisome especially since 30%+ of those infected are asymptomatic and don't know they have it. Well, only about 6.5% of those tested in our state have come back positive, so I'll keep on doing what I'm doing and hope for the best.

Ronnie, I couldn't agree with you more. I try to apply reason to this epidemic. I decided after a few weeks that I was going to do my own grocery shopping, and do, masked. It seemed pretty clear that this virus is not highly contagious and that if you keep away from people you will be pretty safe, so I haven't seen any of my friends (and am missing them a lot). I've seen my son twice, and we have been masked and kept at least 6 feet away. I used to wipe everything that came in the house off, but then decided "bugger that", after reading some news reports. I do wash my hands a lot after I've been out. It was helpful to read that the virus lasts only 12-76 hours on non-organic surfaces, too.

News coverage has been at times irresponsible and inflammatory. Our government is incapable of giving us accurate guidance. We are almost in a failed state situation with this virus, so your safety is your own responsibility. Sauve qui put.

Started out in March wearing an N95 and nitrile gloves if I had to step foot out of my apartment (which was pretty much only to take the garbage down to the garbage room in the middle of the night). I would spray the mask with hydrogen peroxide between uses. Now I feel okay with a paper surgical-style mask (blue with paper folds), but I keep a wide berth of anyone not wearing a mask outdoors. This sometimes necessitates walking in the street for a few moments. I also plan to sew some cloth masks and use a filter material in between the layers. And I think I might also get a face shield to go with the lighter masks. Now that things have loosened up a little in NYC I am seeing an increased number (though still small) of people, mostly young, without masks or who wear them on their chins. I still wear gloves, not so much for protection (hand washing works!), but because they are a deterrent to my touching my face, which I think I would otherwise do, unconsciously, constantly.

What I haven't done and can't imagine doing any time in the foreseeable future is having anyone in my home besides my husband, or going anywhere indoors — other than a doctor's office if I trust the doctor —where there are other people...breathing. I am over 60 with underlying conditions. I will be wearing a mask until there is a vaccine.

“Bugger that” is a common expression in Australia. It can also be extended into “Bugger that for a joke” which means the same thing.

None of us know how we should act because we are not getting coherent guidance from any authority we trust. In this circumstance, we're all on our own, individually, to decide how to protect ourselves and others. That's in part because the medical people really don't know what to tell us. They are scientific and don't usually want to risk suggesting something unless they have evidence.

And the President long ago got bored with dealing with something he can't control with bluster and bull---t, so he's pretending it doesn't exist. State and country leaders are doing as well as might be expected, but there is no unified message. Mary Symmes seems right to me: this is how a failed state acts. (Much of Europe is not better, by the way.)

I'm 72, generally quite healthy, but inclined to become "post-viral" after respiratory infections, so I am well and truly scared by COVID. I exercise at dawn in city streets with just a buff for intermittently covering my face if someone is about. (Not many.) I also walk city streets with a mask many days. I go to the corner greengrocer maybe 3 times a week -- in and out in 5 minutes, always with a mask that claims to be N95. Staples are delivered.

Contrary to my entire life history, I have not attended any of the current Black Lives Matter protests -- this omission feels unnatural.

But I haven't been able to keep myself from "cheating" a little. I walk outside with another elder frequently. Once a week I deliver hot meals, with barely any contact, to nine elders spread about the city. And today I did something radical: I went to the dentist for tooth cleaning. Why? Not sure, except that I have tremendous respect for how this guy runs his office. They are very modern and have always worn full PPE, from long before the epidemic. So I kept my appointment, made before all this happened. Feels a little crazy; over the next 2 weeks, we'll see. My partner okayed it -- because if I've exposed myself, she is on the line too ... Gosh this is an awful way to live.

Make that until at least two weeks after receiving a vaccine.

Sounds like we all know pretty much what to do. Why don't those other people I see out and about do it? Just as befuddling to me as the people who still support the evil one.

The people who work as nurses, the people who work as food workers, you know, the working class, the baby boomers abused their entire lives. Good luck boomers! You'll soon be dependent on those same nurses and food workers who you treated like shit. Maybe you boomer's shouldn't have treated working class and poor people like trash. What goes around comes around.

I think the black rubber masks Ronni referred to are made of neoprene, which is what wet suits (for surfing/diving) are made of. I see them a lot here in California.

Someone told me why they are supposed to be so good, but I don't remember the reason.

I agree with and follow what Harold and nurses here described doing. I follow same guidelines as I used when working in hospitals, rehab units and SNFs they've described, sometimes with contagious patients, patients on ventilators.

I allow pkgs to sit for several days before handling, don't spray anything, wash my hands a lot and sometimes use a hand sanitizer but isn’t the prime variety as wasn't available. I only go to a few select drive thru restaurants occasionally, have done 2 or 3 pickups at a select cooked ham/turkey with veggies site, drive thru pharmacy, accepted my reg. pharma delivery. Generous younger, retired now, women couple who are neighbors and friends pick up food I request when they tell me they’re going for groceries every week or two.

Haven't been in any stores since end of Feb. or maybe it was mid-March or seen other people since except as described above when I always wear one of those surgical masks gifted to me. I leave it in car where temps during day goes well over 100 degrees day after day cooking it. Figure I can use one mask more than once since need to wear only briefly with clerks when receiving items and pay. Read these masks are good 4 hours though in the hosp we always carefully disposed of any of this and other type masks after each use. Beyond this I don’t undertake anything else for better or worse.

I was the unexpected recipient of pkg surgical masks from an unknown to me Asian couple who rang my doorbell immediately after L.A. County Health announced we should wear masks. They stood at end of my drive offering these masks free which I accepted — did not seem to be distributing them in my neighborhood though I did find a small religious booklet titled “Hope” in the bag. Don't know why I was singled out unless they’re friends with limited to non-English speaking Chinese neighbors I went out of my way to greet with Google Eng./Chinese translation written message when they moved next door a year ago. Know she was part of other Chinese religious group meeting regularly in each other’s homes.

Oh, I do have disposable gloves I had for my earthquake emergency kit but have used them only once briefly as I recall.

We're learning more about the disease as time goes on. So as the knowledge changes, the expert opinion changes. It doesn't mean they were lying before. When did it become fashionable to believe the worst of other people? P.S. I like the soap idea. Probably doesn't work, but it shows good creative thinking!

It is very confusing. I'm seeing most people (those who are doing anything at all) treating the mask and the 6-foot social distance as a choice, not a combination. I prefer to use both. I'm lucky to be able to be outside at my own home and not have to worry. I haven't been inside anyplace but my own home since March, but I may bite the bullet and go grocery shopping. I'm not sure that doing curbside pick-up is any safer, or much safer, than going to the store at off hours.

Forgot to mention that everything that comes into the house - shopping, letters etc - goes into the spare room or freezer for three days and I don’t touch it. That way I don’t need to wash stuff and/or sanitise every little thing.
Then I wash my hands.
Read somewhere that if you dry your hands very, very thoroughly after each wash they don’t become quite so chapped.

Covid19 differs from person to person. It's unpredictable. A woman in her 20s had a double lung transplant. A man who is 93 had mild symptoms.

They now know the risk of transmission from hard surfaces is low. Remember the doctor's video on how to sanitize your groceries at home? I did that for several weeks. I stopped 2 weeks ago. I still use hand sanitizer before and after grocery shopping. I always washed my hands when I returned home after being out and continue to do this.

Covid19 is also not as contagious as SARS. The Toronto SARS epidemic started with a Toronto resident in Hong Kong who had a hotel room across the hall from a doctor who had treated SARS patients and was not feeling well. They shared a hallway. Perhaps they shared an elevator. Infection was immediate and death came soon after.

It's the unpredictability of Covid19 and the high percentage of people who are positive who are asymptomatic which makes it so lethal.

We have senior hours for shopping. I am sticking to that. I tried shopping a couple of times at other hours. It was crazy. It gave me a headache.

I caught 4 colds during the winter of 2018-19. The first one was very, very bad. I have not caught any colds this past winter. I'm lucky to live in a state with responsible leadership. I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I wear a mask, I practice social distancing and I wash my hands.

Yes, me too; pretty much the same as most of us. My house has been closed to others since early March, with only 2 trusted exceptions. Both of those women have gone back to work, so we meet on porches now. In the early days, I tore into my home, re-purposing some rooms; rearranging furniture; getting rid of 'stuff'; paring down etc.

I found that 'senior' hours at stores were more crowded than some evening hours, so I do that now. Yes, still doing my own shopping. Masked. Wore gloves in the beginning; don't now. I was doing the full version of grocery cleaning; don't anymore.

My Women's Salon tried meeting on Skype Group, but it didn't work well, and some were afraid of Zoom's privacy problems, so that group is in a sort of limbo, supported by calls, a blog, and occasional 2-4 person groups for what we call Covid Cocktails - always on a porch or deck.

My weekly Karaoke group seemed to suffer the most. You know, 70+ year old Divas can become quite irritable if we don't get to harmonize now & then. :D
A member and friend solved that by dragging her equipment out to her large deck and setting everything up for social distancing. Mics (each of us has her own), chairs, controls, etc. all sanitized before and after. We take our own food/drinks and go home when we need to pee!! All of our houses remain mostly quite closed.

The Tai Chi classes that I take, and those I teach, stopped immediately at the end of February. Then in May my sifu (teacher) put together a special form for these times. One of us lives in a subdivision that includes a wonderful private park that we started using once a week. We are socially distanced - even more than 6 ft. - and some wear masks. This month I restarted my class, teaching Jim's form and meeting in a park in town. All S.D. and mostly masked. I find it difficult to teach thru a mask, and since we are distanced, I don't wear one during that.

Not so surprisingly to me, I've found that the isolation has been more helpful than troublesome. It saves me the trouble of claiming that I'm a hermit for one thing!
And it has helped me work thru some issues of personal mental health.
I've been in therapy (again) for a few months and the private time has been very productive. I feel more well than in my entire life and content with how things go.

I'm grateful for you, Ronni. I share much of your writings with my Elder friends, one of whom is not far behind you on a similar path.
And I'm grateful for this community and for the energy here that feels so Homey.
Thanks. May you be safe, healthy, and at peace.

James Hamblin (MD, The Atlantic), whom I learned about through you and then saw him at a talk/book signing, has a excellent, free podcast on Apple Podcast: Social Distance that covers all kinds of topics related to COVID-19. I can't leave a link here, but that should be enough to go on.

Until a vaccine is found, I believe that wearing a mask is way of vaccinating myself and others.

And I watch a lot of NCIS: Los Angeles too because I love Hetty Lange. I want to be Hetty Lange. She rarely lets anything get under her skin but when it does you know it because she says "bugger." I love that word!

We in British Columbia are fortunate to have Dr Bonnie Henry as our top doctor, and politicians who, for the most part defer to her guidelines. Dr Henry is an epidemiologist who worked in Africa during one of the Ebola outbreaks. She has a very calm demeanour, and kind approach. She has amassed a huge respect quotient, and we all know respect is a give and receive thing. There have been missteps which are admitted to ASAP, then we move forward again. While BC doesn’t have the lowest rate of infection, the curve has been flattened and protocols are slowly being relaxed.
I think Dr Fauci thinks along similar lines to Dr Henry, and for reasons unknown is still in a place of influence, at least to those who will listen.

I apologize for giving too much credit to Dr F. I’ve been off line for a few days and missed the story about him proclaiming misleading information re the use of masks.

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