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Archive for March, 2020

Living in the Era of COVID-19: Coping Strategies

March 27th, 2020 at 02:42 pm

Living alone, I feel I have both an advantage and a disadvantage when it comes to COVID-19. The advantage is that there is no one in close quarters on a regular basis who could possibly infect me, and I can control my home environment much better since it's just me; the disadvantage is that I am going without the social interaction and just plain comfort of having others around me.

I am actually pretty okay with hunkering down; my biggest dread is doing the weekly grocery shopping. I could go longer between trips, but I'm also shopping for my 86-year-old father, and I'm not sure he would like me to skip a week.

Yesterday was the day; I decided to try BJs because they are generally very uncrowded on weekdays without the COVID. I went during the early morning hour reserved for those of a certain age. It was uncrowded. I used the self-checkout station, but an employee suddenly ran up to me (3 feet away) and yelled that I could not use "unapproved" sanitizers on their equipment. (I've been bringing my little bottle of bleach/water and a sponge to spray any surfaces I have to touch.) And they still had a guy at the door checking receipts, making you wait in line with others. I don't think I'll be returning there again til this crisis is over.

I was very disappointed not to qualify for a new study an area hospital is recruiting for to see how a vegan diet, with or without eggs, affects diet quality and heart health. The study sounded great: eat a vegan diet (I already do), plus certain people would be assigned to eat 2 eggs daily for 4 weeks. There'd be about 4 blood draws and other check-ins. The pay was $600 PLUS another $500 in gift cards to pay for the vegan food! Unfortunately, I don't qualify because my BMI is in the "healthy" category and I'm not considered at risk for diabetes.

My routine when venturing out for groceries is elaborate, but as some healthcare pros have said, if you feel like what you're doing is overkill, then you're probably doing the right thing. I also read a good article in the New York Times about how to grocery shop safely.

So I wear my disposable gloves (I have masks, but haven't yet used them) and bring my sponge and spray bottle of bleach/water. I find a cart and wipe down mainly the handle bar, but also the wire on the cage wherever I think I'll be touching it, so that would include the front, since I would be leaning over it to empty it at checkout.

I've been trying to pull items stacked behind the front ones, to reduce the chance some customer has touched them.

I also spray and wipe down the surfaces at checkout, including the display screen you touch at various times, and the credit card terminal. Only BJs hassled me.

When I get to my car, I spray my own gloved hands with the bleach solution again, and the door handle. When I get home, I spray and wipe down all food products, either in the packaging they came in (like my dad's chicken), or I remove the food from its outer packaging and put it away without it. I also, for instance, sprayed/cleaned individual bananas for dad.

My technique is imperfect, to be sure; spraying the typical shopping cart is definitely difficult, but what I do is spray my sponge and then wipe the cart. I prefer the little carts simply because there's less to wipe down, but I'm shopping for 2 households so that sometimes won't fit in a smaller cart.

When I finish unpacking and cleaning the food, I set aside the reusable shopping bags in a part of the house where I won't walk into them, and I add a sticky note with the day I used them. Just because I know that the virus isn't supposed to survive past a certain time. I've heard varying numbers up to 9 days, so I allow for 10 days.

I do the same thing with mail collected from my mailbox. My postal carrier could have the virus and not know it, so I remove the mail using a gloved hand, and put both the mail and the glove aside, again with a dated sticky note. I get most bills online, so I'm not too concerned with not paying some bill in time.

I've ordered some food and other things from both Amazon and WalMart and done the same thing when those boxes arrived. Suffice it to say I have little piles of mail, boxes, gloves and coats scattered all around my living room (which I don't really use much).

So yeah, it sounds extreme, but I live near the nation's epicenter for the virus, New York City. In my state of Connecticut, I also live in the county that has the highest number of cases (and is closest to NYC, with lots of people who commute there for work).

Other than the challenges of food shopping, I've developed little routines that help me organize my time. I still have a job (at home), but this week I worked only 7.5 hours. Hardly enough to get by on, but I have savings and the government check to look forward to.

I walk nearly every day, sometimes just around the block, sometimes elsewhere. It's great to get outside and not feel cooped up. Once the weather gets a little warmer, I'll have plenty to do with gardening. I'm already considering whether I should try mowing my lawn for the entire season instead of paying my guy to do it. I certainly will have the time for it; it's also great resistance exercise and good for bone health, something I'm definitely thinking more about since being told I have osteopenia. It would also save me a pile of money since he charges $45 per mowing.

It's not easy to do. It's about an acre, and the worst part is a fairly steep slope near my front door. The hardest part is doing this in July/August, or during times of high humidity.

I do plan to grow more veggies this year at home, which could definitely become important if the virus persists.

I'm continuing to cook from scratch for nearly all my meals. I'm doing strength training exercises with hand and ankle weights, my yoga mat and a stretch band 3x a week.

I see my dad every week. This week was the second time I did not go near him. He was sitting outside in the sun when I arrived with the groceries. I thought he should put the groceries away himself, but he asked me to do it. I had bleach-wiped them, so they should be okay.

So we talked for about 20 minutes, but from a 6-foot distance. I worry about keeping his spirits up because he is already housebound and didn't go anywhere unless me or my sister or brother were taking him. Now all those visits will be curtailed.

He's talking about growing vegetable seedlings, so I've ordered soil, seeds and peat pots. It would be something to keep him busy.

What coping strategies have you come up with?

My Neighbor (Probably) Has Corona Virus

March 22nd, 2020 at 10:44 pm

My neighbor who lives behind me thinks he has corona virus. He's been really sick for the past week (sicker than when he had pneumonia 4 years ago, he said) and got tested this morning. He had to make a 40-minute drive to a special test center by himself to do that. He won't have results for a couple of days. He said he's had all the symptoms, most especially trouble breathing. He couldn't put his arm on his chest because of the pressure. they gave him Tamiflu.

I am very relieved that through uber caution, I turned down his suggestion that he come by for a cup of tea and a visit the week before last. By then I was already feeling uneasy about seeing anyone. Perhaps he wasn't contagious or even sick then, but I don't really know.

He said you cannot take care of yourself if you get sick. Because it was all he could do to walk to the bathroom. His wife is caring for him now and so far feels fine.

Sitting it Out

March 20th, 2020 at 03:33 pm

It will be a quiet day for me. (Heck, a quiet foreseeable future.)

On Thursday I ventured out to buy groceries for me and Dad. I got there during senior hours, but in truth it was probably more crowded that it might have been if I had gone during the middle of the day? I'm not sure when an uncrowded time to go would be since nearly everyone is home and presumably go food shopping at any time.

Stop & Shop was completely out of bananas and most meat. My father wanted chicken thighs, but the only chicken they had was chicken patties (which I got him) and chicken sausage. I got the last large clamshell of salad greens.

I brought dad's food over to his place but after putting the groceries away, I stayed there probably just 40 minutes when he said I should probably go. He wanted me to run to the bank and get him some cash, which did, but then I headed home.

Today so far I vacuumed and changed my bedsheets. I hope to take a walk at some point, before the expected showers. It's supposed to get up to 70 degrees.

I'll look for an interesting way to cook my spaghetti squash that's been sitting in the fridge.

I've been doing intermittent fasting for the past month or two, not every day, but 2 or 3 times a week. It basically involves no snacking after dinner, and not eating the following day til about 11 or 12 noon, so you're essentially fasting for 16 hours. Then you can eat during an 8-hour window. There are a lot of health benefits to doing so.

Does anyone remember the old Charlton Heston movie, The Ten Commandments, which the networks often would play leading up to Easter? There's a part of that movie (or was it in The Greatest Story Ever Told, also starring Charlton Heston) where King Herod's army is ordered to kill every Hebrew male infant under age 2. I'm remembering a scene where a deadly smoke/breeze wafts throughout the town under the doors of all the people except those who marked their door with a cross.

Somehow this corona virus reminds me of that scene; we're all just hunkered down, waiting for the pestilence to pass us by.
I brought

I brought dad's food over

It's Official

March 16th, 2020 at 01:14 pm

Last night I emailed my manager at work, asking to work from home for an as-yet-undefined period of time because I truly feel showing up there is an unnecessary risk.

We are a small office, about 9 people, but I see no reason not to leverage modern technology to work remotely. My work as copy editor lends itself to it.

I got the go-ahead this morning; manager let it be known they were working with IT on a solution for others to work from home "in the event" they needed to.

Wow, if ever there was an event, this would be it. Not sure what they're waiting for. Our governor and everyone else is advising "social distancing," and this is what all our clients are already doing, yet for some reason my little employer seems to think this advice doesn't apply to them, even as we're told that someone can be a virus carrier and spread the disease for several days before showing symptoms.

I will be taking a substantial financial hit from working at home since I can only charge for time actually spent working on an assignment. When I'm on site, I charge for the entire time I'm there, regardless of what I'm doing, and there can be long downtime periods I just spend reading news online. So a typical 18-hour week could shrink by half or more. I actually tried to calculate whether I'd be better off if they issued me a temporary layoff. I think it would be a close call, and in any event, if work continues, I'll need to do it. Not really my call.

Now, my only true exposure will be my once weekly grocery shopping trips for my father and myself. I feel uneasy about continuing to see him as I could spread it to him, but I believe that my precautions would make that possibility very low. He is homebound now, and looks forward so much to my visits.

That being said, we won't be visiting a restaurant anytime soon. Being 60, I actually fall into the "high risk" category, along with my father. I guess I will make a meal for us at his place and we can still take a drive somewhere just for fun, but not stop in anywhere!

My county is the hot spot in our state due, no doubt, to our proximity to Westchester County, NY, another hot spot, and New York City.

I am sure the self-imposed isolation will get to me, but perhaps less than most, as I am very self-sufficient and have many things to occupy my time at home.

Unlike Dido, though, I doubt I have several months' worth of groceries, as I rely a lot on fresh produce that can't be stockpiled. I could make do with what I have for a few weeks, probably, but the lack of variety would probably get to me. I did stock up on cat food for Luther. I do hope no further shortages occur at the grocery stores. I noticed when I was at Stop & Shop last Saturday, besides the cleaning supplies, they were only half-stocked in cat food, bread and some fresh produce.

Yesterday I stayed home all day except for 2 outings: a nice, long walk to our historic Main Street, by myself, and a short drive in town to donate some clothing accessories to a woman with a church group collecting for a Sudanese refugee family settling in our area.

The day before, Saturday, I also stayed home all day but I kept busy and did some cooking and yard work. I plan to keep in touch with family, friends, loved ones by FaceTime, email, phone and text, and by yodeling to my neighbors up the hill. Smile

Today I canceled a routine doctor's visit. A few days ago, I had a good conversation with staff at the gym I just joined; they sound very reasonable and I have every expectation they will let people extend their memberships by as many months as they avoid the gym. In the meantime, I'll be working out at home.

I had met with my mason to do a few jobs for me this spring, but given the uncertainty about how long this will last, I think I'd prefer to preserve the liquidity of my cash holdings.

Another huge downturn in the DJIA and they've frozen the market.

A sillver lining

March 14th, 2020 at 03:04 pm

One small bonus coming out of all the economic and stock market uncertainty is the drop in oil prices. I was able to fill up my oil tank for $1.66 a gallon, a price I haven't paid since 2016.

Living in Uncertain Times

March 14th, 2020 at 02:41 pm

The past week has been a whirlwind of bad news and unexpected developments, most of it COVID-19-related.

I got the results back from my DEXA bone scan, and it indicates osteopenia. This shocked me, because I've been active all my life, from walking 4 miles back and forth to school until I got my driver's permit, to mowing my one acre with a walk-behind mower for 20 years, and everything in between. I've walked on my lunch break at work for decades, and more.

So 2 days later, I joined our local gym, the "sports academy," which is quite a bit more expensive ($42/mth) than most other local gyms these days, but I like it because of the convenient location, the friendly staff and, perhaps because of the cost, most of the membership is definitely over 50, so I feel very comfortable. It's not your typical macho pickup joint. I saw any number of people who had to have been in their 70s working out!

I committed to doing strength training on the machines 3x a week, and this would have been my 2nd week doing so, but things have gotten so nuts with the virus that I began feeling uneasy about returning to the gym, even with my own little spray bottle of bleach/water solution. I was there on Wednesday and don't think I'm going back for a while.

I had a good conversation with a staff person there who was very understanding and said they were having a meeting about it. They may offer an extension of memberships so if you take 2 or 3 months off now, they'll extend the membership by that much. or something like that, so I'm not too worried about that.

I have several sets of hand weights up to 10 pounds and a very good set of exercises for bone health you can do at home. I'm not sure it's as complete a workout as what I could expect at the gym, but it may have to do (along with my habitual walking) for a few months.

I'm actually more concerned about my job. When I left the office Wednesday, I had been following the virus news closely, but had every intention of returning to work on Monday, per my schedule, because we are a very small office and I figured the chances of contagion were also small, but now it's Saturday, and I feel differently.

My job editing lends itself to work at home, yet this company has always been reluctant to let you do that. I take a financial hit anyway when I do work from home, say, during a snowstorm, because I can only charge for actual time worked, not time spent sitting around waiting for assignments to come in. That's different than how it works when I'm on-site, where I can charge for my entire time spent there, regardless of whether I'm actually working, or not. And there's a lot of downtime.

But beyond that, I'm thinking it's likely we'll all see temporary layoffs, because our clients (very large pharma companies) will ban the kind of training workshops we put together for them, and if they can't be all turned into webcasts instead of in-person meetings, we'll see a work shortage.

A former coworker who now works for our largest client confirmed that this is exactly what's happening at her firm. Travel and meetings have been banned for the next 3 weeks and everyone there is working from home.

My neighbor told me a week ago he spent $1000 on groceries. At the time, I thought it unnecessary, but now in hindsight I see that wasn't a bad idea.

I went to Stop & Shop early today and not only was the entire one side of the cleaning aisle completely empty, but the cat food and bread shelves were only about 50% full, and I noticed other shortages in fresh produce. I do hope that once supermarkets restock, things will settle down.

Luckily I had a gallon of bleach at home so I made my own spray for surfaces, and my coworker gave me some Purell at the office Wednesday which I took home with me.

I am definitely practicing "social distancing" but am keeping in touch with family and friends through phone, text, email and, as I jokingly said to my neighbor behind me, through yodeling up the hill.

I saw my dad on Thursday and had decided that though the risk is small, I didn't really want to take him to a restaurant for lunch if we could easily avoid that, so I made a "picnic" lunch of homemade veggie soup, some peanut butter cookies and hot tea in thermoses.

I expected some resistance from him as I know that, being homebound, he really looks forward to our outings, but since he watches the news all day, he was fully informed about what was going on and did not poo poo my concerns as I thought he would.

I told him we could still take a drive somewhere, but he said let's wait for a sunny day. I did have to do grocery shopping for him, but tried to be careful in wearing gloves and spraying down the cart handle bar. I told the bagger I would bag my own groceries. Maybe I'm overreacting (I didn't see anyone else wearing gloves at the store) but I'd rather be safe than sorry, and there are now a dozen people who tested positive in my state, and all but one of them are in my county.

I really hope that people take this virus seriously. The more quickly we can take extraordinary measures by closing schools, movie theaters, etc., the more quickly we can nip this thing in the bud, or "flatten the curve," as they've been saying in the press conferences. If we delay or take half-measures for the next few weeks, it could make this whole thing much worse for us. Just sayin'.

Oh yeah, and I've lost about $300K in the stock market, despite being extremely conservatively invested with just 50% stock exposure. Not touching it, of course, as I expect we'll make a full rebound once they wrest control of the virus or come up with a vaccine.