We are all practicing social distancing. Some of us are far more strict than others. For medical reasons, I am staying home, and just walking the dog, because Dexter needs walking. But staying at home can be hard. Introverts might have an easier time. But this can be hard.
So here are some strategies for you to deal with this.
First, realize this is going to last more than a few days. Likely we are in this for months. This is extrapolated from the Chinese experience. It is also obvious from how statistics work. We are still climbing the curve, and that climb will be at least two weeks. But the best answer is that we are going to be at home for two to three months. There are two reasons. We are testing more, though rationing has begun. And this growth is exponential in nature.
It helps to mentally prepare when you understand this. Expecting this to end on a certain day is likely going to disappoint you. From the evidence, we could see upwards of three months at home until we can get this under control. We may expect more time at home as flare-ups occur until a vaccine is deployed. This at a minimum is eighteen months.
The Spanish Flu lasted for close to two years. We also know some cities responded in similar ways as at least half of the nation has, so far. St. Louis saw fewer deaths by doing things such as social distancing. People were also told to stay home.
Doctors were at a loss as to what to recommend to their patients; many physicians urged people to avoid crowded places or simply other people. Others suggested remedies included eating cinnamon, drinking wine or even drinking Oxo’s meat drink (beef broth). Doctors also told people to keep their mouths and noses covered in public. At one point, the use of aspirin was blamed for causing the pandemic, when it might actually have helped those infected.
On June 28, 1918, a public notice appeared in the British papers advising people of the symptoms of the flu; however, it turned out this was actually an advertisement for Formamints, a tablet made and sold by a vitamin company. Even as people were dying, there was money to be made by advertising fake “cures.” The advert stated that the mints were the “best means of preventing the infective processes” and that everyone, including children, should suck four or five of these tablets a day until they felt better.
Americans were offered similar advice about how to avoid getting infected. They were advised not to shake hands with others, to stay indoors, to avoid touching library books and to wear masks. Schools and theaters closed, and the New York City Department of Health strictly enforced a Sanitary Code amendment that made spitting in the streets illegal, according to a review published in the journal Public Health Reports.
If some of this sounds familiar, it is because what was old, is new again. This is where history is illuminating. Also, in 1918–19 there was no vaccine produced or deployed. What happened is that enough people were sickened and either died or developed an immunity. This is also why when the Swine flu made its appearance, there was fear that we were on the brink. The strain of the H1N1 was similar to the Spanish Flu.
Here is a fun fact. The Spanish flu was called that way because Spain never entered the Great War, so there was coverage in Spain. The first cases, the index patients, were in Kansas at an Army base. These troops took it to Europe. Another fun fact, the World Health Organization stopped using the geographic origin of the index patient over a decade ago. This is why we use COVID-19.
How Do You Do Social Distancing?
We have an advantage over 1918–9. We have technology that allows us to see each other, and enjoy each other’s company. It may not be a hug, or a high five. But you can use a phone. Many of us also have things like FaceTime. Avail yourself of these tools. It will help you to keep in contact with people. Call those you have not in years. And especially call family who is older. For senior citizens this is critical.
Listen to each other. Be aware of how you and others feel. Important things for people are coming, such as Easter and Passover. Usually, these are critical days for family get-togethers. These are not going to happen this year. So figure out how to have virtual dinners. Worst case scenario, no Thanksgiving either. So prepare yourself for that.
If you are a person of faith, find out how your community is praying together while keeping its distance. It’s important to maintain community, but at the same time keep your perspective. What we need is science, good epidemiology, and solid biology. If prayer helps to keep you sane, sure, but what will save us is statistics. It’s not a critique of religion, but many people put that ahead of action that we know will make a difference. This includes some of our government leaders.
Watch for social isolation and depression. If you feel you need to talk, call a crisis line. Don’t ignore it.
What About Schools?
The districts have mostly not been honest about this, partly because national leaders have given mixed messages. We also have a textbook example of the digital divide. Students attending very well to do districts or private schools, are having e-learning. The others are not so lucky. So this matters. We as a society must be ready for the inevitable, across the board, loss of a school year. This means this cohort will finish high school at nineteen, instead of eighteen. Advancing them is nuts, and we will see disruption in the coming school year as well.
This is not the end of the world. Ending school a year later is not going to be a disaster for our youth. It is not that we are holding people back because of bad performance. However, how our kids spend their time at home matters. Many of our children are social butterflies…on the Internet. They are online playing games, and perhaps treating this as a vacation. Well, it is not. Parents must set schedules, limit time on devices and have very brutal conversations. Just be aware of their age.
Of course, this goes for young people who have the Internet. And as other services take priority, their gaming may be curtailed. Netflix is already metering speeds in Europe, that is coming. So if you have children on the Internet, develop strategies for things to do when lag becomes a reality. May this be the worst these young people need to suffer through. It’s not like they have to join the resistance and scour local farms to help their families survive. That was my father’s experience as a teenager during World War Two. He never finished his schooling. For this generation, it’s just delayed. Most still have a roof over their heads, and still have food. Yes, it’s an adventure to go to the store, but.
Now, this is not to diminish people who are having issues with food. Their food insecurity has gone through the roof, and with layoffs in the service industry, across the board, that has become a very serious crisis. This will need both state and federal intervention. And we need to get over it. The Internet is a utility, as important as electricity two generations ago. The digital divide needs to go, and these companies have to be reclassified as utilities. Incidentally, the same goes for cable services.
As we emerge on the other side, American education will be forever changed. I can see distance learning as a very good tool. This is especially the case for rural areas. However, to support this, we will need a robust national internet, with full coverage. The digital divide needs to disappear.
A word on college students. The Spring Breakers gave us a very good example of the self-centered, just me matters values we have had since the 1980s. This generation will have to grow up fast, and develop a sense of we. They are getting hit by multiple issues. They range from college debt (should be canceled, college education must be publicly funded from now on.) and this matters…it is not all college students. But a number of those young people are unable to get this. They need to stop gathering and become super-spreaders. They need to grow up. This is a national emergency, and it’s time these young people stop treating this as a game.
Moreover, many of them, like those in lower grades, will see a delay in their graduation as well. This is the cold reality. And for them, the realization will soon come. This is going to last a while and will be in waves. It could be around until the vaccine comes. And after that, it will be endemic. This is the expectation from experts.
A word about the ignorant anti-vaxxers, or as I like to call them pro-plague people. These are the most selfish people ever. Well, it’s over. One policy measure, confirming their ideology, which is narcissistic to no end…vaccines work. And as of now, everybody needs to get them. The only exceptions are medical. We are done as a society, and this is not about religion dark age thinking or freedom of speech. Public health matters and we are over their damage. It’s not just COVID-19, it’s measles and other preventable illnesses.
A Word About the Elderly
You have family and friends who are in that cohort? Call them. We have to stay on top of that and realize that if you think this is hard on you…it is far worst on them. They are not seeing their grandchildren. They are not getting visits. Their daily routine is disrupted beyond belief.
If you think this is hard for you, it’s depressive for them. Make a point of calling them every so often. Full disclosure, I have a list of the elderly I call. I now have a schedule and call them every so often. To be specific, at least three times a week.
You need to do this for them, and yourself. To be frank, these phone conversations may be the last time you talk to them. So even if you have the family you are somewhat distant with, pick up the phone. And for some of us, since family is in another country, if they pass, we will not be able to attend any funerals. So pick up the phone. It will not kill you, and you will help them in ways you can’t imagine.
Clean House…and other things
Well, my decluttering project is ongoing. So been doing that. As I get the time I do some of that every day. There is something else I am doing. We are painting miniatures, terrain and other sundry things for our games. And yes, there is reading and watching curiosity stream.
I am spending time with my husband. And of course Dexter is being Dexter. He gets walked and he still gets his treatments. He’s a good dog. I am considering taking an online course. It will keep my mind busy. Also, I am using YouTube for exercise, Tai-Chi and other ways to keep moving. This is good.
If you can, take a walk, but observe social distancing. It’s good for the stress we are all under. It is food for you. So do this, and just stay safe.