I’m not so much worried about getting Coronavirus myself. I do have medical conditions that put me more at risk than others in early middle-age, but I’m still relatively healthy. Current statistics indicate the most likely outcome if I get COVID-19 is that I’ll be ill to some severity short of life threatening.
But the Coronavirus Pandemic is going to affect us all. Either directly or indirectly.
Personally, my concern is for my wife, Kim, who has lung disease. It’s for my father, who is in his eighties. More widely, my concern is for all people who— for one reason or another— are more susceptible to the virus than a typical, healthy person.
In Kim’s case, she has asthma. Currently her condition is well managed with medication. However, a respiratory infection in her lungs is a dangerous situation. The flu can put her in the hospital. As COVID-19 is conservatively estimated to be at least ten times worse than the flu, I’m sure you can understand our worry. COVID-19 can also trigger autoimmune reactions in the lungs, which is something she is already vulnerable to. Thankfully, those instances appear rare. But COVID-19 escalating into viral pneumonia is a much more common risk in comparison. For Kim, such a situation could require a respirator and intensive care in a hospital. Or even be fatal to her.
We’ve been talking about it a lot. We took the threat more seriously than many others have until recently. She and I have been doing what we can to plan and prepare. Kim tried to setup a work from home situation with her job to reduce her exposure chances. They instead struck a compromise and are giving her an isolated office for her use only.
After research on the virus and an inventory of our assets, we gathered supplies to weather the pandemic as best we can. We did this over the last week, and only got what we could reasonably need for the two of us. But the signs of other’s panic and hording were displayed on every empty store shelf. Fortunately, we were already good on cleaning products. But it took creative online sleuthing to acquire even the basic ingredients to make our own hand sanitizer.
PSA #1: Soap and Sanitize for Sanity and Safety
Yes, this is being repeated a lot. But it’s worth repeating for good reason.
Good old soap is remarkably effective at killing coronaviruses. It literally rips apart the greasy binders holding them together. Lathered soap is more effective at destroying the virus per application than hand sanitizer. So wash your hands. Often. Get them to a lather for at least twenty seconds. Dry them. Antibacterial soap is just as good as regular. Hand sanitizer is an acceptable backup if you’re on the go and/or soap and water isn’t available… but it’s no replacement for soapsuds!
If it’s an option, clean surfaces your hands touch— particularly your phone— with disinfectant… or soapy water if that’s all you got. Read instructions and give surfaces enough contact time to sanitize, usually a minute or three. Isopropyl alcohol is typically excellent for use on phones and most electronics, but check with the manufacturer if you’re unsure. I’ve cleaned my smartphone with a wet but not sopping paper towel and drop of dishwashing detergent with no ill effect.
I was surprised to not find similar runs on medicine when we were at the stores. Panicked thinking can be bizarre. Folks buy two-hundred dollars’ worth of toilet paper and don’t consider what they needed if they get sick from this thing. Regardless, it was a good turn for us. We collected three weeks’ worth of medicine for the both of us should we become infected and it’s manageable at home. Two or three weeks seems to be a typical run of COVID-19, at least for the worst part of the illness.
That medicine would be Tylenol/Acetaminophen, Advil/Ibuprofen (fever, pain, and inflammation relievers) and Mucinex/Guaifenesin (a straight expectorant) … if you’re curious. That last bit is important, and here’s why:
PSA #2: Don’t Treat COVID-19 With a Decongestant
Decongestants dry upper respiratory secretions, which is good for stuffy and runny noses. But decongestants also make it harder to expel phlegm and mucus, particularly from your lungs. As a major way Coronavirus causes harm is by building up into viral pneumonia, you don’t want to impede your body’s ability to cough that crap out. Instead, take an expectorant like Mucinex/Guaifenesin. An expectorant loosens congestion, making it easier to cough it out of your lungs. That can reduce your risk of developing pneumonia.
I want to repeat that the medicine we got is for if we become infected and it’s manageable at home. Or, heaven forbid, the hospitals are overwhelmed and we have no other options. If either of us get a cough and fever, the first thing we’re doing is self-isolation and the second is calling our doctor. So should you. The early symptoms of COVID-19 crossover with many other things like the flu, the common cold and allergies. Short of a test for the virus, you have no way of knowing what you have.
PSA #3: Don’t Take Chances With Your Health or the Health of Others
If you’ve got a cough and fever, stay home. Nobody is going to have “just a cold” for the duration of this crisis. Don’t go to work or gatherings sick unless you’ve been cleared by a doctor, you’re just putting folks at risk if you do. I suspect that very soon, most companies will be sending all employees working sick home regardless of the employee’s wishes anyway.
We need to accept that “Social Distancing” is going to become the norm during this pandemic. A vaccine for COVID-19 is at least a year away. We must be proactive in protecting ourselves and others, particularly our most vulnerable.
It’s not an exaggeration to say most of us are feeling overwhelmed by the crisis. Millions of lives are at risk. Millions more may lose their jobs as the pandemic crashes the economy. Here in the United States, for many that also means the monstrous irony of losing their healthcare in a time of pandemic as well. And I won’t even get started with the terrible state of the US government.
Faced with it all, I find myself asking how I can write at a time like this.
How can I write when so much is wrong? When the world is showing us just how small and powerless we can be. How can I keep penning fantasies when people are dying, and other lives are being dragged into financial ruin and chaos?
All of this has certainly disrupted my usual writing routine. Obviously, I can make responsible choices and actions, or be willing to face the consequences of not doing so. I’ve chosen the former, and that preparation has a cost in time and upkeep. Moreover, I’m human. A strong sense of emotion and empathy is part of the engine that drives my writing. These are depressing, anxious times. Not surprisingly, I’m fighting— sometimes winning and sometimes losing— a running battle with anxiety and depression.
But looking deep down inside me, I find my answer:
This is the Time When Writers are Needed Most
This is when the dark has gathered. When the fire burns low. When the cold night nips the weary and unsure.
This is when people need escape and refuge from a hard reality. When they need stories, and the storytellers that make them. When the comfort of an author’s world provides rest and a place for a soul to heal.
This is the time when writers are needed most.
~Jason H. Abbott