Well, folks. Here we go.
We're all entering this new phase of Pandemic Life . . . the part where we open things up again and go back to "normal." This seems particularly scary to a lot of us -- because the ongoing risks of the pandemic haven't actually changed. It's still a very nasty virus that we don't fully understand or know how to treat -- and it can take a lot of unpredictable and frightening twists and turns once it gets into your body. Sure. We do seem to be out of the "acute emergency" stage of it (for now). And I can understand that it's time to make a shift toward developing strategies that allow us to resume some parts of our old lives.
But . . . yikes! We've got some risks to manage.
I'm feeling pretty lucky to be living in Michigan right now. We have a tough governor who is standing up to attacks from all sides AND holding the line on a thoughtful and phased-in re-opening process. I feel slightly more confident about the integrity of the process than I might if I lived in . . . well . . . one of those states jumping right in with both feet.
(My new hat . . . )
I'm paying a lot of attention these days to what public health experts are saying about disease transmission AND I'm listening to their advice about managing personal risks when it comes to the coronavirus. Considering the short period of time this virus has been in the world (remember back to the new year? when none of us had even heard of this thing yet? yeah - short period of time), we've learned a whole lot about what it is, how it seems to transmit, and what it can do.
What we know about transmission:
(Although I've read several articles, this one by Dr. Erin Bromage is the best when it comes to a straightforward explanation.)
- COVID-19 spreads via droplets which are expelled when infected people cough, sneeze, scream, shout, sing, talk . . . or just breathe.
- The tricky thing is that people begin to expel droplets full of virus up to 3 days BEFORE they experience any symptoms. This is particularly bad news in virus-world -- because healthy-feeling people are out there . . . breathing . . . for days before they feel sick enough to stay at home.
- To get the virus, you need exposure to an infectious dose. Dr. Bromage's simple formula looks like this:
Successful Infection = Exposure to virus X Time
- The longer your exposure to the virus, the more likely you are to become infected.
- The factors that contribute to virus transmission are: enclosed environments, poor air circulation, and a high density of people -- and these factors are all boosted by time.
- The main sources of infection: home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, restaurants, and indoor sports.
Basically, then . . . we're better off out there if we're:
- Around a limited number of people.
- At a distance.
- While wearing masks.
All of that . . . doesn't change now. Even though we've flattened the curve and come out of the woods enough that most states (and a lot of people in them) feel comfortable moving about again. But like I used to tell my kids as they were growing up: Just because you CAN, it doesn't mean you SHOULD.
As Michigan opens up, I'm thinking long and hard about how I want to (and whether I want to) move about again. I'm going to think about what we know about transmission, and I'm going to use that information to manage my own risk. For the most part, I'll consider the environment -- is it a closed space? are there a lot of people in the space? are they wearing masks? -- and I'm going to ask myself if I really NEED to do this thing/be in this space? or can it wait? I'm going to pay attention to "the numbers" and the trends in my area. I'm still planning to stay home as much as possible (although we are planning to "double our bubble" with Brian and Lauren). I'll keep wearing my mask. And washing my hands. And disinfecting all the surfaces.
I'll try to figure out ways to support my local businesses as they open up, but I won't be . . .
- eating at restaurants
- getting a haircut
- going to the gym
- strolling through the farmers market
- meeting up with friends
- going to a movie
These are all hard things for me. Because I love doing ALL of those things. And I miss doing them.
But I also really don't want to get COVID-19 (and especially before they have the treatment protocols a bit more under control). And I don't want Tom or my dad or my kids or my friends or any of the people who work at the businesses I support to get it either!
For me . . . it's all about managing my risk.
How are you planning to manage your own risk as things open up again? And how are you making your decisions? Do you feel like you have enough information to navigate your Pandemic Life?
Here are a few other articles I've read about what public health experts have to say about making choices and managing the risks as our communities open up again (I'm not certain, but some of these may require subscriptions to read):
From The Atlantic: As Restaurants and Stores Reopen, What's Safe
From the Washington Post: Where Public Health Experts Will - And Won't - Go as Businesses Open Back Up
From Vox: Coronavirus: When Will It Be Safe To Work Out With Other People Again?
From Vox: Lockdowns Worked. Now What?