I’m shocked. No, I really am. My social media feeds are filled with people who celebrated the holidays with travel and/or family gatherings. Each is under the illusion that they had taken appropriate precautions.
If they were being honest with themselves, they’d admit that the only truly effective precautions public health experts advised were to STAY HOME. DO NOT TRAVEL. DO NOT ATTEND FAMILY GATHERINGS. But they are not being honest with anyone.
As we prepare for the surge of infections and deaths resulting from the holidays, it’s clear that folks need to hear once again the hard facts about Covid. And also real talk about managing this time of isolation.
THE TRUTH ABOUT COVID PROTECTIONS
SIX FEET OF SOCIAL DISTANCING IS BARE MINIMUM. Studies have shown for months that aerosol droplets carry much further. So six feet is NOTHING. It’s minimum, used probably because it’s better than nothing. It’s more palatable to more people than 10 or 20 feet. But really, it’s nothing.
MASKS ARE PROTECTIVE AND NECESSARY BUT NOT 100 % FAILSAFE. Do not have a false sense of security about this. Masks protect us and others. But they have to fit the face closely (attention men with beards) to be most protective. Masks are a necessity, let’s not believe wackos who think they aren’t. But they are not a guarantee.
STAY HOME. People who take part in activities that put them at risk are rolling the dice with their lives and the lives of their loved ones. This includes but is not limited to travel (seriously, folks?), church (do you really think God lives in a building?), family gatherings with people not in your household bubble (how many times do public health officials have to tell us not to do this), crowded indoor settings, crowded outdoor settings, or other mass gatherings. DO NOT DO THIS.
I know people who think that a negative Covid test means they can gather together. NO, IT DOES NOT.
A TEST IS NOT AN ASSURANCE. Here is what the CDC says:
If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. This does not mean you will not get sick:
- A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing or that your sample was collected too early in your infection. (Take this in: You can test negative but the next moment be positive and spreading it asymptomatically. You just don’t know. Some transmissions are by asymptomatic people. A test is good for that moment only and could mean your levels are undetectable by a test but you can still be spreading it.)
- You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and then get infected and spread the virus to others.
- If you have symptoms later, you may need another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Anyone at your gathering could have a negative test but still be merrily transmitting the virus without any symptoms. Or you could get symptoms the next hour, day or week and have been infectious the whole time. So don’t kid yourself. A test means nothing but your status the moment of the test.
A VACCINE MAY NOT PREVENT COVID. It could, but it could also simply help your body fight it so your chance of getting really sick or of serious complications is lower. That does not mean you are immune. It means you may have a better outcome if infected. It is not the silver bullet preventative, but it is the best we have to offer with current science.
THE MORE PEOPLE IGNORE PUBLIC HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS, THE LONGER COVID WILL STICK AROUND. So yes, your little family spreader event and others like it are responsible for us having to be in this horrible pandemic longer than necessary. FACT.
Still don’t believe? This, from a young ER doc I know.
These are the hard facts, the difficult truths and if you believe anything else you are fooling only yourself.
I am shocked at the number of people willing to put themselves and others at risk just because they want to do what they want to do. It is unconscionable.
Let’s cut to the chase here–we are all in the same boat. None of us like that we can not do the things we usually do. But some of us really do understand our obligation to ourselves and others. Some of us take this seriously.
The excuse that you are tired of isolating is a spoiled whine. We are ALL tired of it. But some of us believe it’s important to protect ourselves and others by doing the right thing.
As my husband says, “There’s nothing I’m dying to do,” and he means that literally.
SO HOW DO WE LIVE DURING ISOLATION?
We live by being creative and using technology to help us. Here are some ideas:
Schedule regular Zoom calls with loved ones.
Set up a regular weekly or biweekly call with each significant person in your life. Yes, even if you are all in the same town. These connections are vital to our well-being.
We do this with our family and closest friends and in fact have at least seven regular Zoom get togethers each week. They are so much fun! We laugh, we talk, and sometimes go on for almost two hours. These connections keep us going. Our social life is busier now than before the pandemic, because now, we can have regular connections with people without regard to geography. We have been doing this since March and the calls only get better.
No, it’s not the same as being with someone in person but surprisingly, it is almost as good. We can do this. YOU can do this. It’s not hard and Zoom calls are free for at least the first 45 minutes. Zoom has been generous about ignoring the time limit for free calls during the pandemic.
We do not have to be completely alone. The glass is half FULL.
Outdoor activities boost endorphins
When weather permitted we were heading out to trails and ponds for outdoor walks (masked, of course). We try to stay at least 15-20 feet from others on the same path. But last week one location was so busy and included too many unmasked runners, spewing their breath out into the air around us. Plus there were too many people. We left. If weather permits, find ways to exercise safely outdoors away from people who could be spreading disease.
Be creative about family holidays
We know people who live in the same city and would ordinarily get together for holiday dinners. Instead, they split up meal preparation and exchange dishes by dropping them in the other families’ garages, then returning home to eat the jointly prepared meal either on Zoom or individually. So it’s a shared meal without any in-person contact. They don’t bemoan it, either. They just go about having the holiday in this new reality.
The other day I made dinner for my nephew and us. I put his meal together in to-go containers and dropped it in his garage. Yes, complete with a cheese, fruit and chocolate board. A couple hours later we got on zoom and shared a meal. It was so much fun! And frankly, almost the same as having him here. We had the same discussions. Same laughter.
We usually do New Years Eve and day with our besties back in California. But this year the four of us are getting together across 3000 miles on Zoom to share watching the ball drop, champagne glasses in hand. Is this the same as it was in previous years? Of course not. But it is the responsible thing to do and it is still fun. Make the glass half full.
Have your own kind of fun gathering
One of our weekly calls includes deep, wide-ranging discussions of social issues with good friends and I have long wanted my nephews to join in. This month, one joined us in these robust discussions and wants to keep joining in. Because our friends and our nephews all live in different cities, this would be impossible without Zoom. We are making happy memories in an unhappy situation.
Cuddle with your pets
Most of us really miss physical contact. If you live alone, you may miss it more than others. If you are lucky enough to have pets you can cuddle with, they can give you what hugs from loved ones used to give you. We’ll be able to hug again in the future but right now, your animals can be a wonderful outlet. If you do not have animals, get yourself a teddy bear. I’m not kidding. That can be a wonderful comfort.
Get help if you need to
Therapists are doing online sessions. You might have to look hard for one taking new patients. Here is a place to get referrals. And here is another. If you are uncomfortable with speaking on the phone text “MHA” to 741-741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line. If you aren’t in a mind-state to search, ask a loved one to help. The suicide help line is staffed at 800-273-8255
Make the best of it
You can look at the glass as half empty, which makes life depressing and miserable. Or you can view it as half full and make the most of technology. We can still get together with family friends. We may not be able to hug, but we can share our love other ways. And protect ourselves and our loved ones along the way.
This, too, shall pass. And “when” is largely influenced by what we do. What YOU do. Our actions matter.
Stay home and abide by public health guidelines and we’ll get through this sooner. Attend gatherings and know your actions and those who act like you do are responsible for prolonging this pandemic.
That really IS the bottom line.