Avoiding Close Contact Limits the Spread of Coronavirus—It’s True

The Reality of Being Respectful

This is truly a global phenomenon, not just here in the United States.  Aside from sheltering in place or self-quarantining, we’re being asked to help halt the spread of the coronavirus by social distancing.  Actually, I prefer to call it physical distancing, which is the trend to help flatten the curve and slow down the spread of the virus.  In practice, which I try to follow every time I leave the house and venture into public places, I stay physically separated by at least six feet from the next person, who is normally someone I do not know.  Even with six feet of physical separation, you can still carry on a conversation and therefore you can be socially engaged and not social distancing.  

This is a life-style that we as humans are not used to practicing.  It is disruptive, it is mentally challenging to obey because it physically disconnects us from one another, and changes our daily habits, drastically.  Simply put, we humans are social animals and are used to close and intimate contact with people we know and don’t know, and now we’re being asked to separate ourselves from others.

Many of the medical professionals are not so worried about middle aged and seniors not practicing social/physical distancing, but they are worried about the concept not resonating with younger adults or people whose lives have been upended if they work in the gig economy.  As one healthcare professional said, this is a real opportunity to be a hero by doing almost nothing.  The authorities here in southern California has virtually shut down the beaches, walkways and hiking trails to discourage crowding.   There is an increasing number of very sick younger adults who have chosen to ignore the warning signs.  Think about how many they have passed it onto, including older members of their own family.

I was at a grocery the other day and went to the in-store Starbucks to get a coffee gift card for one of the healthcare workers at my parent’s nursing home.  While standing in line a safe distance from the next person, a young Asian man got right in my face and asked why I was wearing a mask and protective gloves.  I had never seen nor met this man before.  He was confrontational and insulting and called me racist for wearing the mask. I explained that I had an autoimmune disease and my doctor recommended I follow those precautions.  The other people in line banded together, came to my rescue and forced the man to withdraw, but not before a great deal of yelling and cursing on his part.  My question:  why would someone do this especially to a boomer-senior.  Has the world become this ignorant and blind with anger?

As I’ve mentioned before, we have been staying at my parent’s house, helping to maintain it while they are in the nursing home.  The home is located in a community development and sits on the 9th fairway of the golf course.  I noticed the other day so many golf carts, like I had never seen before.  Then I realized there was only one person to a cart as opposed to the traditional two per cart.  That’s how these smart senior golfers are practicing physical distancing.  What a novel concept.

For the most part, in places still open for business such as groceries and pharmacies, it seems people are trying to embrace the concept of not crowding.  Many stores have placed marks 6 feet apart on the floor helping to guide people in their separation.  The bars and restaurants were notorious for encouraging close proximity, and both fortunately and unfortunately have been forced to close their doors during this pandemic.  But some have stayed open offering take out and free delivery.  I was in a local Mexican restaurant the other day, one of my absolute favorites because of their fresh, gluten-free menu, and ordered take out, along with many others waiting in line.  Well, I’m not sure I experienced a great deal of physical distancing.  In addition, there are far too many hard surfaces to which you are exposed that are simply not cleaned off often enough, or between customers.   So my recommendation is probably to forego the take-out lines in favor of simply doing a drive through or cooking at home. 

Also, you might wish to rethink the food delivery option.  There are many hands touching the food and the bags or boxes which increases the risk of exposure.  Not to say that is going to happen, but it’s a risk-to-benefit that you need to decide. 

If you want to get really creative, go to your best foodie internet site and copy some of the recipes of your favorite foods—copycat recipes to bring your favorite restaurants to your kitchen.  Chowhound is a great source for such copycat recipes.  Of course, it’s starting to get warmer during the day, but it’s still a great time for soup.  Some of Chowhound’s recommendations include:  Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup; Panera’s Broccoli Cheese Soup;  Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana; Cracker Barrel’s Vegetable Soup; and Applebee’s Tomato Basil Soup.  YUM!

My best helpful hint during this time is to hunker down in your home, and don’t go out and subject yourself to lines and small crowds unless it’s absolutely necessary.  One exception:  go out as often as you can to get fresh air, take a walk, go for a bike ride, or simply sit on a park bench and take in the sights and sounds of mother nature.  It is spring- time, and the temperatures should be warming up, so experience the good times, and be sure to wear your sunscreen and sunglasses.

As a wise physician said:  “It’s time to give up a little something.  Something is better than nothing, and a lot of somethings are better than fewer nothings.”

Asaf Bitton, M.D., Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Editorial contribution by Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker

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