Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The New Pandemic Lifestyle Is the Old Lifestyle--Ramped Up

The basic reality is this: my federal and state governmental policies regarding the COVID-19 epidemic are driven by politics rather than medical science. My wife and I are in the higher risk category because of our age. No vaccine exists, and scientists are still trying to discover medicines that help lessen the impact of the virus if one is infected.

The basic reality is that I'm living in a hostile environment. In my state of residence, Iowa, infections are still spiking even as the governor "opens" the state, even though she never really "closed" it. From April 20 to May 12, the state's confirmed coronavirus cases rose from 3,159 to 12,912, an increase of more than 300 percent in 22 days.

The basic question is this: How do I stay alive and healthy in this environment? 

There is no quick solution to this pandemic, especially since state and federal governments are making decisions that ignore medical realities. Our current situation will last for years, probably--at least for my age group. I feel like a villager in the African savannah that has a thorn fence around the village. Lions prowl outside the fence, but still one has to leave the security of that barrier for water, for food, for taking care of the herds. My armor is not a warrior's spear, though. It's knowledge. Even during the good old days of just-plain-flu season, there were safety protocols. I have to continue with those--ramped up.
  1. Stay home and limit my interactions with people outside my "safety bubble." Currently my wife and I only interact closely with our daughter's family--daughter and two grandchildren. We first quarantined for two weeks and now closely maintain our bubbles of safety, as best we can, going out for food as little as possible.
  2. Heightened awareness of safety protocols when in public. Going out to a store or business is not a casual act. I consider the need, and if there is a need, then I fulfill the task, using a mask and having an alcohol sanitizer spray bottle with me. I sanitize the car, all the places I touched, when arriving home. 
  3. When packages arrive, we treat them as suspect. When a package arrives, we follow the advice that there is low risk that the package has been contaminated with the virus--but not zero risk. We remove the contents of the package, place the box outside, and then wash our hands.
  4. Long-term plans. Recognizing that our environment has changed, we are establishing long-term lifestyle habits. Masks and hand sanitizer when in public will most likely be a reality for at least the next couple of years. Social distancing will become a norm. When school begins again, we recognize that may impact our interactions with our extended family. Lacking specific information, we'll just have to wait and see. We are establishing a routine that will continue for a long time, and we are ready to modify that routine based on incoming information.
  5. Stress management. These are times of increased stress, so my wife and I make sure we communicate, get our rest, and regularly continue our lifelong practice of meditation. We have goals to limit our focus on the news. It's important to know what's going on, but it's also possible to spend too much time obsessing on repetitive, negative news. From my side, I need to get the news but not then read the ten additional stories, analyses, and opinions regarding that particular bit of news. 
  6. Maintaining a healthy, positive routine. In our family, our positive routines over the years have included bicycling and hiking, gardening, camping, and cooking and eating healthy, natural foods. We believe we can maintain our healthy, positive lifestyle yet also maintain our safety protocols. Bicycling and hiking will still necessitate social distancing. Camping will be local. We'll cook at home and not hit the restaurants.
We are always ultimately the ones responsible for our own lives. Especially in our current times when our federal and state governments are saying that there are more important issues than our individual lives, it's vital that we look to and plan for our own healthy future. There have always been lions outside the thorn barrier that surrounds the village. Those lions are more numerous now, and closer and more actively agressive.

Yesterday I turned in our mail-in ballot requests at our county courthouse. I did so safely, following all the protocols--mask, sanitizer, distancing, and don't touch your face. I know whom I'm voting for, and it won't be for candidates that consider me expendable. I plan to vote, but in the meantime, I've got a few fun and healthy activities to engage in. As Voltaire said in the last line of Candide, "That is all very well and good, but let us tend our gardens."

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