A 12-step guide to being somewhat safe and comparatively happy.
Are you afraid of venturing out into public? Join the crowd.
This guide for hermits is aimed at retirees. Read it if you are (a) not obliged to go to an office, (b) over 60 and (c) an empty-nester.
Panicky? Yes. But there’s such a thing as rational panic. Older people who get Covid-19 have a risk between 1% and 6% of succumbing. The number will be at the low end if tests become readily available and if there’s a crash program to expand ICU capacity. Both of those conditions are doubtful at the moment.
Don’t go anywhere. No restaurants, movie theaters, church or family gatherings, subway trips, gyms. Drive or walk to the grocery store.
Buy cotton gloves. I recommend the cheapie but washable Cara cotton gloves, size XL, still available (as of Mar. 12) on Amazon. Wear them when you go out to buy food. Have them on while touching a gas pump.
When you get back and you’re done decontaminating your purchases, put the gloves in the washer and scrub your hands.
Have a decon area. Just inside the front door. Everything you buy must be sanitized, unwrapped or cooked. Until it’s so treated, it’s radioactive.
Wash apples in soap and water. Now put on some rubber gloves and wipe down soup cans with a bleach-soaked paper towel.
Don’t touch money. If you can’t use a credit card or smart phone in the store, don’t go in the store. When you get home, wipe the card with bleach. Sign things only with your own pen.
ATMs are germy; if you must use one, sanitize either it or your hands, wash up when you get home, and segregate the cash as a contaminated asset.
Avoid bank offices. If you aren’t already doing online banking, start now. You can deposit checks with a phone.
Stay connected. Via Skype, Zoom Video or Facetime. Have you heard of virtual dinner parties? You serve food and raise toasts while connected to a videocam.
Attend events electronically. I got an email from a music school announcing that its March concerts were canceled. Then I discovered that the school has a video library of recent programs. That will have to do until the world is safer.
There’s a wealth of entertainment and edification on the Web that you haven’t had time to discover until now. You’ll get cabin fever, but it won’t be as bad for you as for those people stuck in cruise line cabins.
Support the economy. Large chunks of it will shut down for a while. I feel sorry for your haircutter and your dentist. But you could offer 100% sick pay to your house cleaner during the crisis.
Maybe you can accelerate a remodeling project, like exterior painting or driveway resurfacing. I’m going to bring in some guys to take down dead trees. I would be practicing social distancing, on the order of 60 feet, in any event.
Get services remotely. Medicare covers medicine conducted via real-time videochats. Legal and financial consultations can be remote. Maybe your shrink does Skype?
You don’t have to walk into an H&R Block office to get the same return preparer you used last year. One of those experts tells me he has often done the work via phone and internet—usually for clients who are traveling—and could do the same for someone cowering in an apartment.
Use delivery services. CVS recently announced free delivery during the crisis. Other pharmacies will presumably follow. Decontaminate the delivery.
Meditate. Various apps, including Calm and Headspace, offer guided meditation sessions, sleep music and the like. They can be pricey (like $13 a month) but at least offer free trials.
Plan a vacation. Cheer yourself up. Book a nice trip for the fall. Just make sure it’s cancelable.
It’s possible that the level of caution recommended in this stay-at-home guide will prove, with hindsight, to have been unnecessary. But before making any assumptions on that score, do look at Italy, whose hospital system is in collapse, and at the chart of reported cases above. To say that the case level is growing exponentially understates the problem. An exponential line on this ratio scale would be straight. This one is curved up.