Since I fall into an age group most susceptible to the ravages of the Corona virus (COVID-19), I have adopted a rather reclusive lifestyle. But in my case, it isn’t that difficult. I’m retired and for a big part of my life, I’ve been part recluse anyway.
Human beings are social creatures and the mandates for “social distancing” will be difficult for many, especially our younger generation. Social isolation and having children home from school for prolonged periods will be challenging for parents, to make an understatement. And the impacts on small businesses and their employees will become more evident with each passing day.
I am certainly no doctor or expert in this subject. I can only relate how my family and close friends are dealing with this emerging health threat.
But before citing some cautionary measures we are taking, I must comment on a recent local television program about the COVID-19 pandemic. While it dealt thoroughly on plans, resources and actions in Anchorage to deal with the virus when it’s here, it said nothing about efforts to prevent or slow its arrival from outside sources. In other words, there was no mention of our primary disease-transmission gateways: the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the Port of Anchorage, and the highways linking us to the Alcan and lower 48 states.
Many weeks ago I predicted that COVID-19 would arrive in Anchorage in a cargo aircraft, and sent my concerns to both the airport and Anchorage Daily News. The paper provided some credible coverage on how the cargo airport, detached from the passenger terminal, had safeguards in place. Not long after ADN’s coverage, however, a cargo pilot arriving in Anchorage tested positive with the virus. And on March 17, (St. Patrick’s Day), two more positive cases were reported in Fairbanks on people who had recently traveled by airliner to the lower 48; and after that several other Alaska cases were reported – all among persons who recently traveled from the lower 48. I have to believe there is screening and other procedures in place at the cargo and passenger terminals of our state’s airports. I just haven’t heard much about them.
Intentional grounding: Getting me on a commercial airliner is like getting a kid to eat Brussel sprouts, or liver. I didn’t like this sardine-can form of travel before the recent virus outbreak, so it isn’t that hard for me to forgo it in the immediate future.
I do not actually consider myself a germaphobe, but looking back at the last paragraph, it appears that I am. The downside to germ avoidance, however, is that one might not be building antibodies to strengthen immunities.
Proactive measures: So I’ll offer some protocols my family and friends have adopted to keep ourselves and others safe: 1) Social distancing – The protocol is for six feet of separation; and as I mentioned, as retirees this is not that difficult since we do not have to enter a workplace; 2) Rubber gloves in store – We wear latex rubber gloves into the store, post office and gas station, the only places we go. 3) Once groceries are home, we remove gloves and dispose of them. I then clean my car’s door handles, steering wheel and ignition key with disinfecting wipes. Lastly, we use hand sanitizer. 4) Perishables and items that must be refrigerated are cleaned with disinfecting wipes. Other items are left in a box in the car or the garage for about a week. I’ve been wiping the newspaper off before bring it into the house.
If these actions sound like an overreaction, I don’t care. I think it’s better to over-react, without panicking, than to make mistakes that will exacerbate the situation. As medical professionals say, these kind of actions could help flatten the “severity curve” of the outbreak and significantly diminish its impact.
From a recent visit to two Eagle River grocery stores, I observed that some of the aforementioned sterilizing agents, such as the wipes, hand sanitizer and hand soap, were sold out. And as we all know, there is a shortage of toilet paper. My only comment is that Tote and Matson shipments are continuing to arrive in Alaska, and I am sure our local stores are backfilling these high-demand items
Exercise important: I’m active outdoors, so my friends and I go to the trails in separate cars. During our trips, we dutifully conform to the social distancing standard, even though we are mutually certain of our safe behaviors. And of course, there is no sharing of food or beverages.
Given the virulent nature of COVID-19, I can see how it would be easy to become paranoid about going anywhere. People will be seen clutching their smart phones in one hand and their hand sanitizer in the other, if they can find any.
But as terrible as COVID-19 is across the world, some of the past viruses have been just as serious, or worse. However, with our current population of about 7.8 billion, and airplanes circuiting the globe at record levels, it’s not hard to understand how the virus spread so quickly and why health officials and others are deeply concerned.
I can only wish that we all do our part and maintain the social distancing and safe practices that have been mandated across the country. I must salute the bravery and dedication of our health care professionals who are doing everything they can to deal with this crisis. And finally, I offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers to families of loved ones stricken with the disease, wherever they are. A church, I believe, is not required for prayer or worship.
From Eagle River and all across Alaska, I hope we are all able to take a calm and sensible approach to dealing with this pandemic. I really believe in the strength and determination of Alaskans. And with the local, state and military resources at our disposal, I’m confident we can get through this. We are Alaska tough.
For Anchorage School District information, go to: www.asdk12.org