Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Coronavirus....What the Hell is Going On?

The world seems to be all over the map concerning this whole virus situation, and man is it hard to make any sense of it.

I am prone to anxiety, though I'm also quite logical and believe in facts and research. It's just that the "facts" out there are on such a broad spectrum, I can't seem to get the information I need to settle the anxious side of things.

There are some scary stories out there - as well as a lot of empty toilet paper shelves.

But then you get people saying, "No big deal, this isn't much worse than the flu, it's all good. But also... have enough stuff in your house to survive a 2-week quarantine in case stores close for a bit and also if you get sick yourself we don't want you exposing the community in your quest for gatorade and tissues so have that, too. And schools might close for a few weeks so line up childcare. And don't shake hands with anyone or hug the elderly. FOR SURE don't step foot on a cruise ship. And you should probably not eat at restaurants or use dirty gym equipment. And maybe totally rework your diet to plant based whole foods to beef up your immune system. But, no, it's cool, it's just the flu."

Are we homesteading or are we off for some Starbs and seasonal knick-knack hunting at Target? WHICH IS IT?

Somewhere in between, I suppose, but could we maybe try to meet a little closer to accurate information, people? Or I guess I should say, government? Because it's your damn job to be upfront and helpful in times like these, and instead it feels all hush-hush and eye-roll-y.

UntitledThe whispers of this virus have been going around for awhile, but my first real "oh damn" moment was last week. Matt was out of town for work (don't worry, not out of the country) and I was in full solo-parent mode. The first cases in NY state were made public right after he left, and I was alone here with my kids thinking - well, crap. Do I need to stock up on things? How fast is this shit going to spread? I for sure had an unreasonably scared day due to my husband being out of town and feeling like I was alone to deal with whatever the hell was coming our way.

To maintain a sense of control and purpose, I decided to put a list together of things we should have on hand just in case, as well as my regular groceries for the week, and I set out for Target.

We were out of surface cleaner for the kitchen counters, so I went down the cleaning aisle and found nearly empty shelves. I guess I knew that people were starting to stock up on things, but I was shocked to see that the store was already nearly cleaned out of Lysol & Clorox Wipes. And as I passed a surprising number of Target employees in these first few aisles, I noticed that they were all talking about the virus. One of them said to another, "everyone's so worried about people traveling but I hate to break it to you - it's already here."

(For the record, it wasn't, and still officially isn't. There are still zero confirmed cases in Erie County.)

I went on with my shopping, and was shocked to see SO many people in red shirts. It felt like my Target had every last one of their employees on duty - stocking shelves and pulling inventory from the back. There were pallets of things headed everywhere - huge moving stacks of diapers and motrin kept going by. The workers were saying things like, "I haven't had a break yet," and "I can't believe I'm going to be here all day," and they were everywhere. Every aisle had at least one employee - most had many more. They were whispering and seemed really on edge.

The strangest thing, though, was that despite how much activity and motion going on, the store was SO QUIET. Bizarrely quiet. As I went through the grocery aisles, most of the things on my list were already picked over - pastas and sauces, cereals, peanut butter, frozen waffles, fruit cups. It seemed like everyone was coming to Target to get the same things. And the employees were very quietly stewing about it.

I left there feeling like it was the strangest shopping experience I'd ever had. I couldn't shake this super weird vibe I had, and after seeing so many dwindling shelves I told my family and friends to make sure they stock up on some essentials sooner rather than later. One of my sisters went to a Target near her (she lives in a small area towards the finger lakes region), and she said her store had the same odd vibe. Target's corporate office must have said something to set off this weirdness.

The next day, I placed an Instacart pickup order to make sure I had some things in my freezer, too. Picking up those orders are usually a quick 5 minutes or less ordeal, and I ended up in a parking space for a half our while they searched for my order and scrambled around. The person who finally brought out my order said that the one before mine was MASSIVE and they'd had bigger and more complicated orders than usual.

The vibe around town was markedly different.

It wasn't panic or chaos. As I said, it was strangely quiet. Calm before the storm in nature. Like everyone is trying to play it cool - seem normal - not arouse suspicions - and yet still trying to prepare themselves for whatever the heck is coming (since no one can really say). It's like we're all squirrels...scrambling around to scoop up and hide as many acorns as we can before everyone else notices what we're doing.

The vibes in stores have since chilled out a little bit. I think that the whole area got the same kind of news on the same day and we all didn't really know where we stood. But that doesn't mean it's passed. We don't even have any confirmed cases of the virus in our area, and our morning radio stations are talking daily about schools closing and businesses telecommuting and how to make our own hand santizer. It's hard to know what's safe and what's not.

For our family, there's really only two main things so far.

The way we've been shopping has changed pretty drastically. We used to just grab whatever groceries and household things we needed for the week, and now we're adding in stock supply, bigger quantities, and choosing things with longer shelf lives. Most of our spending has been for the household and groceries, and a lot less on frivolous and material things.

And second, we're about 99% sure we're canceling our trip to Florida (which is less than two weeks away). We've been back and forth on the issue and basically settled on the fact that it's selfish of us to go have fun when it could risk others' health, and the restrictions we'd make to our vacation activities (because the virus IS present at our destination) wouldn't be worth the risk. Sure, the kids would be happy to just use their Grandparent's swimming pool all day for the entire trip, but why not just postpone it and get to do all the things at a safer time?

So, for now, we're just trying to figure out how to manufacture a bit of a "break from normal life" since we're not getting our usual vacation separation, and also prepping our house for the possibility of being stuck in it for a while. We've also had a talk with our kids about proper hygiene and germ courtesy, and we take a little extra effort in reminding them to cough and sneeze into their "chicken wing", to wash their hands more thoroughly, and checking to see that they're not eating with dirty fingers. Aside from those things, life is largely the same. I'm not sure how I'll feel or how things will change when the virus eventually makes it to Western New York, but that's where we stand for now. Taking precautions and making smart, safe decisions, but not panicking. And still not really knowing what the hell is going on.

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