out and about

COVID-19 in Wisconsin 281 positive 4 deathsI left the house yesterday to go shopping for groceries but I did not feel good about it. I’m not sure there’s any way to do that and feel good about it. Here’s what I mean:

For as long as this pandemic is raging, we should all be acting as if we are contagious and are spreading the virus everywhere we go. (A survivor of the SARS epidemic wrote: “Pretend that everything is covered with snot.”) You don’t have to come into contact with other people; you only have to come in contact with things: door handles, shopping carts, food packaging, the keypad on the credit card reader, the floor. You have to act as though you’re shedding virus on everything any part of your body touches. And you have to act as though everyone else is doing the same.

And I try. And I’ve noticed that, for every time I mentally pat myself on the back for not touching something unnecessarily, I slip up and touch something else unthinkingly. It’s just not possible not to touch anything. I’m going to touch things. So is everyone else. All the customers picking up packages to read the ingredients or brand or whatever and then putting it back on the shelf. All the workers in the store who put products on the shelves. The worker who rang up my purchases — she encouraged me to bag them myself if I wanted to, which I did, but she handled every single item.

All those people might not be sick. Maybe only one of them is. But we have to act as though we’re all infectious. We’re not doing that. We’re trying — I’m trying — but we’re only about fifty percent successful, at best. That’s not successful enough.

I did another thing we really shouldn’t be doing: I stopped at a local brunch restaurant to pick up breakfast sammies to go. Locally-owned restaurants are using social media to beg customers to order food for pick-up so their businesses don’t dry up and blow away, and while I agree that keeping your employees, y’know, employed is a laudable goal, by doing this we are not acting as though everyone is infectious. The guy who made our breakfast sammies and the gal who checked me out at the counter might not be contagious, but we should assume the exact opposite until the number of people dying of COVID-19 begins to drop.

That’s why we’re going to end up like Italy by the end of the month: a whole country with a runaway infection rate, confined to our homes in a last-ditch attempt to bring down the number of sick people flooding into hospitals.