Limiting public contact seems to be the go-to strategy for governments to interrupt transmission of the virus, and I’m sure it’s effective. However, one of the side effects has been an unnecessary acceleration of anxiety and depression, partly because there has been a lack of credible information about the life cycle of the virus.
My cousin, now retired, worked as an epidemiologist for the state of Florida for 40 years, and has remained engaged with the scientific community. He recently stated:
“My sense is that the overwhelming majority of transmission events from viruses like influenza and coronavirus happen because the original person is coughing, and someone inhales the droplets they make when they cough. So there is some residual portion of transmission events that happen from virus that people inoculate into themselves with their hands, after touching something that has live virus on it. I don’t know for sure if that residual category is 5% or 20%, but I am quite sure it is not the majority of such events, or even close. There is good evidence that frequent thorough hand washing reduces the spread of infection in closed settings like child care centers, hospitals, and classrooms, so that would be evidence for a non-zero role for environmental sources of infection.
“So I have not been a fan of spending an enormous amount of energy on environmental cleaning. it gives people something to do, and is highly visible; and I worry that it allows people to think that someone else is taking care of the infection problem, and they don’t have to work on changing their own behavior.”
Ergo, if someone is not coughing within 6 feet of you, you do not need to be wearing a N95 mask. Yes, people who appear to be healthy may be carriers, so “healthy space” is currently the accepted use of abundance of caution. However, excessive WORRY about the uncertain dangers of being in public or even in small groups may be doing more harm than good.
I’m *NOT* saying “don’t worry, go mingle.” I am saying look at the entire array of behavior changes you have to be secure, and reassure yourself that disciplined application of those tools is your best strategy.
A primary level of protection has to be development of our personal immunity with proper rest, exercise, nutrition and mental-emotional stress management. I believe if you are careless about this level, the probability of impairing your immunity and becoming a disease vector increases dramatically.
Training yourself to not touch your face when in public is a good strategy and wearing gloves or mask may help remind you to interrupt that unconscious behavior, but attempting to sterilize every grocery cart or the interior of your house or car should alert you to the level of your paranoia. 100% sterilization is impossible. Do what is reasonable and practical.
When returning to your home, wash your hands. Period. Keep it simple, create this one barrier to surface transmission, and accept that you could still have a (very) small chance of bringing the virus into your home
My advice is to accept that in spite of everything you do, you could still become infected, you could be miserable for a short time as with any flu, and depending on other risk factors, yes, you could actually die.
If this is looming large in your imagination, I strongly, and I repeat — STRONGLY — suggest that you prepare your end-of-life documents, get really clear about unfinished business and goals for the remainder of the time that you have, even participate in a guided ritual of letting go of your physical surroundings and possessions, your friends and family, your body, and do the grief process as deeply as you can. You will feel better.
THEN get on with the act of living fully in this present moment because that is all you have no matter how attached you may be to the past or the future, no matter how much you believe you can manage, manipulate or control anything outside or beyond your current state of mind.
The wonderful magic of managing your state of mind is that it is not only healthy, it’s positively contagious, because other people crave the leadership of those who have found the freedom to love life fully and completely. It’s natural to want to be upbeat. The hope that we can do this is the rocket fuel of social change. The big change happening now is the solidarity, togetherness and social unity of immunity to anxiety and depression.
Paradoxically, we are getting there via the vehicle of our anxiety and depression about death, which has been in the background as the sixth mass extinction event for the last 100 years, and is now forcibly and literally “in your face” with every breath we take.
Truly, we are riding the rocket sled of social change. Fasten your seat belt and breathe deep.