It’s 7:30 p.m. on Sunday—and things are changing so rapidly by the time I’m done, I’m sure much of what I’ve written will be outdated.
But the core will be the same: The new coronavirus, COVID-19, a fast-spreading respiratory disease that started in China, is now in more than 100 locations worldwide. As of today, more than 6,400 people have died around the world. There are seven confirmed cases in Hawaiʻi.
In the two months since the first confirmed case in the U.S., the virus has changed the way we live: No more “toughing it out” at work when you’re sick, no more shrugging off the hand sanitizer at the grocery store. We are consumed by how much toilet paper and canned goods we’ve amassed, how we can work efficiently from home, how we’re going to keep our kids safe, how to keep our sanity while we hunker down indoors.
And never before has “social distancing” become such a part of our everyday vernacular.
I’m not going to lie: I’ve gone through a myriad of emotions these past few weeks. At first I thought, “Oh, who cares about this virus? The flu is killing more people!” Then that attitude changed to, “I don’t care if I get it. I’m healthy. I’ve beat pneumonia twice in two years. Bring it!”
Now, I realize that it doesn’t matter if I can handle COVID-19. My older immune-compromised parents may not, my son with asthma may not, my neighbors and coworkers and friends may not. I don’t want to be part of the problem.
So I’m at home, reading and tweeting way too much about the virus, checking in on my neighbors and friends who might need extra hand wipes or Spam.
I’d like to say that most people—with the exception of those hoarding emergency supplies and the really evil ones who are selling bottles of hand sanitizers for $30—are reacting in ways that show compassion for others. I know people who are organizing meals for the elderly and poor. I know people who are running to the store to get supplies for their friends. My hope is this virus brings out the best in us.
So how am I doing now, with the pandemic in full swing, with schools closing, restaurants only serving takeout, Apple stores shutting their doors?
Fortunately, I’ve been preparing for this moment since 1998, the day I moved out of my parents’ house and took their emergency prep habits with me. My parents remember wars and dock strikes; we always had closets and shelves stocked with toilet paper, canned veggies, pasta, rice, soap, toothpaste, Ziploc bags. I used to joke that I could go shopping at their house. (And it was free!)
Turns out, we learn a lot from our parents, whether we like to admit it or not.
I’m well stocked with essentials—toilet paper, cans of beans, pasta, rice, instant ramen, frozen pizza, medicine—so I didn’t have to brave the stores in the last week to get those.
But I did wander to Safeway this morning for a few perishable items—veggies, fruits, cereal, yogurt—and was shocked to see what was gone. Or, rather, what was left.
Here’s what was gone: instant ramen, rice, toilet paper, canned corn (yes, only corn), Campbell’s soups, pasta, Spam, beans.
Here’s what was left: EVERYTHING ELSE. Tuna, canned chili (so good!), eggs (you can freeze them scrambled!), a myriad of canned and frozen veggies, frozen meals, frozen pizzas, bread (can be frozen, too!), quinoa (even better than rice!), shelf-stable milks, baking essentials (flour, sugar, yeast, etc.), cereal. I was able to pick up a bunch of emergency items this morning to add to my collection—just in case we’re thrust into a two-week mandatory quarantine, which, let’s face it, could happen.
I’m not traveling. I’m not going out to eat. I’m debating how important it is to be in our office every day. (Though that’s not really my call.) I’m trying to figure out how to entertain a toddler INDOORS for two weeks. (I’m stressing out just thinking about that.) But I know it’s for the best.
This is how I’m surviving: We have enough food, we have water and electricity, we have WiFi. We have books and Netflix and enough blankets to make forts in our living room. We have music and crayons and safe streets to walk our dogs. We have each other.
It’s going to be OK. This, too, shall pass. And hopefully we’ll all be better for it.