Coronavirus Tips: Life During a Pandemic

Mr. TP is shocked by the current situation.
Mr. TP is shocked by the current situation. Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

By now, most of us have settled into our pandemic routine. For some, it means stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer. For others, it means posting on social media non-stop about what a hoax it is. For the majority of us, it means taking precautions, washing our hands and avoiding large gatherings. Whatever your plan of action is for you and yours, we have some common sense practical tips to get through it. No one can predict where this is going to go or for how long.  What we can control is our own behavior and our own response to a global crisis.

We are not doctors, nor do we play ones on television. These are simple, practical ideas that we think everyone can implement:

Stay home if you can.

For most people, this plan is not feasible nor financially possible. But for some of you, adding a little television binge-watching from your sofa at home or playing with your kids in the backyard for the next week is doable. So do it. The more people we take out of the general population walking about, the less people will get infected. That’s just basic math and basic math is pretty much all we know.

If you are sick, STF home.

click to enlarge We know why you're buying all those batteries. - PHOTO BY BOB RUGGIERO
We know why you're buying all those batteries.
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
Wash your hands, cough into your elbow, keep your distance.

The days for shaking hands are over for the time being. And that goes doubly for cheek kissing. Bow like other cultures do. Throw a sign. Sit at a table further away. And, you may have to give your libido a rest. We promise you, people do not die without sex for a couple of weeks. Now is the time to actually talk and listen to your partner. And if you’re single, this is a major PSA: No hooking up. None. Nada. Nil.

Stop buying so much toilet paper.

You can’t eat it. You can’t pay your bills with it. And if you used your already over-extended credit card to purchase a hundred rolls, you’re paying interest on it. Yeah, we all want toilet paper, but life goes on if you have to resort to tissues or paper towels or even magazine pages. Civilizations have existed without it for thousands of years. And commercially, perforated toilet paper really didn't make its way into most households until the 1920s, according to Toilet Paper History. Where’s your pioneer spirit? Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t have toilet paper and she lived to be 90 years old. So, take a few cues from your Little House on the Prairie books.

Eat healthy.

We were at the grocery store the other day and were not surprised at the empty toilet paper shelves but were amazed at the junk people were buying. Odds are, some of us are going to get the coronavirus. And we are going to need healthy immune systems to combat it. The entire ramen noodle section at a nearby grocery store was completely wiped out. While we understand that buying five for a dollar ramen may be a financial necessity for some, it isn’t exactly chock full of nutrition. It has a boatload of sodium, though. Do yourself a favor if this is your go-to quarantine food; use only half the seasoning packet and add some frozen vegetables to the boiling water. My brother likes to throw some salad shrimp in the lime-chili-shrimp flavor. He swears it's delicious.

Eat fruits and vegetables. Drink loads of water. Treat yourself to chips and candy in moderation. And maybe a little drinky-poo here and there.

click to enlarge Carrot cake is crisis comfort food. - PHOTO BY JAMIE ALVEAR
Carrot cake is crisis comfort food.
Photo by Jamie Alvear
Rediscover cooking and baking.

Social media is awash with photos of people's baking creations and family meals right now. Freelance writer and former Houston Press contributor, Jamie Alvear, is baking up delicious treats like carrot cake. This writer has made homemade waffles, homemade French fries and homemade pasta. A friend has asked me to re-send a bread recipe that she hasn't made for years. There is something primal and comforting in creating food from a bunch of ingredients that are nothing on their own.

Order delivery or curbside.

Many Houston restaurants and businesses are suffering. One bad week can sink them. We are seeing unprecedented strategies to offset the crippling losses caused by the coronavirus emergency. While some people are healthy enough and brave enough to still venture out to eat, others are more cautious. A huge number of restaurants around town are offering delivery or curbside pick up. Call ahead.

And make allowances for time.This form of service is new to many restaurants. Many of them are also taking extra time to sanitize and prepare food with extra care. Still, we suggest that you wipe down the packaging after you receive it, just in case. And wash your hands before you eat and afterwards. Maybe even during.

Don't be surprised if your favorite restaurant is temporarily suspending dine-in service. It's happening right now.

click to enlarge Go outside and look for ladybugs. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Go outside and look for ladybugs.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Get outside.

You don’t have to sit inside and watch cable news 24/7. Take the dog for a walk. Take advantage of the extra time with your children and play ball. Do all the yard work that you’ve meant to do for weeks. Lie in the hammock and watch the clouds. Start a vegetable garden. The sun and soil are good for your physical and mental health.

Be aware of the elderly and immune-compromised.

If you have elderly neighbors or relatives, call them. Ask if they need anything. If they say hand sanitizer, give them yours. Don’t allow your eighty-year-old dad to go shopping for toilet paper. If you are healthy and young, you need to assist those who are not while remaining vigilant about sanitizing any packaging on products that you deliver. And wash your hands. Resist the urge to embrace grandma. You want her around for future hugs. While we are all susceptible to this virus, the facts show that it is our senior population and folks with underlying medical conditions who are most likely to die. However harsh that may sound, it’s the truth.

Call people.

Now is the time to catch up on family gossip or to reach out to a friend that you haven't talked to in a while. We are all so busy in our daily lives that we neglect our relationships. Texting won't cut it. Phone calls, Facetime and Skype will keep us connected when we need it most.

Stop saying it’s a hoax/media sensationalism/allergies.

If you’re a keyboard warrior posting diatribes on the coronavirus, remember that many of your friends, family and colleagues are reading what you are writing. We have already seen some issues on Facebook where people with loved ones battling lung cancer or a child with severe asthma are truly upset that some people feel this is over-hyped. If it’s your mom or your child, you don’t give a shit what people’s opinions are about this. You want facts. You want other people to practice responsible behavior so that you aren’t burying a loved one during a pandemic.

Which brings us to our final tip:

Don’t be a selfish fuck.

click to enlarge The empty toilet paper shelves isn't even a funny meme anymore. Just sad. - PHOTO BY BOB RUGGIERO
The empty toilet paper shelves isn't even a funny meme anymore. Just sad.
Photo by Bob Ruggiero

Pardon our language. We don’t usually throw that word out willy-nilly like a character on Westworld. And we know that our mom is not going to be happy with us. However, we are seeing some selfishness that boggles our minds. Do you really need that much toilet paper? Or does it make you feel superior to your fellow human beings because you will have a sparkly clean ass while they are roaming the streets in a zombie-like state looking for TP?

Or maybe you think you’re going to make the big bucks screwing people over by selling them a one dollar bottle of hand sanitizer for ten bucks. My, aren’t you a clever little prick? (Sorry, Mom) Or maybe as a child, you related more to Mr. Potter than George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. If so, here's a chance to redeem yourself, Mr. Potter.

Share what you have. Certainly, your responsibility is to your own family first. Then, your friends, then your neighbors, then whoever else may get thrown in your way. We Houstonians were lauded for our community spirit and selflessness during Hurricane Harvey. Let’s not lose that now.

This is not a time for doomsday prepping. It’s a time for thoughtful and responsible action. Care and prepare. You can do both.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.