Greetings from self-isolation!
We’re in this magical, terrifying time where we don’t know what is going to happen, how quickly COVID-19 is going to spread in Australia, or what we are going to wish we had done sooner when we get a chance to look back on the whole debacle.
Fair to say our leaders are sending very mixed messages.
While most young and healthy people are taking an understandably cavalier approach to the crisis, I’m being super cautious in this strange and scary in-between time. I have heart failure as a result of complications from valve replacement surgery in 2005. I’m in that demographic that is considered at ‘high risk’ of death from C19. Like, there’s the 90+ age group, and then there’s people like me. If this thing turns into what some are predicting it will, I’ll not want to have pissed about during this stage.
Maybe the spread of the virus will be slow and a fortnight from now everything will be fine and we can go back to ‘alert, not alarmed’. But maybe we’ll follow the trajectory of other countries where the illness has taken off and these couple of weeks will be crucial for getting it under some semblance of control and protecting our most vulnerable.
Now, as my more recent posts will reveal, it’s not my first time at the infectious disease rodeo. Granted, my approach of ‘steal the newborns and slaughter everyone else’ is not something that is practical with a human population. But I do have practice when it comes to creating barriers to protect the uninfected from the infected, exposed and potentially infected.
Here are the steps I have taken so far.
1 Name the factors influencing your decision.
Do you really need to isolate yourself, and to what extent? Are you team Flattening The Curve, or team I Am In Real Danger If I Get This Virus? Are there others you need to protect? Children are relatively safe and most healthy adults will be okay as long as they don’t all get it at once. But anyone with heart or lung conditions, diabetes, immune suppression, or advanced age is much more likely to need intensive treatment in hospital and in a crisis may be excluded from such treatment in favour of those with a better chance of survival.
Addressing your motivations will help you avoid either feeling like you’re paranoid when everyone else on your socials is still blithely wandering about in the world, or feeling unacceptably exposed when a case is confirmed near you. As long as you know why YOU are doing what you are doing, you don’t have to keep second-guessing yourself based on what others are doing. Their motivations will be different to yours and are no reflection on you.
Depending on your situation, you may need to communicate this with others in your household. The advice in the rest of this article is mainly for those who are going into full isolation due to health concerns.
2 Gather what you need most and may lose access to.
Chances are the important shops will remain open and we’ll still have access to most essentials. Nonetheless, I spent Friday gathering what I needed to make me feel comfortable being at home for a while. My priorities were medication and pet food. I got all my prescriptions filled, and bought enough animal food to last me a couple of weeks. I’ve usually got plenty of people food in the house as I buy a lot of things in bulk, and honestly toilet paper is low on my list of ‘essentials’, although it is nice to have and I do have about 6 rolls on hand. Maybe roasted almond chocolate is a must-have for you, or the latest issue of Horse Deals, or a sixer of Japanese beer. I’m not here to judge. Just make a list and obtain the things you would feel most exposed without.
3 Freak out, but set a time limit.
I gave myself Saturday to feel all the feels about this. You might only need an hour to go through the stages. Allowing yourself that time to see and feel what is going on inside yourself is important, but if you get stuck in that stage you are going to have a bad time.
4 Plug the leaks.
Here is where we are flying blind a bit, because we don’t know a lot about the virus. We don’t know how long it survives on surfaces or how contagious it is between when a person is exposed and when they show signs of illness. We have some idea of what kind of cleaners will destroy it. But if you are going for zero exposure, you need to plug all the leaks. This means staying away from anyone who may have been exposed. If you’ve got little kids you can keep them home with you, if your partner can work from home then they need to stay at home until the situation changes. If anyone in your household is in a position where they need to be going out in public, they need to find somewhere else to stay. If you’ve got older kids, they need to decide whether they are staying put or staying away. My own children had the option of staying in lockdown with me, or continuing their work, school and sports and staying with their healthy father. If this had not been a workable option, they would have had to just deal with being in isolation with me.
There is no point you going into isolation if someone else in your household is coming and going from work, school, sports, the shops, the pub, etc. The chances of them bringing the virus to you and infecting you before they are even showing symptoms are very real. You may as well just keep going to the shops yourself. If you are serious about avoiding infection, you must plug the leaks.
5 Find a ‘fixer’.
The threat level is not the same for everyone, so there are still a whole bunch of people out there doing normal stuff. Find someone who can act as an interface between you and the rest of the physical world. Talk to them about what they can and can’t do for you. There are a lot more low risk people than high risk people, so you should be able to find someone in your network who will be willing to do chemist runs or bring you some sugar for your kombucha or some needles and syringes for your goat’s vitamin shots. Ideally someone you trust with your EFTPOS card or someone you can transfer money to fairly readily. Set up a drop point, stay in communication, and work with each other to keep you comfortable and safe.
6 Cancel any of your things that aren’t already canceled.
A lot of events are being canceled, and it is expected that schools and many workplaces will transition to mainly online activity in the coming weeks. But if you are involved in something that is still running as of right now, let them know you won’t be attending. They may be able to accommodate you in some way (a course I am doing is going to live stream classes next weekend, which is amazing), and they may be more sympathetic if you tell them why you are self-isolating, but that part is up to you.
7 Do a useful.
This is much more for yourself than for anyone else, but if you are anything like me you don’t do well sitting idle. But this is prime time to get stuff done at home. It’s a great time of year for gardening. You could clean out your pantry, or start a new embroidery project, or make a whole bunch of cheese. Make a list. Re-watch The Office in the evenings if that floats your boat. If you normally go to the gym or to yoga class or go walking with friends, do something similar at home, on the same timetable or create a new timetable that suits you better. Keep busy, keep a routine if that helps you. Or you could go the other way, unplug all your clocks, stay off the computer, make a pot of lentil soup and turn it into a meditation retreat or something. But set an intention that will keep you focused and sane. You could be here for a while, you might as well make that time worthwhile.
This list is far from exhaustive, does not cover every scenario, and I am not an expert in community health, virology or any of the above. I’m just a woman staring at a computer screen, asking why there is so little advice for people at this stage in proceedings. I’m a writer, a pragmatist, and an empath. Hopefully I can help out in some small way.