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This pandemic has been hard enough to bear, but events surrounding the killing of George Floyd are crushing.  In addition to ongoing health care disparities and acts of violence towards minorities, peaceful protestors are suffering at the hands of police and other officials. And then there is COVID-19. In the past 24 hours, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 14,676 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 827 deaths. Remember the days when one person had died, and that was too much?

I want to pour my soul out on this blog, but that won’t help anyone. The best I have to offer are some tips on staying safe, whether you are protesting or attending to your basic needs.

Practice safe six. Maintain a minimum of six feet between you and others. Singing and shouting propel more aerosol, so if you are protesting, you might want to extend that distance if practical.

Wear a mask. Whether you are taking part in a demonstration or tending to errands, be sure you wear a mask. N-95 masks are the best, especially if you are protesting. A layer of nylon stocking added to your face mask may provide excellent protection.  In a non-peer reviewed study, researchers at Northeastern University in Boston showed that by reducing air leakage around a mask, protection may be nearly as effective as an N-95 respirator.  Use an 8 to 10-inch tube of queen-sized nylon stocking, and pull it down over a regular mask to the top of your neck.

Extra protection for protestors: Wear a face shield and/or shatter-resistant goggles. Do not share megaphones.

Wash your hands. Studies solidly show the benefit of proper hand washing, whether with soap and water or hand sanitizers. Even though I was trained on proper hand washing as part of my nursing education, I still refresh myself on the basics.  If you are protesting, carry hand sanitizer.

Other things to take if you are protesting:

  • Water
  • Medication
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen and a hat
  • A phone with a camera
  • Official identification
  • Emergency phone number
  • Some cash
  • A buddy
  • Wear comfortable shoes and layers of clothing
  • A sign

For more specific tips on how to prepare for a protest, visit Amnesty International. This article in Today has good information too.  

For more information on staying safe while running essential errands, visit the CDC website.

To track COVID-19 hot spots and other coronavirus information, The New York Times has excellent information.

Stay safe everyone.

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Pandemic Restlessness

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

It’s the first COVID-19 Memorial Day and day 68 of California’s Stay Home Orders. This weekend, two of my neighbors had big family parties. They get to do that. I get to enjoy their laughter while staying safe in my home. However, the little kid in me wants to go out and play.

To minimize my chances of acquiring COVID-19, I’ve chosen a conservative route. In today’s blog, I don’t want to go in to the rationale about my choices. Instead, I want to focus on how I maintain my spirits, determination and commitment during this pandemic.

Find your comfort zone. I don’t have illusions about the severity of COVID-19. It’s highly contagious, dangerous, and invisible. Other than grocery shopping, walking and a few socially-distant social interactions, I stay at home. However, I believe my risk is greatly reduced by maintaining a minimum six feet of distance, rigorous hand washing, no face touching, and wearing a mask.

It helps that I live in an area that has had very little COVID-19. This may change with summer tourism, so I will continue to practice safe six, and don a mask. I know people who have taken much more extreme measures than I have, and some who live with more relaxed practices. I don’t judge. We all need to find the sweet spot that allows us to feel safe.

Treat the pandemic like a marathon, not a sprint. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” My plan is to make it to the end of this pandemic, and to remain healthy, engaged and joyful. My plan modifies all the things that I was doing before COVID-19. I still exercise, sleep regular hours, meditate, visit with friends, eat healthy and help others. Perhaps the form has changed a little bit, but the practice still remains the same.

Embrace pleasure. Fortunately, I am easily entertained. There are activities that I really miss, such as travel, time with others, and small town celebrations.  At this point, I have found plenty to do to keep my occupied.  However, I suspect I am going to start chomping at the bit, and I may need to go back to school (online), learn how to play the harmonica, and plan ZOOM game nights with friends.

Enlist a coach. Part of my plan is to get help if I start losing sight of my goal. I check in with friends and ask them to help me stay on track.
Every weekday, I participate in a community-wide meditation at Ten Percent Happier Live.

I am trying to stay safe so that others can also stay safe. If I’ve learned nothing else during this pandemic, it is that we are all in the same boat, and have the same primal desire to stay alive. So it’s in everyone’s self-interest to help each other stay free of COVID-19.

How are you maintaining your spirits, determination and commitment during this pandemic?

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Conflict and COVID-19

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Depending on when you read this, the global incidence of COVID-19 is nearing 5 million. There are more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with more than 90,000 deaths. Although there has been some progress towards containment, the pandemic is still raging in parts of the country and the world. To illustrate this, take a look at the visual curves of each states provided by The New York Times.

As states begin to reopen, it will be interesting to see what these maps look like in the next two weeks. Personally, I am deeply concerned, especially when I hear projections of 3,000 daily deaths of Americans by June 1. Time magazine compared this to “a 9/11 every day.” (The Risk of Reopening, Haley Sweetland Edwards May 25, 2020)

Underneath all of these facts and figures are our human reactions. Reopening the U.S. is rife with strife. People are expressing fear and anger. Some are bored, in grief, stir-crazy, and so on. There is no national agreement on how to move forward. Conflict is inevitable since people are never unified in their opinions and feelings.

I wrestle with this conflict, wanted to apply reason, data and historical reference to issues surrounding the pandemic. I am convinced about the seriousness of COVID-19, and believe in social distancing and wearing masks. It’s my opinion that not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing is an assault on lives and civil liberties. However, my opinion is just that – it is an opinion. Although I based my opinion on facts, a deeper truth is that I can’t change anyone; I can only change myself. Accepting this, my task is to learn to live in a society that doesn’t share the same opinions and values that I have.

What do I value? Peace and freedom. And if I value these, then how will I remain peaceful and free? It starts with acceptance and tolerance. It grows when I am willing to practice loving kindness towards all people, without exception. Hate never heals hate.   

This is a lot harder to do than it sounds. I have to practice it. Sometimes I get off track and feel my blood pressure rise. There is no peace or freedom when I am angry. When this happens, I double down on my practice.

I am no saint. I just prefer to be free of the misery that comes from wanting the world to be a different way than it is. Getting worked up by photos of a packed bar of maskless people sitting together doesn’t change the photo of maskless people sitting together in a bar. It won’t change anything getting irritated by a recent photo of President Trump standing inches from a young Girl Scout wearing a mask while he isn’t wearing one.

What I do is put away the photos and news stories. I go for a walk. I wear a mask, I maintain a minimum of six feet between me and others. I meditate on the well-being of all people. I fervently wish for the best for all of us. And I let it go.

How do you deal with conflict related to COVID-19?

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COVID-19 is still very much a reality. According to nCoV2019.live, there are 2,433,526 active COVID-19 cases globally of the 4,239,033 confirmed cases. In the U.S., there are 1,298,847 active cases (1,380,388 confirmed case). Note: ‘Cases’ means people. People with stories and loved ones who worry about them.

It’s day 54 of California’s Stay Home Order. Most of the states are partially open again. We are starting to see the effects of this. According to information from today’s update from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, “Alabama has reported an increase in incidence since early May, up from fewer than 200 new cases per day to more than 300 in less than 2 weeks, its highest incidence to date. The start of Alabama’s increasing trend coincided with the expiration of the statewide “safer at home” order on April 30. Texas reported relatively consistent incidence from April 5 through April 25, but the incidence has been elevated the past 2 weeks. Texas has also reported a steady increase in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since at least early April. Texas’s “stay at home” order expired on April 30, but the increasing trends began prior to that point and have continued since. Tennessee began to reopen businesses in late April, and the state has reported elevated incidence over approximately the past week and a half. Georgia appears to have passed a peak in daily incidence. Maine’s daily incidence has increased since late April, up to from approximately 600 new cases per day to more than 800. Maine’s “stay at home” order expires at the end of May; however, the state permitted some businesses to reopen starting May 1.”

It’s not all bad news. Some states have leveled off; some are declining. Unfortunately, we don’t have a long enough window to know how the most recent changes are going to pan out.

Recently, California opened a few additional businesses, but I have no desire to shop. People are having a hard time paying rent and buying food, and I’d rather spend my money on helping others than on something for myself. Trust me, this isn’t because I am a particularly generous person, because I am not. The way I see it, eventually the world is going to open up, and I want you all to be there. If I don’t share, others may not have enough to stay alive.

These are the ups and downs of living in the coronavirus pandemic. It’s going to be this way for awhile. My mood swings in time to morbidity and mortality statistics. It’s a roller coaster. I am filled with joy when watching Some Good News with John Krasinski, and practically psychotic when I hear news about White House press briefings. Up and down, up and down.

I aim for middle ground. Helping others and staying busy keeps me in the middle. My favorite ways to help others is to write notes to those who are shut in. I write to people in hospice or nursing homes. I make phone calls and organize video chat parties. I do this because it cheers me up.

How are you cheering yourself up during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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COVID-19 and Complacency

Image by Jan Alexander from Pixabay

When the reality of COVID-19 sank in, I started a daily ritual. First, I check the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map; then I look at my county public health’s website. I’ve done this religiously, that is until this Saturday. That day, I went to the 2020 opening of our farmer’s market. Along with veggies and mushrooms, I bought strawberries, blueberries, peaches and cherries. I came home and made carrot top pesto to have on our pizza. I made applesauce with the last of the winter apples. I did the laundry and went for a walk. It was a lovely day.

Except for wearing a mask and gloves at the farmer’s market, I didn’t think about coronavirus once. It was heavenly, but is this the first sign of complacency?

Merriam-Webster defines complacency as, “Self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. When it comes to safety, complacency can be dangerous.” Was I complacent or did I just need a day when I wasn’t thinking about dead bodies, overworked health care workers and fields of food going to waste.

I don’t think I was being complacent, but I do think I was showing early signs of it. It makes sense to want a break from the pain, and I encourage each of us to find ways to ease the reality of COVID-19. We need a reprieve from the news and relentless horror. However, people are showing signs of isolation strain, and although I sympathize with them, we can’t let our guard down. We’ve been sheltering-in-place for roughly 50 days now, and we don’t want our efforts to go to waste.

I may want to hug my family, go for hikes with friends and sit in a restaurant. But these are first-world problems, and in fact aren’t really problems. I am not sitting in a food distribution line, on a ventilator or mourning the death of a loved one. All of my family is well, I can still hike, and get take-out food.

Now is not the time for complacency. We’ve done a good job of containment and flattening the curve. Now is the time to keep each others’ spirits up, keep our distance, and focus on staying healthy. We all want to make it to the bottom of the coronavirus curve.

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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COVID-19 Leaves Me Helpless

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Diversion is helping me to cope with the devastation of COVID-19. From the earliest moments when coronavirus began dominating the news, people began posting clever memes, playlists, and expressions of art. Even a pandemic can’t stop creativity.

Although Sting’s Don’t Stand So Close to Me is a COVID favorite, my theme song is Neil Young’s Helpless. Two parts of this song speak to me. First, there is the helpless part. I am helpless over the virus and people. I am helpless over crowded beaches, or protestors marching for the right to go to the beauty shop or bowling alley. I am also opinionated. I understand the human need for fun and freedom, but at what price? Is the freedom to do whatever we want more valuable than human suffering?

Granted, freedom is precious. But if our nation was occupied by foreign human invaders, and we were told to stay inside, I would willingly do so if it meant defeating an enemy. So it is with COVID-19. When I shelter-in-place, I am helping to defeat a foreign invader and protect precious freedom for all of us.

Which leads me to the second part of the song, Helpless. Neil Young wrote, “And in my mind I still need a place to go. All my changes were there.” I need a place to go beyond my home and my opinions, a place where I don’t feel helpless and scared. My mind also holds that capacity.

My mind can be my enemy or my friend. The unfriendly mind is the place where I make up all sorts of stories, which leads to anxiety. From that perspective, I look at the crowded beaches and imagine all the people who are going to be dying, the overworked health care workers who can’t get a break, and the funeral businesses who are running out of space to put bodies.

The friendly mind is where all my changes are made. This part of my mind reminds me that I can’t predict the future. It honors our human right to decide for ourselves. This part of my mind is patient. It remembers the decisions I made in my youth and understands. It still loves and forgives even when I am in pain.

My intention is to be kind, even when I have strong opinions about issues. Living up to this intention requires a great deal of effort and practice. Frequently I fail, and when I do, I am kind to myself as I get back on track. Meditation has helped me with this more than anything else I’ve tried.

There are many wonderful ways to learn how to meditate, and if you need a suggestion, I’d start with the folks at Ten Percent Happier. They have some free content, including an engaging podcast. They always have a free trial offer, and right now are running a 90-day free special. (I receive nothing for promoting them.) Every week day during this pandemic, they have a live event with top notch meditation teachers, and recordings you can access on YouTube if you missed it live.

What part of your mind are you living in? What are your intentions? Is your mind your enemy or your friend? Where do you seek refuge during this pandemic?

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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