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Friday, April 24, 2020

Pandemic Daze: Exercise

One interesting aspect of staying at home and having non-essential businesses closed is how it changes your exercise patterns.  Under normal, non-pandemic circumstances, I get a fair amount of walking each day to and from mass transit.  Now, I'm hardly going anywhere at all (and I'm heeding Metro's pleas to not ride unless absolutely necessary), so that's gone.  I also typically did more formal workouts a few times a week.  Up until winter break, I was using my apartment complex's fitness center.  Then, after deciding that I needed to up my fitness game a bit, I joined a kickboxing gym.  As the public perception of the pandemic began to change, my apartment complex closed our fitness center.  The gym I joined voluntarily closed hours before our governor ordered all gyms to close.

One of the first things Scott and I did when it started to look like we'd be hunkering down for a while was to order some hand weights and a kettle bell.  It took a while for them to come in and Scott mentioned that he thought the hand weights would normally have been less expensive, so I suspect others had the same idea.  On my last "normal" day (i.e., the last day I ventured more than a couple miles from my apartment), I saw a Peloton bike (of the ad fame) being delivered in a ritzy neighborhood, so maybe there was a run on higher-end fitness equipment, too.

My gym has been creating daily workout videos for people to do at home.  None of them require equipment, although you can sometimes incorporate things like hand weights if you have them.  We've been trying to do three of those workouts per week, and while it's not exactly like going to the gym, they're pretty good.  I do miss the uncluttered padded floors of the gym, though--no furniture to rearrange there, and no rough carpeting for floor exercises!  Also, at home, we sometimes get a feline interloper who wants to know what all the commotion is about.

We're taking long walks most days, too.  We usually walk through a nearby residential neighborhood to a trail and then walk on the trail.  The problem is that the trail is sometimes pretty crowded and there's not a lot of room to avoid other people, but we do our best.

Playgrounds here have been closed; the ones near us are surrounded in that orange flexible fencing.  This doesn't directly impact us, but I do feel sorry for the kids, especially ones who don't have yards to play in.  I'm starting to see more kids on the trail we walk on, possibly because it's one of the few places left where they can let off some steam.

I'm glad that the existing restrictions have still allowed for people to get exercise outdoors.  It'll be interesting to see what happens as restrictions ease up--I kind of doubt gyms or team sports will be among the first restrictions to be lifted, and I think most people are fearful enough that there won't be too many volunteers to be first to go into a non-essential crowded situation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pandemic Daze: Face Masks

Anybody else suffering from mental whiplash from all the contradictory advice we're getting in the time of covid-19?  Like how wearing face masks was utterly pointless and possibly socially irresponsible until it wasn't?

I am definitely NOT providing any medical advice in this post.  I also don't want to upset anyone at such a sensitive time.  But I will say that I am unconvinced by the utility of most people wearing face masks, especially of the DIY variety.  I'm willing to be persuaded to think otherwise, if anyone has evidence they'd like to share.  But the usual explanation I hear is that various Asian countries where face mask-wearing is widespread have had lower infection rates than the US.  I would argue that that evidence shows correlation, not causation, and that the countries in question also did other things differently.

Also, I worry about some of the wider implications of encouraging everyone to wear face masks.  Sure, they tell us to make our own and leave the "real" face masks for medical personnel.  But is it really that much of a leap in logic to think that if people are being told to wear face masks that they might try to get ahold of good ones to wear rather than, say, cut up a t-shirt for a no-sew DIY mask?  I also worry that people might put too much faith in the efficacy of face masks and become more lax about measures like physical distancing.

Also, to be honest, I'm just very upset at how this whole crisis has been managed.  With two months of warning time, I suspect lots of medical-grade face masks could have been manufactured, possibly enough for (gasp!) our medical personnel to have all the masks they need.  Maybe even enough for the rest of us to use them!

All of that being said, my county has started requiring people to wear a face mask in supermarkets, pharmacies, and various other establishments.  I'm not getting out all that much these days, but I'm still making weekly supermarket trips, so I finally broke down and sewed a few masks over the weekend.  We wore them to the supermarket for the first time today, and I thought they were fairly tolerable.  We could breathe through the fabric and they didn't slip much.  When we were standing in line to get in to the supermarket, the guy behind us complimented our masks very enthusiastically; he liked the fact that they wrapped around our faces to our ears.  Upon learning that I had made them, he told me I was the MVP. 

I wonder how it will feel, at some distant point in the future, when wearing a face mask in public becomes an anomaly again.  I remember when I left a job where it was absolutely essential to have my employee badge every day.  For months after I left, I kept having these brief spells of panic looking for it in my purse, only to remember that I didn't need it anymore and had turned it in on my last day.  I wonder if similar mask panic is in my future, and if so, when.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Pandemic Daze: Toilet Paper!

I've written here before about grocery shopping during the pandemic.  Aside from one grocery trip we made just as things were starting to close down in the US, our supermarket has been pretty well stocked.  Aside from a few key items, that is, including the all-important toilet paper.

We were lucky as far as these things go.  I normally order our TP in bulk online.  I had just placed an order before people started panicking.  I felt fortunate that the timing had worked out so well in our favor, that we just happened to be running low on our previous package of TP.  I also felt lucky that I was in the habit of buying it in bulk.  As I told someone at the time as we discussed the situation, if there was a problem that required more than 24 rolls of TP in the immediate future, I didn't want to know about it.

Well.  When I made that comment, I had a sort of loose schedule of toilet paper usage in my mind, one that was based on not being home all day every day.  To be a tad indelicate, under ordinary circumstances, we use the bathroom at work, school, restaurants, other people's houses...all the while, not dipping into our own stock of TP.  When we stay home all day, we necessarily only use our own bathroom and our own TP.  A different TP usage schedule applies.

While I don't think (and fervently hope) we're not in imminent danger of running out of TP, the fact that it still has not reappeared on store shelves or in any meaningful quantity online concerns me.  It concerned me to the point that I thought I should maybe start sourcing our next batch.  This is not an easy task to square with official orders to stay home--checking out multiple stores in person didn't seem like the best idea.  We looked at our supermarket when we were there buying groceries anyway, and we checked the 7-11 on our block, and none was to be found.  I checked my usual sources online.  There were a few false hopes there, where I tried to add TP that was allegedly in stock into my shopping cart, only to be told that they had just run out. 

I was finally able to order some weird looking off-brand TP from Amazon.  Even that sort of TP appears to be in short supply, and we can expect to receive ours anytime between April 24 and May 15.  I'm kind of hoping that my giving in to buy it will be the signal to the universe that it's time for regular TP to become available again in the sort of abundance we're accustomed to.  Until then, wishing everyone plentiful (or at least adequate) supplies of paper products of all kinds!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Pandemic Daze: Grocery Shopping Continues To Evolve

Even before our governor issued a stay-at-home order, we hadn't been leaving our home for every much, but weekly grocery shopping is still an outing.  We may get to a point where we decide that it's best to order groceries, but for now, we like going to the supermarket so that if one key ingredient we want is out of stock, we can regroup on the spot and choose something else.

That being said, there have been some changes at our supermarket in the past couple of weeks.  One change is that they limit how many people can be in the store at once.  This week, we were able to go right in, but when we left, we saw a line of people waiting to get in.

Other changes are at the checkout line.  There are lines on the floor now to show people where they should wait in order to maintain social distancing.  There is also a plexiglass barrier between the cashier and the customers.  And this week, our cashier told us they couldn't handle reusable bags that customers brought in; basically, if you brought your own bags, you did your own bagging.  This is fine--I certainly understand how stores would develop such policies under the circumstances. 

More people were wearing face masks (mostly fabric ones, not the disposable kind that nobody has been able to get for weeks).  I have mixed feelings about the DIY face masks, and I'm on the fence about whether I want to make them for us or wear them.  Maybe that should be another blog post at another time...

Our store was pretty well stocked, but there are still shortages of some items.  Unsweetened almond milk, for instance, is something that inexplicably seems to sell out.  And the places on the shelves where toilet paper and disinfecting wipes are usually found are completely bare.  The ongoing toilet paper shortage is somewhat of a mystery to me; after all, we're dealing with a respiratory illness, not rampant diarrhea.  Nonetheless, it does seem to be a real situation, one that might also warrant a separate blog post at some point.