Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Health: How to prevent COVID-19

Posted in family, Health by commorancy on March 18, 2020

virus-1280COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, is spreading. The difficulty with this situation is that there is too much conflicting information. Let’s learn how best to protect ourselves from this virus. Let’s explore.

Method of Spreading

There has been a lot of debating and guessing at how this virus is being spread. We simply need to use common sense here. It’s a virus. As a virus, it will spread in all of the same ways as the flu or cold viruses. COVID-19 is not some type of “magic” virus that has the ability to do anything different than any other virus. As I said, it spreads like all other virus types.

How do other viruses spread? There are three primary ways to spread a virus:

  1. Via direct contact with an individual by touching them
  2. Via airborne infection from droplets from an infected person (sneezing or coughing)
  3. Via latent contact of a virus sitting on a surface that you happen to touch

Let’s better understand vectors impact you and the likelihood of infection.

With direct contact with someone who is infected, this has the highest probability of infection. This type of contact is a double-whammy. It has both the latent type of contact, like #3 and can have airborne infection like #2. If they talk to you, cough, sneeze or in any way send spittle in your direction, you could become infected. Direct contact with random individuals should be avoided.

The second highest probability for infection comes from incidental airborne contact. For example, you are flying on a closed ventilation system plane, these droplets could easily spread throughout the plane and infect a number of passengers in the vicinity of someone infected. It could, in fact, infect people throughout the plane. When you’re sitting in a waiting room and someone across the room sneezes or coughs. When you’re standing in line and someone around you coughs. They aren’t near enough to you to latent infect you, but they can aerosolize their body fluids which can land on surfaces or in your nose.

The third highest probability for infection is via latent virus left on a surface after an infected has gone. For example, touching a banister, railing, seat cushion, door handle or even touching buttons on point of sale systems at supermarkets.

These are the same types and methods of infections of cold and flu viruses.

Symptoms or Not?

To be honest, this part doesn’t much matter. Yes, to researchers, people showing symptoms might matter. In reality, there are simply some people are carriers who will never present symptoms, yet they can spread the virus. Others will have symptoms including fever, coughing, sneezing and other visible symptoms.

Some researchers theorize that those who have been labeled as asymptomatic do, in fact, have symptoms. They theorize that some symptoms are so mild as to be shrugged off as a basic cold. I have long believed that there are carriers who never actually become symptomatic. Their systems thwart off the virus quickly and efficiently without ever having a single symptom… with exception of maybe a day headache or something equally easy to be ignored.

This means that these carriers go about their regular daily lives breathing on, coughing on and touching surfaces without ever knowing they have been a super spreader. Yes, there might also be some people who have such mild symptoms that they chalk it up to a cold or the flu. Again, they go about their daily lives spreading it.

Virus Spreading

I’ve always held that people who are visibly sick with fever, coughing and sneezing should firmly stay home. Don’t go out. Don’t go to the store. Don’t go shopping. Don’t do things you normally do. Too many of these people don’t understand that these viruses are highly contagious. Yet, there are many people who simply don’t care or are uninformed. For them it’s, “all about me.” They could care less about whether others become infected so long as they can continue to eat out and shop and do “normal” everyday things.

Having worked at an large theme park a long while back, I saw just how many people showed up sick. I never really understood that. Why would you spend (at the time) $50 (or more) to get into the park while you’re sick? It doesn’t make sense.

Types of Sick People

What I’ve come to learn is that, psychologically, there are several different types of virus infected sick people and the way they handle their sickness (in no particular order):

  1. Don’t Give A Damn — These people are the types of people who really don’t care about others. They hop in their cars, eat a restaurants, go to amusement parks and do whatever they please while in the throws of a virus. Instead of staying home in bed and nursing themselves back to health, they are out running around spreading their viruses to others. These people aren’t intentionally infecting others, but they are incidentally infecting others due to their reckless nature. These people aren’t sociopaths, but they are ignorant of what they are doing.
  2. Stay At Home — These sick people are the cautious types who stay home and stay in. They don’t go out unless it’s absolutely necessary, such as to get medicine or something similar needed to combat their symptoms. They limit their interactions to necessary trips only. These people are cognizant of spreading their illness to others. They aren’t necessarily overly cautious about it, but they don’t run around with wild abandon.
  3. Plan Ahead — These people are sick folks who, like #2, stay home. However, these folks do not go out at all until they are much better. These are also the types who plan ahead by stocking up on necessary medicines, tissue and foods during times when they are sick.
  4. Sociopaths — These are the most dangerous type of sick people. These people are similar to #1, but with the added twist that they actively and intentionally seek to infect others. They intentionally interact with random people and readily leave body fluids behind so as to infect others. These people are intentional super spreaders. These people know that they are sick and they actively seek to infect others. They really have no remorse and honestly don’t care how many people they infect. They may even believe, “I’m sick, so I need to make others sick.” For example, they might go to a grocery store and intentionally sneeze and cough all over products in the store. It’s gross, I know… but these folks are sociopaths. They actually derive joy from knowing that they’re doing this. The danger with these folks is that they are masters at hiding symptoms. These sociopaths can appear normal and healthy and happy, yet be massively sick.

I know it can be difficult to avoid going out when you’re sick, but prudence is always warranted when ill. Staying at home helps you get well faster and prevents making others ill. Nothing is worse than going to work only to find the person sitting next to you has a raging cold or flu… coughing every few minutes.

Prevention

Now we arrive at the section that you have been patiently awaiting. Let’s get started.

With COVID-19, panic has more-or-less ensued. This means that stores may be running low on food, drinks and other essentials. What that means for you is the possibility of heading to multiple stores to find the things you need. You may need to resort to purchasing some foods from Amazon for 1 or 2 day delivery.

While this section isn’t really prevention per say, it does contribute to it. If you have to run out to go get foods and whatnot, you’re putting yourself at risk of infection. Each time you leave the house, you could run into an infected person, but it’s more likely you’ll pick up an item that has a latent virus on it. Let’s get started with those things you can do to help prevent you from getting COVID-19.

1. Social Distancing

This is the act of staying at least 6 feet away from others when out and about. This may be easier said than done depending on the situation. Let’s understand what it means for store owners to fully understand what I mean here.

For store owners, the act of Social Distancing means reducing crowds within their stores so that people can remain 6 feet away from others. The difficulty is that if stores begin limiting how many people can enter and shop in the store at one time, that forces people to remain outside of the store in a crowd. Sure, you can sit in your car, but the store likely doesn’t have any way to accommodate those waiting in their cars. If you want a place in line, you must stand in that line. Standing in crowded line doesn’t afford social distancing.

Worse, some stores have reduced their open hours. For example, Safeway and Walmart formerly offered 24 hour locations. During the height of COVID-19, these stores have drastically reduced their open hours. What that means is, again, damage to social distancing. When you could formerly shop at 2am when there were but a handful of people in stores, you must now shop during these much more limited hours when everyone and their dog must also shop. This doesn’t afford social distancing. In fact, reducing hours has the exact opposite effect.

This means that you have to carefully consider all trips to stores now. You also need to understand their open hours. The best time to shop is usually immediately when they open or within 15 minutes of closing. The problem is, when these hours are firmly within “prime time” hours, you will be unable to perform proper social distancing.

Stores are, in fact, contributing to the spread of the virus by not keeping their regular store hours. For you, as a consumer, you will need to consider these aspects when you head out to the store. If you normally shop during 6am to 9pm hours, it might not affect you. But, if you were hoping to perform proper social distancing, this may no longer be possible due to stores reducing their hours of operation.

2. Wash Hands Frequently, Wear Gloves and Use Hand Sanitizer

With all of the stores selling out of hand sanitizer, gloves and other protective gear, you may find it hard to take advantage of these extra steps. But, you can wash your hands frequently. When you get home after a day of shopping, take your cloths off and wash throw them into the washer using hot water wash. Then, dry them in a hot drier if at all possible. Don’t leave clothes you’ve worn out sitting around unwashed for you to touch again. Then, after starting laundry, wash your hands before you finish dressing and sanitize the washer knobs.

3. Tanning Beds

The UV produced in tanning beds (UVA and UVB) will kill viruses on the surface of your skin and clothing. If you visit a tanning salon and hop into a tanning bed for 3-5 minutes (not enough to burn you or fade your clothing), you can kill any viruses on your skin and clothing. If you use a standup tanning bed, you don’t have to touch many surfaces. Just be sure to wear protective eye gear. After done, wash your hands. This can help you prevent viruses from entering your home. You’ll want to do this just before heading home for the day.

4. Avoid Bars with Restaurants

Bars sanitize their glasses rapidly through a three water bath. These baths are soap water, bleach water and rinse water. They are then allowed to dry. Depending on the bleach concentration of the bleach water, it may or may not be enough to fully kill COVID-19. If you visit a bar, the bartenders follow this glass washing practice because it is the “norm” at bars and recovers dirty glassware quickly. Unfortunately, using a glass washed like this could leave you infected with COVID-19. You’ll want to avoid heading to a bar, if not only for the social interaction reasons, but also for how bars wash their glasses during busy times.

If you’re unsure exactly how a bar washes their glassware, you should ask the bartender. Only drink beverages from glasses which have been properly washed via a commercial dishwasher and not through the quick three bath solution utilized at most bars. Better, perform social distancing and avoid bars entirely. If you must drink, buy your liquor at the store and mix your own drinks at home using your own properly washed glasses.

If a bar is also a restaurant, the server may order your drinks from the bartender (even if they don’t contain alcohol). This may mean the bartender can potentially use glasses sent through the three bath solution instead of through a proper hot washed sanitizing dishwasher. For this reason, it is best to avoid the restaurant + bar combo establishments. Instead, visit places that either serve paper cups or that serve you on glassware that has been properly sanitized in a dishwasher.

5. Avoid Buffets and Restaurants

This one goes without saying. Buffet bars are some of the most unsanitary restaurants in existence. With serving spoons that may have had hundreds of hands touching it, this can easily infect you. During the height of the flu season, let alone COVID-19, you should always avoid buffet bars. Flu season begins around September and doesn’t end until around May. You should avoid buffet serve-yourself restaurants during these months. Until COVID-19 is under control and subsiding, you should continue to avoid buffet style restaurants.

In fact, it’s probably wise to avoid all restaurants. If you must have restaurant food, use the drive-thru or have it delivered. Both of these options avoid the use of glassware and, instead, provide disposable containers which are less likely to hold latent viruses. It also avoids the need to enter the interior of the restaurant and interact with the staff or other customers. It can be difficult to practice social distancing once inside of a restaurant.

6. Close All Windows

While this one might not seem obvious, it will make sense once you understand. If you live in an apartment complex or in a house that’s close to your neighbor, someone coughing or sneezing could have their virus carried into your house. If you want to open your windows, do so during off-peak hours (after midnight, but before 6am). Close your windows during the day to keep the viruses out.

The same goes for driving in a car. If you’re out and about, keep your windows closed and your car’s A/C system on recirculated air. Don’t allow external air to blow inside. Even HEPA filters can’t filter out viruses. The best bet is to keep your car closed up tight.

7. Work from Home

If your company allows, work from home. Don’t head into the office unless you absolutely need to be there. If you have a client meeting, attempt to schedule these through video conferencing. Avoid face to face meetings unless absolutely necessary.

8. Don’t eat or drink after someone else

This should be common sense. Don’t drink from anyone else’s glass or eat food from their plate. It doesn’t matter if it’s your brother, sister, wife or mother. Don’t do it.

9. Take a shower

When you get home after work or after having been out and about, throw your clothes in the washer and then take a shower. Cleaning your clothing and taking a shower will remove any possible latent viruses you have picked up, not only from your hands, but any other portion of your skin or clothing.

10. Cover All Sores

If you have a cut, scrape or scab anywhere on the surface of your skin, cover it with a bandage. If it’s a fresh cut or scrape, be sure to use an antibiotic ointment on the bandage. This gives you two layers of protection. While the antibiotic ointment won’t kill a virus, it does help put up a barrier between the skin and the bandage that a virus will find hard enter. Simply, make sure to cover all cuts and scrapes. Don’t leave them open to the air.

If you have a liquid bandage that you use, I’d recommend covering the liquid bandage (after it’s dry) with a cloth bandage to, again, afford two layers of protection.

11. Wash All Packaging and Cook All Foods

After buying any prepackaged foods from a grocery store and because of the sociopaths of the world, wash everything in hot soapy water, if possible. Toss any outer packaging immediately, then wash hands. For example, many items are packaged in plastic. These are easily washable in the sink. Wash them thoroughly.

For produce (such as lettuce, celery, tomatoes and so on), these may be more difficult to wash. Instead, don’t eat these raw. Cook all produce until such time as COVID-19 subsides. Cooking produce with sufficient heat will ensure that any latent viruses are dead, including COVID-19. Cook all foods.

12. Microwave Takeout

When you get home with your bag of takeout, carefully remove the food from its packaging (preferably without touching the food itself with your hands) and place it onto your own dishware. Use chopsticks or tongs and avoiding touching the grabbing end with your fingers. Throw away all packaging immediately. Place the food into the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute to increase the temperature to ensure that the food will be disinfected. Wash your hands while the microwave is running.

If you’re buying raw food like Sushi, Poké or salad, avoid this type of food until COVID-19 subsides. It is recommended not to eat raw cold foods unless you’ve purchased the ingredients yourself from a grocery store and you’ve properly washed them. Still, I’d recommend cooking all foods until COVID-19 subsides.

13. Dishwasher and Dinner Parties

If you have a dishwasher, wash your dishware in a dishwasher to properly sanitize. This is particularly important if you choose to have people over for dinner. Better, avoid having people over at all. If you must, then be sure to wash all dishware in a dishwasher with a heated dry cycle.

14. Avoid Parties and Social Events

This one should really go without saying. Social events should be taken off of the table. Don’t go to parties or visit any large social gatherings. This includes gatherings like conventions and expos, movies, sporting events (whether for your kids or professional), concerts, parades, caucuses and primaries or any other event designed to lure in many people in close proximity. Stay away from these events until such time as COVID-19 has subsided.

15. Don’t borrow someone else’s phone

This section is not exclusively about borrowing phones, but this one is a common request. Your phone’s battery is dead, but you need to make a call. What do you do? You ask your friend to use theirs. Don’t do this. If your phone is dead, find a place to charge it (like in your car) or head home. Better, bring an extra battery with you to refill your battery on the go. Don’t rely on borrowing stuff from others. Not only does using someone else’s stuff break social distancing, it also means you’re touching something which could have latent COVID-19 on the surface and then putting it near your face. If it all possible, avoid touching something owned by someone else. This means, yes, avoiding picking up stuff for someone who drops a bag. Let them pick up their own stuff. Courtesy is all well and good, but you don’t want to risk your life over helping someone pick up a bag of spilled groceries.

16. Public Transportation

If you must travel on public transport, stand up. Don’t sit down. Hold onto the hand rail with only one hand if possible. Make sure your hand doesn’t have any cuts or scrapes and if it does make sure they are properly covered. Wear a glove if necessary. Sitting down means you will touch more surfaces that could be covered in COVID-19. Standing means touching far fewer surfaces.

17. Avoid Touching Anything

This can be very difficult. When purchasing, if you carry exact cash with you, you can drop that cash down and not touch anything in the process (put it onto the counter, not in the cashier’s hand). Giving exact cash means no change in return and nothing to touch. Note that I talk about ATMs including paper and coin money infection just below. The only thing you’ll touch is the receipt, but you can request that the cashier drop that into the bag without even touching it. The fewer things you touch, the less likely you are to get infected. If you use a credit card, you’ll have to touch the screen or press buttons to complete the transaction. If you can avoid this process, you have less chances of contracting COVID-19. If you need to touch a screen, buy and bring with you a touch sensitive pen.

Avoid touching your face including your eyes, nose and mouth. If you must scratch an itch, then wait until after you’ve washed your hands with soap and water or after using hand sanitizer. If you are wearing dispoable gloves while out, toss the glove before you scratch. Then, don another glove.

ATM machines are also ripe for COVID-19. If you must touch the screen or press buttons, carry with you a touch sensitive pen and touch the screen with that pen. Use that same pen to press buttons. Try not to touch any of the ATM with your fingers. If you have gloves, you can use them, but be sure to toss the gloves immediately after or wash cloth gloves when you get home. Note that paper or coin money itself can carry COVID-19.

There’s no easy way to solve this money dilemma other than through UV disinfection. If you have a UV lamp at home, you an place the paper and coin money under UV for a few minutes and kill any viruses on the surface of that money. If only banks would invest in a UV lamp system in their ATM machines to properly disinfect the paper money before it’s dispensed. Perhaps with COVID-19, this will send a wake-up call to ATM manufacturers and banks will follow suit with money disinfection.

18. Receipts and Photos

When you do receive a receipt from a purchase, the best option is to use your phone’s camera to take a picture of the receipt immediately and have the cashier toss the receipt. Though, you can choose keep the receipt if you wish. As long as you retain the photo of the receipt, it should be enough for the store to accept an item’s return. Carrying a photo of the receipt avoids having to touch that paper again in the future.

With stores like Target and when using the RedCard, you don’t even need the receipt. All of your purchases are stored with your RedCard which can be viewed within the Target app. The receipt may not show up until the next day, but you can toss the paper receipt and go with an electronic receipt when shopping at Target using a RedCard. Hopefully, more stores will move in this paperless direction, doing away with the paper wasting receipt.

19. Grocery Delivery

The best way to handle not going out is to order groceries for delivery. The fewer people you have to see, the better. That doesn’t negate the need to wash the items you receive from the grocery store as described in #11 above, but it does mean you don’t need to leave your home to have groceries delivered. For those in the highest risk group, grocery delivery is the best answer. There’s a caveat and risk here, based on the economy. I’ll discuss this aspect last.

20. Face Mask Deception

Loose fitting face masks can’t protect you against viruses. Many people think a mask can, but it can’t. The only masks that are less likely to see you get infected by an airborne pathogen is the one that fits tightly against your skin, not allowing any air to seep through the seal. This forces all air through the mask’s filters. Even these filters, however, may not filter at small enough sizes to keep certain particulate matter from entering your respiratory system.

The only thing the loose fitting masks do is protect others from YOUR coughs and sneezes. If you are sick and you wear a mask, the mask can prevent aerosolizing your sickness onto others. These masks don’t protect you from others who are sick and not wearing masks. The only thing that protects you from others who are sick is staying as far away from them as possible.

Economy

Because much of the US is now shutting down as a result of the fear of COVID-19, it appears that the US may be going into a recession. Because so much of the world culture thrives on large gatherings, cutting down on large social gatherings means less business for those businesses.

It also means that people are now more likely to cook and eat at home rather than dining out. Dining out keeps restaurants afloat. When that stops, restaurants lose. For now, COVID-19 means the economy will need to transition back to less restaurants and more home cooking. This transition was inevitable at some point. This means that grocery stores will need to stock more foods to handle this drastic increase in home cooking. As people transition to cooking for themselves, it means the need for stocking up mostly empty fridges and cabinets.

Stores like Target are bearing this transition out. Just visiting Target, you’ll find bare grocery shelves. Target was never one to stock large quantities of grocery items. For a store like Target, it doesn’t take much for these items to disappear from the shelves. Visiting my local Target, the fresh meat area is bare, the fresh produce area was nearly bare, the fresh fruit area, save for some apples and grapefruits was bare. In effect, this transition is being born right now.

Of course, it didn’t help matters that Target also decided to go ahead with their 2 for $10 weekly sales on specific foods like frozen pizza. Target should have suspended all of their two-for sales amid area lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders. They can resume their planned sales after this situation is resolved. In fact, they should have limited quantities and stopped the sales. Having these two-for sales in place incites people to buy large quantities… something that caused Target’s shelves to become bare faster.

Shelter In Place

With some areas of the country on full lockdown and other areas enforcing shelter-in-place (an action just short of a full lockdown), this will force people to stay at home and make and eat homemade meals. Restaurants for delivery may still be open, but even those businesses may tank… forcing them to send their workers home and possibly to even shut down.

For shelter-in-place and lockdown orders, it’s difficult to move about. It also means absolutely no social gatherings at all or face jail time or fines. This means staying inside.

If you live in an area of the country which is not yet under lockdown or shelter-in-place orders, you should still practice the above preventions. Even after COVID-19 has subsided, you should still practice the above. In fact, even during regular cold and flu season you should practice the above precautions. Some of these are definitely a bit over-the-top for a standard cold. If you wish to stay healthy, then the above suggestions offer your best protection.

Caveats — Can the US transition back to what it once was?

This is a great question, but one that doesn’t yet have an answer. We simply don’t know. Once people understand that they can make and eat foods at home, they may be willing to stick with this regimen going forward while still remaining a little bit cautious. What this means to grocers is the need to increase their orders to their suppliers and then increase stock on shelves to fulfill this newly increased cook-at-home demand.

Stores like Target must take this into account. Currently Target’s ordering of grocery items was perfectly acceptable for the shopping amounts before COVID-19. However, Target’s buyers will need to reconsider the amounts of grocery items they are now ordering and shipping to stores amid the COVID-19. They need to do this quickly. Other grocery stores will also need to consider their ordering process.

The difficulty is that stores may not be willing to place bigger orders for fear that much will go to waste, especially with some areas of the country under lockdown and shelter-in-place orders.

Grocery delivery may only last as long as they have business. However, I fully expect home grocery delivery to surge during this crisis. This means that Safeway, Whole Foods and Instacart will likely see a huge boom in deliveries. They may also take advantage of this by increasing surcharges and delivery charges. For this reason, be cautious of delivery services. Make sure you fully understand the surcharges and delivery charges being applied to your grocery delivery order. You may find that it could be 10% or more of the total bill. Also note that some companies like Instacart mark up the grocery items themselves. This can also add to the overall cost of your grocery delivery order. Personally, I call it price gouging, but so far no government organization has taken issue with these delivery markup scams.

Will the economy revive? Sure it will. It will take time for this virus to run its course and subside. It happens with cold viruses. It happens with the flu. It will happen with COVID-19. The question is, how long will it take?

With lockdowns and sheltering in place, it may take less time for COVID-19 to disappear than anticipated. If left unchecked, it will definitely continue to spread. Locking down social gatherings will prevent the spread via latent and active spreaders. The worse case is probably until the hot weather arrives. Hot weather has a way of killing off viruses. Unfortunately, cold and rainy days leaves latent viruses sitting around on surfaces to be picked up by someone’s finger. Once the heat arrives, it will bake these viruses and they will eventually disappear.

Normally, the heat arrives sometime around May or June for much of the US. Hopefully, these lockdowns will slow the spread and give time enough for the economy to recover once they are lifted. I’m not sure that April will be appropriate enough time to make that happen. If April is still rainy and cold, the virus could still flare back up after the lockdowns end. We may have to wait until the summer heat begins before we see COVID-19 begin to fade.

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Rant Time: What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff?

Posted in bankruptcy, botch, business, california by commorancy on October 10, 2019

candlelightHere’s where jurisprudence meets our every day lives (and safety) and here is also where PG&E is severely deluded and fast becoming a menace. There is actually no hope for this company. Let’s explore.

California Fire Danger Forecasting

“Officials” in California (not sure exactly to which specific organization is referred here) predicted the possibility of high winds, which could spark wildfires. This happened earlier the week of October 7 (or possibly earlier). As I said, these are “predictions”. Yet, as far as I can see, no strong winds have come to pass… a completely separate issue, but it is heavily tied to this story.

Yet, PG&E has taken it upon themselves to begin powering off areas of Northern California in “preparation” for these “predictions”… not because of an actual wind event. If the high winds had begun to materialize, then yes, perhaps mobilize and begin the power shut offs. Did PG&E wait for this? No, they did it anyway.

What exactly is Public Safety?

In the context of modern society, pretty much everything today relies on electric power generation to operate our public safety infrastructure. This infrastructure includes the likes of traffic lights to street lights to hospitals to medical equipment to refrigeration. All of these need power to function and keep the public safe. To date, we have come to rely on monopoly services like PG&E to provide these energy delivery services. Yet, what happens when the one and only one thing that PG&E is supposed to do and they can’t even do it?

Granted, what PG&E has done is intentional, but the argument is, “Are the PG&E power outages in the best interest of public safety?” Let’s explore this even further.

PG&E claims that these power outages will reduce the possibility of a wildfire. Well, that might be true from a self-centered perspective of PG&E as a corporation. After all, they’ve been tapped several times for legal liability over recent wildfire events. They’ve even had to declare bankruptcy to cover those costs incurred as a result. We’ll come to the reason behind this issue a little bit later. However, let’s stay focused on the Public Safety aspect for the moment.

PG&E claims it is in the best public safety interest to shut down its power grid. Yet, let’s explore that thought rationale. Sure, this outage action might reduce the possibility of sparking from a power line, but what it doesn’t take into account is the reduction in and lack of public safety from all of the other normal-everyday-public-safety mechanisms which have also had their power cut. As I said, street lights, traffic lights, hospitals, medical equipment, 911 services, airports and refrigeration.

The short term effect of shutting the power off might save some lives (based on a fire prediction that might not even come true), but then there are other lives which might be lost as a result of the power being shut off for days. Keep in mind that PG&E claims it might take up to 5 days to restore power after this scheduled power off event. That’s a long time to be without standard regular public safety mechanisms (simply ignoring the high wind advisory).

If PG&E has been found responsible for wildfires, then why aren’t they responsible for these incidental deaths that wouldn’t have occurred if the power had remained on. Worse, what about medical equipment and refrigeration? For people who rely on medical equipment to sustain their lives, what about these folks? How many of these could die from this outage? If it truly takes 5 days to get the power back on, what about the foods being sold at restaurants and grocery stores? If you do trust it, you might get sick… very, very sick… as in food poisoning sick. Who is responsible for that? The retailer or the restaurant?

Sure, I guess to some degree it is the retailer / restaurant. They should have thrown the food out and replaced it with fresh foods. Even then, perhaps the distributors were also affected by the outage. We can’t really know how far the food spoilage chain might go. At the root of all of this, though, it is PG&E who chose to cut the power. How many people might die as a result of PG&E force shutting off the power grid versus how many might potentially die if a wildfire ignites?

I’ve already heard there have been a number of traffic accidents because the power has been cut to traffic lights. It’s not a common occurrence to have the power out on intersections. When it does happen, many motorists don’t know the rules… and worse, they simply don’t pay attention to follow them. They just blast on through the intersection. Again, who is responsible for this? The city? No. In this case, it is truly PG&E’s responsibility. The same for food poisoning as a result of the lack of refrigeration. What about the death of someone because their medicine spoiled without refrigeration?

Trading One Evil For Another

Truly, PG&E is playing with fire. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The reality is, either way, shutting off electricity or leaving it on, PG&E risks the public’s safety. They are simply trading one set of public safety for another. Basically, they are “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.” By trying to thwart the possibility of setting an accidental wildfire, the outage can cause traffic accidents, deaths in hospitals, create food poisoning circumstances and this list goes on and on. When there is no power, this is real danger. Sometimes immediate danger, sometimes latent danger (food poisoning) which may present weeks later.

The reality is, it is PG&E who is responsible for this. PG&E “thinks” (and this is the key word here) that they are being proactive to prevent forest fires. In reality, they’re creating even more public safety issues by cutting the power off indiscriminately.

Cutting Power Off Sanely?

The first problem was in warning the public. PG&E came up with this plan with too short of a notice. The public was not properly notified in advance. If this outage scenario were on the table of options for PG&E to pursue during the wildfire season, this information should have been disseminated early in the summer. People could have had several months to prepare for this eventuality. Instead of notifying months ahead, they chose to notify at a moment’s notice forcing a cram situation when everyone floods the stores and gas stations trying to keep their homes in power and prepare. At the bare minimum, PG&E should be held responsible for inciting public frenzy. Instead, with proper planning and notification, people could have had several months notice to buy generators, stock up on water, buy a propane fridge, buy a propane stove, prep their fridges and freezers, and so on.

With a propane fridge, many people can still have refrigeration in their home during an extended (up to 7 day) power outage. This prevents both spoilage of foods and of medicines. Unfortunately, when it comes to crunch time notices, supplies and products run out quick. Manufacturers don’t build products for crunch time. They build for limited people to buy over a short period of time. Over several months, these manufacturers could have ramped up production for such a situation, but that can’t happen overnight. PG&E was entirely remiss with this notification. For such drastic knee-jerk actions to public safety, it needs to notify the public months in advance of this possibility. This is public menace situation #1.

Indiscriminate Power Outages

Here’s a second big problem with PG&E’s outage strategy. PG&E can’t pick and choose its outages. Instead, its substations cover whole swatches of areas which may include such major public safety issues as traffic lights and hospitals, let alone restaurants and grocery stores whose food is likely to spoil.

If PG&E could sanely turn off power to only specific businesses and residences without risking the power to hospitals, cell phone infrastructure, 911 and traffic infrastructure, then perhaps PG&E’s plan might be in a better shape. Unfortunately, PG&E’s outage strategy is a sledgehammer approach. “Let’s just shut it all down.”, I can almost hear them say. Dangerous! Perhaps even more long term dangerous than the possibility of not setting a wildfire. Who’s to say? This creates public menace situation #2.

Sad Infrastructure

Unfortunately, this whole situation seems less about public safety and more about CYA. PG&E has been burned (literally) several times over the last few wildfire seasons. In fact, they were both literally and monetarily burned so hard that this is less about actual public safety and more about covering PG&E’s legal butt. Even then, as I said above, PG&E isn’t without legal liability simply because they decided to cut the power to thwart a wildfire. In fact, while the legal liability might not be for causing a wildfire, instead it might be for incidental deaths created by outages at intersections, by deaths created in hospitals and in homes due to medical equipment failure, by deaths created via food spoilage in restaurants and grocery stores… and even food spoilage or lack of medical care in the home.

The reality behind PG&E’s woes is not tied to its supposedly proactive power outage measures, it is actually tied to its aging infrastructure. Instead of being proactive and replacing its wires to be less prone to sparking (what it should have been doing for the last 10 years or more), it has done almost nothing in this area. Instead of cutting back brush around its equipment, it has resorted to turning the power off. Its liability in wildfires is almost directly attributable to relying on infrastructure created and installed decades ago by the likes of Hetch Hetchy (and other early electric infrastructure builders) back in the early 1900s. I’m not saying that every piece of this infrastructure is nearly 100 years old, but some of it is. That’s something to think about right there.

PG&E does carry power from Hetch Hetchy to its end users via Hetch Hetchy generation facilities, but more importantly, through PG&E’s monopoly electric lines to its end users. PG&E also generates its own electricity from its own facilities. It also carries power from other generation providers like SVCE. The difficulty with PG&E is its monopoly in end user delivery. No other company is able to deliver power to PG&E’s end user territory, leaving consumers with only ONE commercial choice to power their home. End users can opt to install their own in-home energy generation systems such as solar, wind or even diesel generators (when the city allows), but that’s not a “commercial” provider like PG&E.

Because PG&E has the market sewn up, everyone who uses PG&E is at their mercy to provide solid continuous power… that is, until they don’t. This is public menace situation #3.

Legal Troubles

I’m surprised that PG&E has even decided to use this strategy considering its risky nature. To me, this forced power outage strategy seems as big a liability in and of itself as it does against wildfires.

PG&E is assigned one task: Deliver Power. If it can’t do this, then PG&E needs to step aside and let another company more experienced in to replace PG&E’s dominance in power delivery. If PG&E can’t even be bothered to update its aging equipment, which is at the heart of this entire problem, then it definitely needs to step aside and let a new company start over. Sure, a new company will take time to set it all up, but once it’s going, PG&E can quietly wind down and go away… which may happen anyway considering both its current legal troubles and its bankruptcy.

The state should, likewise, allow parties significantly impacted by this forced power outage (i.e., death or injury) to bring lawsuits against PG&E for its improperly planned and indiscriminately executed power outage. Except, because PG&E is still in bankruptcy court, consumers who are wronged by this outage must stand in line behind all of those who are already in line at PG&E’s bankruptcy court. I’m not even sure why the bankruptcy judge would have even allowed this action by PG&E while still in bankruptcy. Considering the possibility of significant additional legal liabilities incurred by this forced outage, the bankruptcy judge should have foreseen this and denied its action. It’s almost like PG&E execs are all, “F-it, we’ll just turn it all off and if they want to sue us, they’ll have to get in line.” This malicious level of callous disregard for public safety needs much more state and legal scrutiny. The bankruptcy judge should have had a say over this action by PG&E. That they didn’t, this makes public menace situation number 4, thus truly making PG&E an official public safety menace and a nuisance.

Updated 10/11/2019 — Clarification

I’ve realized that while one point was made in the article, it wasn’t explicitly called out.  To clarify this point, let’s explore. Because PG&E acted solely on a predicted forecast and didn’t wait for the wind event to actually begin, PG&E’s actions egregiously disregarded public safety. As I said in the main body of the article above, PG&E traded one “predicted” public safety event for actual real incurred public safety events. By proceeding to shut down the power WITHOUT the predicted wind event manifesting, PG&E acted recklessly towards public safety. As a power company, their sole reason to exist is to provide power and maintain that public safety. By summarily shutting down power, not only did they fail to provide the one thing they are in business to do, they shut the power down for reasons other than for fire safety. As I stated above, this point is the entire reason that PG&E is now an official menace to the public.

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Prevention: Flu Season is here

Posted in Health by commorancy on October 24, 2009

hand-brush[Updated: 2020-03-13] This information is now more relevant than ever considering the COVID-19 virus, which is now officially considered a worldwide pandemic. There is, unfortunately, no preventative like a Flu shot for COVID-19. Don’t go get a flu shot thinking it might protect you from COVID-19. It won’t. In fact, the primary preventative is staying away from crowds of people, in addition to all of the rest of the preventative advice listed below. Further, to protect you and your family, staying home and eating at home is your safest alternative. Jump to the bottom of this article to see even more rigorous preventatives specific to COVID-19.

[Updated: 2018-01-30] Since this 2017-2018 flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years, I’ll update my advice.

Now that flu season is upon us, I always like to take steps to prevent myself from getting infected from other people or items they may have touched. While there is no magic bullet for this, here are some rules that I personally follow that may help you avoid getting the flu. Let’s explore.

Flu Shots

syringes on white background

In my original 2009 article, I didn’t mention flu shots… and it was for a reason. This is intended as an everyday prevention article, but the intent was to firmly stay away from discussing medical technologies. While medical professionals often profess that a flu shot is effective, take that advice for what it’s worth… advice. While you can get a flu shot at your local pharmacy, at your place of business or at your doctor’s office, you may find that this prevention mechanism isn’t always as effective as it could be. Due to recent events surrounding H3N2, I’ve changed my stance since 2009 and that’s why I am now leading this article with this section.

During the 2017-2018 flu season, the dominant strain of the flu appears to be H3N2. This strain is particularly virulent and has resulted in a number of deaths in children and adults from complications. You may be asking, “Why didn’t my flu shot protect me from H3N2? Wasn’t this strain in the shot?” Yes, this strain (or at least the most common mutation) was included within the 2017-2018 flu shot formulation. You continue, “But, I took the shot and I still got sick anyway”. There may be several reasons for this.

  1. The flu shot may not have contained the exact strain of H3N2 that you got.
  2. The flu shot is formulated using eggs as a carrier. However, the H3N2 strain does not thrive well within an egg carrier causing this strain to be, at best, less effective and, at worst, ineffective in the shot.
  3. In flu seasons other than the 2017-2018 season, it has been known that those in charge of the flu strain lottery have guessed the wrong strains to include in the shot. This has directly contributed to the flu season because the dominant strain was not included.

If you received a flu shot during the 2017-2018 flu season and still got the flu, it may have been a direct result of number 1 and, more likely, number 2 contributing to your illness. As rapidly as viruses can mutate, it’s possible you picked up a strain that wasn’t included in the shot formulation (i.e., number 3).

For very young children or the elderly, getting a flu shot early is still a good first defense. However, don’t rely strictly on the shot to prevent getting the flu as it may not always protect you as expected. You should also consult with a medical professional to ensure that taking the flu shot is the right choice for your health as some people may have reactions to the formulation. Only your doctor can give you medical advice about your health.

As a result of this season’s flu shot ineffectiveness against H3N2, you will need to still use other preventative measures such as …

Wash your hands often with soap and warm water

Washing your hands frequently will eliminate most viruses and bacteria from your hands and prevent you getting them near your nose or mouth. If you can wash your face, you should do so as well.

During winter months, do not eat from serve-yourself open buffets

buffetEating off of salad bars at buffet-style restaurants or other communal type restaurants only serves to get you sick. Instead, opt for ordering from the menu so the food is cooked in the kitchen and served to you directly. This doesn’t eliminate the risk of getting sick, but it drastically reduces your chances because the plates will be clean and the food will be prepared fresh and hot. A cook in the kitchen could be sick, but most better restaurants don’t allow sick cooks in the kitchen (it’s a liability, after all). The fewer people who touch your food, the less chance you have of picking up a virus.

For this same reason, don’t buy foods in grocery stores from open buffet fill-it-yourself containers. The reason for this rule is very clear. Most buffet style places leave spoons out all day in containers and simply switch out the food leaving dirty utensils. Thus, spoons may have been touched by hundreds of people. By touching the spoon on the buffet table, you may be infecting yourself immediately. The food itself may also harbor the flu or a cold virus simply from someone sneezing. For sanitary reasons, avoid buffet serve-yourself meals during the winter to keep yourself healthier. This advice covers both hot and cold food bars including olive bars.

As a side note about buffets.. Buffets are extremely unsanitary. The required sneeze guards do nothing for children. The guards are designed with adult height in mind. A child can easily be face-high to the food, yet their face is under the guard. It’s easy for a child to cough, laugh, sneeze or play around or even with the food or utensils. Since children seem to be the prime carriers for cold and flu viruses, this makes buffets and other serve-yourself food tables very unsanitary. Instead, you should order from a menu at a table. You should always ask the server if they plan serving you your food from the buffet table. If they intend to serve from the buffet, ask to have the restaurant make it fresh in the kitchen instead of serving food to you from the buffet. Better still, visit restaurants that don’t offer a buffet bar of any kind.

“Carry Around” Style Restaurants

This buffet bar advice extends to all kinds of carry around small plate restaurants including Mongolian BBQ, Brazilian Steakhouse, Japanese conveyor belt, Japanese floating boat or Dim Sum restaurants. I’d even avoid company holiday parties which use servers to carry around appetizers on trays and buffet style plates (not that this food is usually very good anyway). Basically, my advice includes any restaurant where food is paraded in front of many people before you have the opportunity to grab it. To these I also say, “Stay away.”

Company Holiday Parties

In general, parties in the winter are a bad idea. When you attend, you’re mixing with many people that you may not know. That’s not necessarily a problem. Worse, though, is the food presentation. Many company parties choose to use carry around servers for appetizers. They also like to use chafing dishes to serve buffet style and sometimes fondue fountains for desserts.

You should contact your company’s event planner early each new year and request that for holiday parties that they choose sit-down restaurant-style waiter-served meals over an open serve-yourself buffet for all parties. You should mention that it is much more sanitary and healthy for everyone involved. The last thing the company holiday party planner wants is to be responsible for making half of the company sick, especially during a particularly harsh flu season. The way to perpetuate sickness is to serve buffet style food. Inevitably, someone will come to the party sick and spread it around.

Tanning beds and UV

While this next portion may seem unusual, it may actually prevent you from getting the flu or colds. If you use a tanning bed, you may decrease your chances of actually contracting a virus or bacterial infection during the winter months. UV is known to disinfect surfaces and kill bacteria and viruses. Using a tanning bed should kill viruses and bacteria on the surface of your skin, both hands and body. You don’t necessarily need to use a tanning bed for the maximum time. It may take as little as 1-3 minutes to successfully disinfect the surface of your skin (not necessarily enough time to tan you), although, likely enough time to kill viruses. Disinfecting the surface of your skin through UV should kill off any viruses you may have picked up through contact with other people.

However, once a virus has entered your nasal passages, you are already infected. UV light doesn’t penetrate deep enough to disinfect inside your body. So, don’t tan once you are sick as it won’t help stop it and may only serve to dehydrate you even more than the virus already has. Tanning can be dehydrating. Drink water after tanning.

How often you do this really depends on how often you are out in public with lots of people around you. The longer you are out in public around potentially sick people, then choose to tan at the end of the day to kill off anything you may have come in contact with. Tanning at the end of the day rather than the beginning makes the most sense so that you kill any viruses you may have picked up that day.

Shower regularly with soap

Having good hygiene by showering will also wash away any viruses that may have landed on your skin. Shower regularly to reduce viruses and bacteria on the surface of your skin. A reasonably hot shower or bath combined with soap is quite good at doing cleansing the skin of germs.

Cover open wounds

If you have any cuts or open wounds, cover them properly with bandages. Having an open wound is an invitation for viruses to enter. Keep your cuts clean and keep them covered. Additionally, using antibacterial ointments like Neosporin on wounds can reduce infection and may also kill off or prevent entry of viruses.

Don’t use public phones or public computers

If you must use public phones or computers, bring along some Windex wipes or other disinfecting towelettes to wipe down and disinfect the surface before using it. Basically,  avoid using these devices or clean surfaces where the item could come in contact with your face (like a phone). With public computers, you’re forced to touch the keyboard / mouse and you may then wipe your nose with your hands. Carrying disinfecting towelettes or sanitizer around during the winter months for quick disinfection is the smartest choice. If you can go to the restroom and wash your hands, this is the best choice over sanitizer or wipes.

Wipe down surfaces in your office

Because offices are where we spend most of our day, always wipe down your phone, desk and keyboard. You never know when someone may sit down at your desk and temporarily use your space without your knowledge. Always wipe and disinfect your space each day during the winter time. In fact, you should ask your office supply person to supply your company with disinfecting wipes. This initiative shows the company cares about a healthy workplace.

Public transportation

While I know that public transit is very ‘green’ and, in some cases, cost effective, it can also be a place where you can get sick. By sitting in seats where sick people may have been, you risk contracting the flu or cold viruses just by being there. You may not be able to avoid the use of public transportation, but you can reduce your chances by standing up rather than sitting down. If you stand on public transportation during the winter, you are not touching the seats where someone sick may have been sitting. Holding the hand rail only, you can easily clean your hands with instant hand sanitizer once you exit. Carry a small sized hand sanitizer with you in winter months. If you must sit, then avoid touching your face and use a hand sanitizer after you exit the transit.

If you notice someone coughing around you, move away from them (preferably to another car on a train) or further back if you are in a bus. You can also get off at the next stop and wait for the next bus or train, if they are frequent enough.

For airplane transit, there’s not really much you can do here. If there’s someone who is sick on a plane, you’re very likely to catch it. So, the best bet is to limit travel to only necessary movement during winter months.

Avoid eating out often / order take-out if possible

Eating at any restaurant exposes you to viruses. To avoid this risk, don’t eat out. Instead, buy foods and cook for yourself. Eating at home, there is no risk of becoming infected with a virus (except what you or your family bring home). Because your home is basically a controlled environment, you can prevent getting sick by staying home more often in the winter. If you really do want to eat out, take the food from the restaurant as takeout. Order over the phone from home or your cell and then pick the food up after it’s ready. This means you get exposed to almost nothing other than door handles and money handling. So, use some hand sanitizer or wash your hands when you get home.

Children and School

Unfortunately, if you have school age children, there is little you can do about this risk. Your children will be exposed every day at school. Because schools care about having children’s butts in seats (this is how they get their funding) more than caring about whether a child is sick, school ends up as one big petri dish. With school age children, all you can do is send them off and hope for the best. When your child brings something home (and they will), you’re likely to get it yourself. Until schools are required to care about each child’s health over attendance, this will remain a problem every year. When your child does get sick, keep them at home.

Stay at Home

If you don’t have school age children, staying at home during the height of the flu season can drastically reduce your chances of catching a virus. Going to the movies, eating out, visiting crowded shopping malls, zoos, museums or any other mingling with large gatherings of people all greatly increase your chances of getting sick during flu season. When possible, stay in.

Grocery Shopping

During December, January and February, I only go out for limited reasons such as grocery shopping. I also try to visit stores during off-hours or hours when fewer people will be shopping. These times are typically an hour before closing or the first hour after opening. If it’s a 24 hour market or open until midnight, anytime after 9PM is a great time to shop. In fact, the later at night, the fewer people you will see. You should also wipe down the push cart handle with disinfectant if you have it or use sanitizer after you’re done. Better, shop with your reusable shopping bag. It’s your bag and only you and the cashiers get to touch it. Wash your shopping bags frequently to get rid of germs.

Shopping with Home Delivery

Since companies like Amazon, GrubMarket, GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, Safeway and Instacart are now making it easier and cheaper than ever to shop for home delivery, here’s another way you can prevent going out. Order what you need from one of these apps and have it delivered right to your door. Use of these delivery services prevents the need to even enter a store. Inevitably, you will need to go out to fill your car’s tank or get certain items, but you can limit your people interaction on these trips and, thus, reduce your chances of getting sick.

The above are many of my rules that I regularly follow. However, sometimes it isn’t always convenient to follow all of them. In those cases, washing hands frequently with warm water is the bare minimum to help reduce the chances of getting sick during the winter flu season months.

Wash Clothing Frequently

If you’ve been out and about for a long period rubbing shoulder to shoulder with people in a subway, you should wash your clothes when you get home. Washing your clothes in a washer will ensure that your clothing is virus free. Though viruses don’t necessarily last a long amount of time on fabric, estimates may go up to 72 hours. Washing clothing washes away any viruses.

In the winter, we also wear a whole lot more outerwear than is normal in other months. Some of these include scarves and gloves. Buy and use washable outerwear. These materials allow you to throw your gloves and scarves into the washer and dryer to disinfect anything that you might have come in contact with while out and about. Gloves are particularly problematic. If you live in a city with a subway or use other public transportation, your gloves can easily pick up germs that could lead to the Flu.

Wash your outerwear frequently during the winter months. I also recommend avoiding wearing wool or other non-washable outerwear which requires dry cleaning. Because it’s difficult to launder these items, you’ll wear them for much longer than you normally wear clothing that can be washed in a washer, risking viruses. Wearing gloves for too long could be the thing that makes you sick. Instead, choose winter clothing that keeps you warm and is easy to launder… and also wash clothing frequently throughout the flu season.

Updated for COVID-19 — New Preventatives Below

With the release of COVID-19 into the wild and with this virus now being declared an official pandemic, there are even more steps you may want to consider to protect you and your family from contracting COVID-19.

Public Gatherings

Any places where crowds gather in large quantities is best avoided. This means don’t go see movies at a theater. Don’t head to large crowded restaurants. Don’t visit arcades. Don’t go to bars. Don’t ride on overcrowded subway cars. Don’t head over to that huge party. In short, don’t hang out in large crowds.

Choose alternative times to go to work if possible (go in earlier or later in the day). If you can work night shift, choose that shift where you’ll encounter the least amount of people possible.

Traveling

Stay off of planes, buses and crowded trains. Any place where large numbers of folks can congregate, stay away. If you must travel, travel by train in a closed compartment. Stay in the compartment and have your meals served to you in your compartment. Don’t walk around the train unless absolutely necessary. Don’t leave your train compartment unless required.

Planes are particularly problematic because the air is recycled throughout the plane. One person on the plane who is sick invariably will make everyone else sick. Because COVID-19 seems particularly contagious, it’s likely you will become infected when traveling by plane. Avoid unnecessary plane travel. Postpone any travel plans until COVID-19 is under at least some semblance of control.

Schools

If you’re in college, high school or any other type of school, opt for taking courses online from home rather than stepping foot on campus or sitting in crowded classrooms. Don’t eat at the cafeteria. Instead, bring your own packed lunch or visit a drive-thru and then sit in your car or find a secluded spot to eat by yourself.

Church

While I know people can be very devout to their church, it also unfortunately gathers a large number of people together. It’s very easy to get sick by visiting a church. I’ll leave you to decide how best to satisfy your faith requirements. If you can satisfy your faith at home, then stay home and spend an hour doing so instead of visiting your church. If you feel the urge to tithe, ask your church clergy if they have a way to donate electronically.

Eating Out and Entertainment

Avoid. There’s nothing requiring you to eat out. In fact, it’s probably healthier to make meals at home. Take this time to reflect on poor eating choices at restaurants and choose to make meals at home instead. This avoids visiting crowded restaurants and you may surprise yourself at what kinds of meals you can whip up.

Likewise, avoid activities like bowling, amusement parks, movie theaters and, unfortunately, gyms.

If you really must eat out, choose places that have a drive-thru. This avoids leaving your car and, unless someone working at the restaurant is infected, you’re not going to meet or speak to anyone else. I know that this excludes the more expensive sit-down style restaurants, but avoiding being around crowds is the best way to avoid getting infected.

Fitness

I spoke about this just above, but let me expand a little. While I know that many people like to visit gyms regularly, doing so could leave you infected with COVID-19. If you need your fitness fix, try other more solitary activities like walking or running around your neighborhood. Avoiding crowded gyms is a good way to beat getting COVID-19. If you’re a member of 24 Hour Fitness, many of these gyms are open 24 hours. This means you can head over at midnight or 1am and work out then. I know it’s late, but this is the time when you will see the fewest people possible. Though, when this information gets out, you might find that late is the new peak time.

If you enter a store or gym and see more than 8 people, turn around and leave. Use your best judgement also. If it’s a tiny place, but it has a lot of people, leave.

Shopping Late

The best way to avoid becoming infected is by shopping late in the wee hours of the morning. For example, Safeway is open 24 hours a day. By shopping after midnight, you can avoid seeing almost anyone in the store. The only place where you might encounter close contact is at the register. The hours between midnight and 3am are your best choices to avoid contact with people. Not that many places are open 24 hours, but take advantage of those that are.

Hand Sanitizer & Gloves

Wearing disposable gloves or carrying around hand sanitizer can help keep you from getting infected. If you have any open sores on your hands, opt for wearing disposable gloves or finger cots instead. Any open sore is a possible infection point. Make sure these sores remain properly covered when out and about, preferably by the waterproof variety of bandages.

When possible, wash your hands and face as frequently and as thoroughly as possible. When washing your face, wash your hands first thoroughly, then wash your face. After washing your hands in public, avoid touching anything when leaving the restroom. If necessary, use a towel to pull the handle on the door and throw the towel away immediately on the way out. Don’t hold it in your hands. If necessary, throw it on the floor. If the door is push to leave, kick it open with your foot.

Gas Stations

Everyone needs to fill up their car. By touching the gas pump handle, you could pick up COVID-19. Wear disposable gloves when pumping gas. Throw the glove(s) out immediately after replacing the pump handle to its holder. Don’t touch your car at all while wearing the gloves. Don’t fiddle with phone or headphones after having touched the gas pump handle and while wearing gloves. If you must fiddle with your phone, do it before you touch the handle and only after disposing of the gloves.

Touch Screens and Credit Cards

To complete many transactions at stores, you must enter your pin code, sign your name or touch an electronic pen at the point of sale. Wear gloves or, alternatively, utilize hand sanitizer immediately following the use of a touch screen. If you have a disinfectant wipe, you can wipe down the touch surface (if the cashier allows) before touching the screen or buttons. Better, bring a touch sensitive pen with you and use it to touch the screen and the buttons. Disinfect your credit card after you’ve inserted it into the slot and removed it.

If a store offers a wallet system that simply requires scanning your wallet on your phone, use this instead. The more hands-off you can make the purchasing, the less chances you’ll have of becoming infected.

If a store offers in-store pickup, order in advance on your phone, then pick up the items when the order is ready. This avoids contact with almost every surface. If you can utilize items for delivery, opt for this instead.

Washing All Purchases

If you’re bought anything new from a store, wash it immediately. If it’s clothing, immediately put it into the washing machine and wash it in hot water. If possible, dry it in a hot dryer. If you’ve bought something that’s dry clean only, take it to the dry cleaners. Better, buy and wear only wash and wear items during this COVID-19 pandemic.

For food items, buy items that have plastic containers or wrapping. When you get the items home, wash the entire outer packaging under hot water using soap and water. If you’re buying produce, you’ll want to buy produce that can be cooked before eating. Avoid eating produce that must be consumed raw, such as lettuce… unless the produce is individually wrapped in plastic and the outer plastic can be thoroughly washed.

After touching any purchased items, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or scratching.

Avoid Touching your Face

When you are out and about in public, avoid touching any part of your face. If you have an itch, leave it. Don’t scratch. Wait until you have washed your hands and face before touching any part your face. I know this one is tough, but keeping your hands away from your face is key to not bringing any germs into contact with your nose, eyes or mouth.

Coughing and Sneezing

If you hear anyone sneezing or coughing near you, move away or, better, leave. For example, if you need to visit your local Driver’s License office, this inevitably has at least one or two sick people. Avoid these public servant places like, ahem, the plague. If you can do your transactions online or by mail, do that instead. For example, California now offers a machine at various grocery stores to renew your car’s tags. Take advantage of these systems and avoid sitting in crowded close-contact surroundings.

Bars

Most bars are only required to rinse glasses through a weak bleach water solution between uses. As a result of this washing activity, it’s possible you could pick up COVID-19 from a glass washed at a bar. I’d suggest avoiding bars unless you absolutely know that the bar washes their glasses in a dishwasher after every use. Ask the bartender if you are unsure of their glass washing practices.

Common Sense

Many of these above are simply common sense. The most important is regularly washing your hands with hot water and soap and also the use of hand sanitizer for those in-between times. If you have open sores, cuts or scrapes, make sure these are appropriately bandaged and covered… preferably with antibiotic ointment. While the ointment may not actually kill the COVID-19 virus, it does create an additional barrier between your open sore and entry of the virus, just like the bandage.

Asian Restaurants and Asian Markets

This last part may is probably the most controversial, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Consider the primary demographic of any establishment you intend to visit. If you realize that the primary demographic for that establishment has high possibility of infection, you might want to think twice at visiting.

Contrary to some opinions on this topic, I will agree to these articles’ primary point. It’s not the restaurant food or grocery store items that is likely to get you infected with COVID-19. Instead, it will be that establishment’s customers. When you visit a Chinese grocery or Chinese restaurant, many of these establishment appeal to Chinese customers of all persuasions. What that means is when heading into one of these stores or restaurants, you do so at your own risk. It’s not the food or prepackaged items sold that will infect you, no. It’s that someone before you may have touched or sneezed on a package or, in fact, that person may be standing next to you in line when purchasing your food or paying your restaurant bill. The chances of encounter with the COVID-19 infection is much, much greater at places that attract the Chinese demographic.

These types of stores are open public spaces that are intended to appeal to everyone, but more particularly to those of Chinese descent. This statement isn’t meant to cast any aspersions. Instead, it’s a realistic assessment on the COVID-19 situation. Many recent Chinese immigrants feel much more at home when they eat at a Chinese restaurant or shop at a Chinese market. If they have recently traveled to and from China, then that whole establishment is at risk when they shop. That’s not to say that eating at McDonald’s or Denny’s is a better (or safer) choice. But, the risk is likely somewhat lower at restaurants that don’t widely appeal to a higher infection-rate demographic. Though, this pandemic is most certainly liquid and ever changing. As more and more people are infected, the demographic may swing from mainly Chinese to a wide array of demographics.

We already know that this virus spreads easily and rapidly, likely now more by surface contact than by exchange of bodily fluids. However, both are definitely possible. Visiting an establishment which is most likely to attract the highest infection demographic is always worth avoiding in the short term. Once the virus has begun to decline its spread, then it may be safe again to visit these types of establishments.

As I said above, if you must have Chinese food, find a place that either offers a drive-thru or use a home delivery service. That doesn’t mean the food or the containers can’t be infected, but the chances are reduced when only restaurant staff have ever handled or breathed on those containers.

Microwave Your Takeout — Toss Takeout Containers Rapidly

To reduce changes even further with purchased foods… If you’ve gotten takeout from a restaurant, no matter the type of food, it’s worth removing the food from its restaurant takeout container(s), then reheating the food in a microwave on your own dinnerware. Make sure to stir it well and that it gets hot enough.

While your food is re-heating in the microwave, dispose of all takeout containers in a separate trash bag or directly into a dumpster. Make sure you can’t accidentally touch the containers again after you’ve disposed of them. Finally, wash your hands thoroughly before touching or eating the now microwaved food. If the food can’t be easily microwaved (i.e., salads or cold food options), you might want to consider hot food choices instead.

If you really must have a salad, I’d suggest buying salad ingredients at a grocery store and making the salad yourself at home. Buying cold salads at any restaurant affords an excellent transportation opportunity for COVID-19. I’d also say the same thing about cold beverages and containers, such as Boba. Decant the beverage from its original takeout container into a properly sanitized glass, then discard the original packaging… making sure to wash and/or sanitize your hands before consuming the beverage. This beverage situation goes for Boba places to be sure, but also places like Starbucks.

Better, make and eat foods at home. Leave the the takeout for safer times.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be construed in any way as dispensing medical advice. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with a licensed medical professional to discuss your specific health needs.

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