The other day, I was chatting with one of my fellow St. Francis House volunteers, and he was crowing that he'd scored a box of 30 N95 facemasks at Home Depot. Or was it Lowe's. He'd be sharing, he told me. He was mostly concerned about his kids and grandkids.
I didn't have the heart to point out that all of the experts are saying that facemasks are really not necessary or useful, other than for healthcare workers and those with the virus.
Then my brother Tom called me from Washington. He doesn't live in the COVID-19 section of the state. He's way down on the coast, closer to Oregon, in a fairly isolated and low-population area. He's pretty sure that the coronavirus won't be coming their way, but he did assure me that he has a box of masks, and one super-duper mask. Tom isn't a hoarder. He's a retired engineer who builds stuff, most recently a new house, so he always keeps masks around for when he's blasting, sanding, concrete-ing, and whatever else he does. Even though he's got his supply because of his construction work, Tom is just as happy to have them around. Just in case the coronavirus creeps closer.
Me? I'm not in the market for facemasks. But - even though the health officials are saying they're useless - I might poke around the house and see if I have a few. I'm pretty sure we had some for whatever reason during my husband's illness. And I'm pretty sure I kept some around.
On the other hand, I was sort of in the market for Purell or equivalent. But good luck with that.
I haven't been seriously looking. Just checking in whenever I'm in a CVS or the local indie drugstore.
I did nab the last two mini-bottles of fake-Purell at North Station last weekend, nobly giving one to my sister Trish.
Then the other day, I looked on line to see if the two-liter bottles are available, figuring I'd use it to refill the small bottles of hand sanitizer I keep in my pocketbooks, but if they're available at all - and mostly they're not - the price is way beyond what I'm willing to pay. When I had checked in the a.m., the 2 liter bottle was about $30. Later in the day, I found the same thing for well over $100. And yesterday I found 3 of the small pocketbook-sized bottles for $35. Huh? Wouldn't that have been about $5 or less just last week? Good thing shipping is free if you've got Amazon Prime. Still, war sure is hell, what with the profiteering and all.
On Wednesday, at the local indie hardware store - I'm really fortunate to live in indie-ville - they didn't have Purell, but they had a hand sanitizer that came in lavender or basil. I guess the basil was the manly choice - as opposed to lavender - but I don't imagine that anyone wants to smell like pesto. I suppose I could have hoarded, but I grabbed a mere two of the lavenders.
What I need to do now is go poking around, checking out all my pocketbooks and tote bags, looking through all the bathroom drawers, and dig out all the small bottles of hand sanitizer I've accumulated over the years. I'm guessing by the time I'm looked through all the nooks and crannies, I probably have a dozen or more. Will they last me through the pandemic? Probably not, so I'll just have to keep Lady McBeth-ing up with good old soap and water.
That or make my own hand sanitizer. I've seen recipes online: aloe vera plus isopropyl alcohol, eye of newt and toe of frog. But, unbelievably, I've read that isopropyl alcohol supplies are running low, as folks stock up on that.
I have been paying more attention to handwashing lately, doing more of a surgical scrub and washing the tops of my hands, which seems weird. I must say that washing your hands for 20 seconds is an absolute drag. Not quite as bad as the interminable toothbrushing that the electric toothbrush calls for. (The reason that mine sits largely unused.)
And if "they" want us to scrub-a-dub for twenty minutes, "they" better make sure that there's hot water in those public taps.
Back at North Station the other day, I unfortunately had to use the restroom. Oddly, the toilets at South Station aren't bad, but the ones at North Station just scream "typhoid epidemic." And when you go to wash your hands, the water feels like it was just piped in from the polar ice cap. If you do the 20 second routine (and I first wrote 20 minutes, because that's what it seems like), it's guaranteed that your arms get frozen up to your shoulders.
Mostly I'm not too worried about the corona virus. I can easily stay home and avoid others. I have enough food on the shelves to last me through a reasonably long hibernation.
I do volunteer in a homeless shelter, which is one giant germ vector with a very vulnerable population, but I'm not worried yet. If our guests start coming down with it, and if we run out of the large bottles of hand sanitizer that are all over the place, I may skip a few shifts.
A fellow came in the other day and showed me his scabies. That was scary enough.
I'm glad I'm not on a cruise ship. I'm glad I'm not in a nursing home. I'm glad I'm not in Wuhan. And I hope when this blows through and over, it's not all that much worse than the annual flu outbreaks that also kill a lot of people - especially older folks and those who are already medically compromised.
I understand why public health officials - the legit ones, not Mike Pence and the other Trump toadies - are being cautious. We don't want this one to take off like the 1918 Spanish flu that killed millions. (By the way, I read that one reason that epidemic was so deadly is that those in charge didn't want to hurt morale - there was a still a world war on - so they played things down. Sound familiar?)
And I understand why people want to be careful. Even if this virus will not kill most of the people it infects, who wants to be sick? I had a sinus infection last month and that was bad enough. But the Purell and facemask hoarding? Seriously, folks, stop panicking.
That said, the reason I was at my indie hardware store the other day was to pick up some toilet paper, which I heard there might be a shortage of coming up.
I didn't panic. I didn't hoard. I took only two rolls, and left dozens behind.
Still, I guess I'm a bit guilty of stockpiling. But Purell I can live with out - there's always soap and water - but toilet paper? No way! (Note to self: check on soap supply...)