I was standing on my front porch this morning thinking how odd it was that my street looked the same as usual but it felt completely different to me. My once cozy, friendly street where I had enjoyed countless hours interacting with family, friends and neighbors was now empty of people and made me feel — unsettled and ill at ease.
This unsettled feeling began when Gov. Gavin Newsom recently requested that all Californians over the age of 65 voluntarily self-isolate at home in order to protect themselves from contracting the novel coronavirus.
I was pretty much able to deal with that, but when the Governor announced his “Stay Safe at Home” month long order for all Californians to self isolate, my feeling of being ill at ease really hit home.
As he correctly explained, we need to stay at home in order to contain, mitigate and flatten the infection curve of the COVID-19 virus before it overwhelms our health care system. Logically I understood and accepted his rationale, but emotionally it was hard to get my head around the fact that all of California, not just us older adults, was now sequestered at home.
The key questions I asked myself was what does self isolating at home mean, what are the do’s and do not’s and what should I be practicing, including social distancing, when I leave the safety of my home.
To be absolutely clear, voluntarily staying at home does not mean being quarantined. When a person is quarantined, they cannot leave their home for any reason. Voluntarily self-isolating means staying at home as much as possible, not going to church, senior centers, or anywhere where groups of more than 10 congregate.
Voluntary self-isolation further means not having anyone, whether they be friends, family or anyone for that matter, coming over to visit. While it’s believed that people who are sickest are most likely to spread the coronavirus, some people might be spreading it before they begin to show symptoms.
But voluntary self-isolating also implies being able to leave the house for necessities such as medical appointments, grocery and pharmacy shopping, walking or running for daily exercise while rigorously practicing the CDC social distancing guidelines such as: keeping a 6-foot boundary from all other people, no handshaking or hugging, no touching of your face, and frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
Your home is your safe sanctuary. Keep it free of any external contaminants by cleaning daily touched surfaces such as tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, cabinet, mail boxes, and entrance bells using regular household detergent and water.
When you do need food, consider getting it delivered and when it arrives, wait for the delivery person to leave before you pick up the package. If you choose to go to the grocery store, then run your errands together to limit your exposure and do it during off-peak hours, or the reserved hours for older adults, and consider using the self-service checkout.
Once you’ve received your delivery or bought your store-bought food home, identify a staging area. Wear gloves when opening up packages and discarding the outer layer. When you eventually bring the food inside, rinse well before storage and then wash your hands.
Try to not wear your "outside clothes” in your home. Make sure that you have sets of both “outside” and “inside” clothes and wash your “outside clothes” frequently.
We are in troubled times, but it is precisely at these times when human ingenuity and resourcefulness comes to the forefront. We are capable of beating this invisible enemy so long as we band together and work towards the unified goals of proper hygiene, self isolation, and social distancing. We can and will weather the upcoming storms and in time we will once more be interacting with our families, friends, and neighbors and feeling hopeful and at ease.
In our next issue of FULL SPEED AHEAD we will focus on how to mentally make the best of being at home for a month and how to manage the anxiety, and sense of loneliness and isolation that many of us are contending with.
Allan Goldstein is a retirement counselor in Long Beach.