It’s been a long time for Melburnians – and First Dog nailed it. I think he could have done it all with just one panel of the strip. See The Strip On The Guardian
This one panel captures the feeling perfectly I think
It’s been a long time for Melburnians – and First Dog nailed it. I think he could have done it all with just one panel of the strip. See The Strip On The Guardian
This one panel captures the feeling perfectly I think
Don’t hold your breath for a vaccine
“We’re optimistic that a vaccine will be ready in a few months”
One of those is an article claiming that the issues around producing a viable working anti-COVID vaccine, the other is the Victorian Health minister on TV news claiming that progress is well in hand on a vaccine.
“We have the SPUTNIK-2 vaccine and are using it now to rebuild our economy”
Another quote is from Vladimir Putin saying that Russian people are being innoculated willy-nilly and to Hell with the consequences because it will get the Russian and Chinese economies back into full swing.
I wonder which quote is from whom? Also – there are stupid conspiracy theorist claims that the COVID vaccine being planned and developed by at least one biotech company will alter our DNA and quote “turn us into trademarked property of the company.”
Is it any wonder people are having mental health issues? There’s a constant push-pull-prod-yank-twist-twitch going on out there and not one single source has been creditable and – more importantly – consistently right – in the relatively short history of the pandemic.
Look – I believe that vaccinations are tricky to make, yes. And virus vaccines are especially difficult. We haven’t been able to muster a vaccination for rhinovirus that causes the common cold, nor do we have any single onetime vaccination for influenza virus. But there have also been some semi-successes.
And now we literally have almost every facility on Earth focused on this task, and if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s breaking down a problem down by sheer numbers.
And at the last time I checked there were several efforts that have all claimed they have promising experiments in progress, any of which could be a viable vaccine given proper testing and proving.
More to the point, do we have any chance that a vaccine will appear? I reckon the odds are good, but the goods may well be odd. There seem to be several strong contenders and perhaps we’ll end up with several vaccines. But that begs the question – if there’s one vaccine that makes us immune to COVID-19 and is safe to use – what does that mean for the other vaccines?
What I’m saying is that SARS-CoV-2 is a very specific target to hit with a vaccine. The vaccine that hits it will be very specific. The virus is also constantly mutating (which has been one of the things preventing us from making a successful vaccine for the common cold or the flu) so it’ll have to be one very specific vaccine.
That particular vaccine will not have had time to do years of tests and studies, so the ultimate safety of it won’t be known for years. The question then is – if there are a few that come up (and that seems to be the way things are going) then that means we shouldn’t jump at the first one that comes along.
There will always be people that want to be first. (I should be one of those since I have both a respiratory disease and an immune system disease – but I’m also going to exercise my option to not grow two heads, or worse…) I suggest that keeping masks and distancing for a few extra weeks won’t kill us, whereas something as under-tested and unknown as SPUTNIK-2 just might.
At last check I think I’ve read that there are over half a dozen vaccines that are in development / testing, which is probably a good starting field for at least ONE other antiviral to come out of. A more rigorously tested vaccine that has passed a few more stringent tests.
I’m going to wait until there are a few more choices, wait until one emerges that’s safe and effective. I know the economies of the world are on hold but there isn’t a single economy that I value more than I value my own life.
Without a vaccine we’ll have years of distancing, years of disruption to the economy.
With a safe and effective vaccine, we could be back on track within a few months.
But with a lethal vaccine, we’ll have exactly the same thing as having no vaccine, only for many of us it could be forever…
Our choice will matter.
Two world leaders have played VERY fast and loose with their populace’s safety, Putin and Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has repeatedly refused to take any action whatsoever to help the Brazilian people get through the pandemic.
While Bolsonaro may be a complete testosterone driven blithering idiot, Putin has a few more smarts. And SPUTNIK-2 makes a perfect case for me:
It’s fairly obviously not had time to undergo sufficient safety tests nor even really time to prove itself. Putin is fairly obviously trying to create an economic windfall for himself so he’s inoculating his populace and making noises about the Chinese also getting the inoculation and mentioning the probable power of their combined economies to convince other leaders to line their populations up for SPUTNIK-2.
The right thing to do is to watch what happens to those people, buy a trial quantity of the vaccine and run a series of tests that are under our control, and then make the decision. (Also, in the meantime, perhaps some tested vaccines might have come out of the Western ranks by then and the problem goes away.)
So I’m not agreeing that we won’t have a viable vaccine in the next few months, and I’m not agreeing that Russia has a working vaccine so why shouldn’t we just go for it. I’m saying that it certainly seems that at least one good vaccine will come out of all the efforts of the world these last few months.
All we have to do is stay safe until then.
I sort of decided on doing O Hai Corona in part because of all those conflicting reports, opinions, and announcements. It was a way to keep myself centred while all the confusion was coming down. OHC has been my stress release valve. And then I found that I was sort of scoring a goal or two myself every so often so I figured I’d keep writing it. I’ve put a few ways in place to monetise the blog – and actually received some support (much to my surprise) – so I’ll keep writing because obviously it’s been of use to some folks out there.Ted
One thing we should be doing more is gardening, planting things. Of all the things we can do under restrictions and lockdowns this has to be one of the most fulfilling and productive things we can do.
When things ease up – whenever that may be – we’ll have some lovely produce at home. We’ll be more prepared for the possibility of another rush on groceries, eating healthier, and will have had something to do while staying home.
And also, as the article says, if more space in cities was devoted to gardening we could save a lot of land cleared for market gardening, restaurants could serve extremely fresh produce featuring in their menus, and for some of us, all that fresh food will also inspire many to keep those cooking skills honed…
For me, a milestone of another kind was unfolding . . .
Ten weeks earlier towards the end of May, I’d passed a sudden flood of dark, bloody urine. (TMI, I know, I know…) In the next few weeks, the new telemedicine / telehealth system that we’ve begun to see used more and more swung into action.
In the space of those weeks my little patch bladder growth (immediately nicknamed “Peter The Patch” aka The Sessile Mass) was found, scanned, identified as a TCC (Transitional Cell Carcinoma), and removed.
All that medical technology swung into action and within ten weeks from first flush (see what I did there?) I was in hospital for an operation called a TURBT (Trans Urethral Resection of Bladder Tumor) to remove Peter.
My GP in a telehealth phone consultation had me booked for an ultrasound in the space of about ten. The visit to the imaging centre was quick and following the report, a second phone consult had me go to the local pathology centre for only the second physical interaction of the whole process, which was to be processed for a three day urine analysis.
At that consult he also booked me an appointment with my urologist. She has a practice at one of the major hospitals in Melbourne however she also visits our town and performs some surgeries at our local hospital.
Returning my three samples was contact-free as there was a drop-off point at the pathology centre, and on the 28th June I had my third physical interaction, a consultation with the urologist, at the local consulting rooms.
Alert readers will have noted that by that time, there were the very early stirrings of the start of a tsunami of infections in Melbourne, and rightly conclude that I was apprehensive . . .
In fact, I was shitting myself. Wouldn’t you be? To go into Ground Zero for the biggest outbreak Australia has ever had including the Ruby Princess outbreak, have an unknown number of people breathe and shed who knows what kinds of infection loads, and stick needles (and worse…) in you?
Luckily our local hospital had the necessary facilities and expertise to anaesthetise me with consideration for my CODP. And my urologist performs surgeries here regularly. The 30th of July became The Day.
That Thursday morning I was dropped off at the hospital (no accompanying persons unless medically necessary, no visitors, no supporters, no exceptions) and led around to the day surgery waiting area where I was outfitted with the flattering hospital vict. . . – patient – haute couture, and processed through a slightly longer intake process. All went well until:
“You say you had a coffee two hours ago – was it black or white?” and since I’d forgotten that milk is regarded as a food, my surgery was shuffled along the queue. Damn.
But one nerve block and one twilight later, I woke up in theatre recovery, was whisked to the overnight ward, and THAT was when I became aware of a weird tangle of tubing that was taped to my leg . . .
While I was digesting that, my surgeon came to check on me and let me know that she’d had a very simple time of the surgery and there had been no noteworthy features. All good, but I wonder how many of THEM have ever had to try and retain memory of someone’s words while your brain is still all wrapped in cotton wool from the twilight.
Food was of usual hospital quality, luckily I’d had the foresight to bring dried fruit, nuts, crackers, and other goodies, so I kept the calories up and survived the famine . . .
The following morning it seems that pandemonium ruled, I wasn’t sure what was going on but my night nurse came by and explained as he shut the door that due to new distancing rules they had to use the corridor in the ward for the shift handover meeting and they didn’t want to share patient details nor any possibility of a virus transmission with we patients.
So my entire procedure was handled with only three physical interactions to date, five overall:
One, to have an ultrasound.
Two, to pick up sample vessels for urine samples. (I was able to drop them at a collection point without any interaction once I’d supplied the samples.)
Three, surgery and hospitalisation.
There’s been one in-person consult with a GP and will be one with my urologist when she’s next on her rounds here. And that is what telehealth and telemedicine has come to in such a short time.
Anyone that’s still doubting the use of masks, sanitisation, and distancing should take note – if it wasn’t for appropriate use of these, my experience could have been much riskier and more like a third world country. Masks up, hands clean, distance!
TL;DR – A clinical trial is under way following cell culture experiments that suggest that some mouthwashes can reduce the amount of viral shedding from breathing. It isn’t a cure for COVID-19 but a way to reduce your viral load that you’d normally expel in your breath if you were unlucky enough to be infected.
The names of the mouthwashes seem to be omitted, but I’ll do a bit of research and see what I can find.
(At this stage I’m aware that most mouthwashes use cetylpyridinium chloride and a smaller subset use chlorhexidine, possibly the criterion for reducing “virusbreath” might which one of these the mouthwash uses.)
We’re lucky where I am, with very few cases having been diagnosed here. We’ve had ten cases in the local shire region, never more than four active at any time, and we’re currently down from four active the three active. That’s mainly due to the very hard lockdown conditions in Melbourne so that very few zombies were able to travel out of the city.
(I’ve been calling the people that seek to find loopholes in the lockdown regulations, that ignore the regulations, and whose only purpose appears to be to get their own way even at the cost of potentially infecting hundreds of other people, zombies. Come on, they’re the movie definition of a zombie! It’s apt, admit it!)
Wife and I are also unlucky insofar as we both have respiratory and immune issues, so wearing a mask is both anxiety-inducing and essential. We’ve had an opportunity to try out and evaluate quite a few mask types. Here’s my attempt to demystify and de-anxiety-fy masks and mask wearing.
Masks can be thought of as being just a few types:
These are my terms, there may well be official jargon meaning the same things. To me, a containment mask is there mainly to prevent any virus YOU yourself may be shedding in your breath from infecting others. A protection mask prevents outbound infection but also filters and reduces the amount of contaminated moisture droplets that other people shed from reaching your respiratory system.
The main function of masks:
Masks should be worn anywhere you may come within a few metres (6 – 9ft) of other people. They work best when EVERYONE is wearing a containment mask because they prevent droplet shedding. (Droplets of moisture in your breath will, if you’re infected with COVID-19, contain live virus for two to three days before you start feeling symptoms. These droplets will hang in the air for a short period of time, flying up to several metres in whichever direction you’re talking or just breathing, and fall on objects and surfaces where another person can pick them up just by touching the tainted object.)
A quick guide to how SARS-CoV-2 spreads:Ted
SARS-CoV-2 spreads almost exclusively from the droplets of moisture that we exhale. These droplets form an invisible cloud or plume up to two metres (6ft) or more in front of an unmasked person when they’re just breathing normally or talking normally. That plume can extend farther with heavy panting, shouting, or coughing. This plume can remain suspended in the air for up to several minutes. The smaller the droplet size, the longer it floats on air currents and therefore the farther it travels. Wearing a surgical three fold mask reduces the plume zone to 50cm (12″ – 18″) or less. Direct virus shed infection occurs when some of that plume is inhaled by another person. SARS-CoV-2 seems to enter the body almost exclusively through the lungs, where it causes lesions in the lung so it can get into the bloodstream and infect other organs. Droplets when they settle on things still carry virions (virus particles) and those can remain active for several weeks at least as far as we’ve been able to ascertain, hence the need to sanitise hands because if you touch a surface someone else’s droplet shed has fallen on and then touch your near your eyes, nose, or mouth, there will now be virions on your face near entry points to your lungs, and while virions are not technically alive and able to move, your indrawn breath can and will suck them across your skin and in.
Masks help reduce the amount of viral shed material in the air and on surfaces, and keeps everyone safe.
Hand sanitisation helps keep you safe. )
>> Cloth Masks (Home made or commercially produced) –
These are made of layers of woven cloth of various types, and various constructions. They include neck wraps you can pull up to cover your nose and mouth, bandannas, multi-layer cloth masks, masks with pouches for PM2.5 filters (more on this a few paragraphs down) and more.
Single layer masks and lycra neck wraps are among the least effective. They offer little protection from droplets inbound, and in the case of some materials, it’s been tentatively suggested that they break up larger droplets in your breath and turn them into many more smaller droplets that stay in the air longer and thus travel further. The advantages of single layer masks are only that they are easy to breathe through, and they allow you to use a loophole (you zombie you!) to comply with mask laws. They offer very little protection to you or people around you and are at best a very basic containment mask. (They do however have one use, which I’ll put in the ProTips section.)
Three layer and three fold explained:
There are two kinds of three layer masks and two kinds of three fold masks.
Three layer cloth masks have three kinds of material and you can make them at home following any of the hundreds of tutorials online. Our preference is something like thin linen / denim inside, a layer of – amazingly enough – reusable shopping bag cloth – and a cotton tee shirt layer outside. The shopping bag ‘cloth’ is actually a spray mesh of tangled fibres and traps far more particles than any woven cloth. You have to pick the right kind of course – not solid plastic, and not the perforated kind. You can also use just a third layer of cloth if you’re willing to lose some effectiveness. They are still containment masks but also offer protection.
Three layer ‘pouch’ masks have a similar construction to the three layer but the middle layer is replaced with a PM2.5 filter pad. Advantages of a well made pouch mask are filtering down to 2.5 micron sized particles / droplets, offering fair filtering of particles in and out. If the ‘pouch’ isn’t well constructed and the filter can slip aside or there are gaps, you’re down to just a two layer mask in protection. Similarly, if the places outside the pouch aren’t quite solid and impermeable, air will for preference flow through the thinner two layer parts and never go through the filter. Advantages pouch masks are that a well made one with give you and people around you a far better level of protection than a single, and slightly better than a well made three layer, mask. I class these as both containment and protection masks, with the caveat that NO mask can offer complete protection.
Of the three fold masks, there are home made, and then there are surgical masks which I’ll tackle in a minute.
Three fold cloth masks are made in a similar pattern to three fold surgical masks. A piece of material is pleated into three folds across and then the edges sewn. The three folds give a few advantages over a flat mask – you don’t have to sew several shaped pieces together in order to form a fairly well-sealing mask, and there’s a greater surface area so you can breathe a little easier through them. Other than that, they confer few advantages over an equivalent cloth mask. Of course, shopping bag cloth can be used for slightly better protection but they are mainly a containment mask with some benefit as a protection mask.
Now we come to the more esoteric masks that are hard to make at home:
Surgical three fold masks are the simplest form of containment mask, the cheapest to buy, and if you have to buy masks, then these are the go-to answer. They are made of spray weave fibres at medical grade. They have a blue layer that helps impede droplets and lets them get tangled in the cloth, leading to a bit more trapping. The blue side should face outwards when you put them on.
The advantages of these masks are
They’re medical grade proven in hospitals to stop medical personnel from shedding infectious material on vulnerable patients – IF WORN RIGHT.
They’re minimally obstructive to breathing, you can breathe easier in them.
The disadvantages are
They’re single use. That ‘inexpensiveness’ mounts up when you have to change masks every few hours, and shouldn’t re-use them if you touch them or take them off.
They don’t fit particularly well, there are air egress and ingress gaps all around. The three folds design makes them a little bit more fitted to your face than a flat sheet but it’s far from perfect.
They are already creating a large landfill problem. They aren’t organic cloth but a synthetic spray fibre so they break down more like plastic shopping bags.
I classify them as reasonable containment masks and minimal protection masks.
Surgical respirator masks are the next step up, and offer a lot of the best of both worlds. These are the KN95 masks you read about so much, with the ‘N95’ rating just meaning that they will filter 95% of particulate matter in the air down to (I think!) 2 microns or something. Respirator masks protect you from airborne droplets, and prevent your droplet shed from getting out, but they need to be custom fitted to prevent ANY air leakage. After all, if the air can get in a gap then it’ll take the path of least resistance and go there, carrying unfiltered droplets right inside the mask with you. (I do have a tip for the most common type of KN95 in use as pictured, see ProTips.)
The last paragraph lists the advantages of KN95 pretty clearly, they can work extremely well. But there are caveats and disadvantages:
They are costly (between $2 and $5 each at last check) and still only single use. So all the disadvantages of cost and landfill are still there.
Also, they are of far more use to medical staff than to most of us. When we buy a pack of ten or fifty KN95s we are taking that many masks off the available stock for frontline medical staff.
They are quite restrictive to breathing, like good 3 layer or pouch masks are. In order to filter small particles effectively, they have to force the air through very small pores.
Of course, if you’re at extreme risk if you catch COVID-19, then maybe KN95 masks make sense for you. But for most of us, a well made 3 layer or pouch mask makes as much sense.
Lastly, the more esoteric “gas mask” style respirator masks that have cartridges for various purposes are a very serious (and expensive!) alternative given their price can run up to several hundred dollars and cartridges up to $30 a pair for simple particulate filters. Enviro suits with positive pressure helmets would be your ultimate protection but come at a cost of thousands of dollars and require a fairly large filter / fan backpack that needs recharging the batteries and filters at regular intervals.
Things to definitely avoid are the more “gimmicky” masks out there with fan forcing and one way valves and all the bells and whistles. Each gimmick adds a point of failure, some are downright unsafe themselves, and most offer no real advantage. ‘Filters’ means that you have to breathe through a restrictive material, if it wasn’t restrictive it wouldn’t trap and retain the virus-bearing particles, and of course all these gimmicks come at an added cost.
There’s pros and cons to everything, masks are the hot topic of the moment and whatever we do we need to consider that AFTER the pandemic settles down to either be eliminated or become manageable, we still want to deal with pollution, environmental damage, and other issues. There are also the other things about masks such as inducing anxiety, panicked breathing, and a range of legitimate medical concerns
“Herd protection” – if everyone wore a minimally effective mask, that would already strongly limit the spread of virus. Fewer droplets in the air means less chance of breathing in another person’s droplet shed. Since a reasonable mask can limit the droplet plume to 50cm, staying 150cm (1.5m, 6ft) apart and all wearing basic but effective containment masks makes a dramatic difference to the virus’ spread.
Since the other form of transmission (by touching a contaminated surface and then transferring the virus to the face or similar) is actually thought to be the MAJOR cause of COVID-19 transmission, masks also help dramatically limit the amount of infected droplet contamination on objects and surfaces. This is also the reason that most places of business offer hand sanitisation as you enter their place of business, so you don’t (hopefully) spread any virus acquired elsewhere on their merch…
And there’s ANOTHER one of those things. You may touch something totally saturated with someone else’s infected snot (gross thought I know but not so far off the money believe me) and not sanitise on the way out, nor on the way in to the next two places you shop at. At one place you put your hand on the stainless steel counter near the ticket machine, at another you pick up a few items of fruit and vegetables and then put them back.
Then you remember, and sanitise your hands on the way out of that last place, and you never get any virus near your face so you never get sick but you’ve still unknowingly contaminated all those places and so then it’s doubly important for those other people to sanitise THEIR hands. Heck, you might be one of the innocent ones in the story – but now can you see why sanitising is the most important thing you can do?
But masks are a HUGE part of that herd safety – they prevent virus in the air, virus contaminating surfaces, and stop a sizeable percentage of transmissions.
If you really truly absolutely can’t wear a mask then be doubly careful about what and whom you breathe on, make sure to cover coughs and sneezes with a handkerchief or tissue, and sanitise after each time you do cover a cough or sneeze. (Also, in ProTips, I’ll add some other helpful tips.)
I said KN95 respirator masks are single use. I also said that this is wasteful, polluting, and expensive.
The reason we’re asked not to touch our masks or our faces is because unless we’ve freshly sanitised our hands (or preferably, washed with soap and water for the approved 20 seconds) we could be transferring virus from whatever we’ve just touched to the outside of the mask or on the highway to our lungs and insides that SARS-CoV-2 needs. Also, any virions on the outside of the mask will shed off as we breathe, creating the exact opposite effect of what the masks are supposed to do.
So ProTip#1 is: _If you have to adjust your mask, do so only at the very top or bottom edges, or preferably at the sides by the straps / cords. Do it only after you’ve sanitised your hands.
Protip#2: _Sanitise your hands before removing your mask and afterwards. Place your mask in a plastic or paper bag you can close. Either dispose of the mask properly or take it home that way to sterilise it. (See next ProTip.)
Protip#3: _It appears that SARS-CoV-2 may be sensitive to certain wavelengths of UV light. There are some UV sanitisers out there that are advertised as being for mobile phones, and which a mask could conceivably be sterilised in. You’d need to make sure all sides got sterilised so probably two passes at least, but it might save some landfill. (Also see ProTip#5 for a few more things pertaining to mask re-use.)
Protip#4: _If, like me, you have a respiratory syndrome of some sort, then you’re in a bit of a pickle – on the one hand, a KN95 respirator mask is pretty much your ticket to remaining uninfected, but it’s harder to breathe through.
I found that I was okay if I started off with a single layer cloth mask or a surgical three fold mask for a few days, and wore it around the house where I didn’t need to be changing to a clean one all the time because the house is COVID-free, and then wore a pouch mask (and / or a KN95 alternately) for an hour at a time doing stuff around the house.
If I panicked (which I *almost* did a few times) I could safely remove it and put it back later without needing to consider sanitisation. Eventually I was so used to the KN95s that they no longer induced that panic asthma feeling.
Protip#5: _Good single layer masks do have one other use. I use a good quality stretchy tee shirt cotton mask to make my KN95 mask to conform to my face better. There isn’t any place left for air to leak when the KN95 (which could be a surgical three fold if you like) is gently pressed to your face by the cotton mask.
It’s important to make sure you get the tightness just right – too much and you’ll just crush the filter mask into your face, not tight enough and there’ll still be gaps where unfiltered air (and virus!) can get in.
The downside is *slightly* more impedance to breathing – but if I with almost thirty years of CODP can get used to this, so should many people be able to. Also, if you wanted, you could just wear a surgical three fold mask underneath.
This also has one other happy side effect for me: I don’t get a chance to touch the actual filtering mask as much with unsanitised hands so I can (at my own risk of course) re-use them and keep them out of landfill.
The outer stretchy masks obviously will need to be washed/sanitised after each use but one can just rinse in some antibacterial nappy wash and then wash with the normal laundry, and having several will keep one in outer masks continuously.
Protip#6: _Other masks. As shown in an image above, a construction ‘dust filter’ mask will provide you an emergency method to contain any virus you may be shedding, and probably has limited usefulness as inbound protection but will also benefit from having a stretchy mask over it to keep it snug to your face.
Also, a lycra neck wrap/warmer can substitute for the soft mask in the two-layer approach. I have a few I might try this out with. The important thing again is – not too tight nor too loose.
PLEASE NOTE that these are my opinions and as such do not constitute medical advice. Do some research yourself and then decide if you want to try anything I mention, remembering it is entirely at your own risk and volition.
Interesting and brief article on why wearing masks is better than lockdown, better than social distancing, better than anything else we have at the moment.
I’m glad to see that Mr Johnson survived SARS-cov-2, because while I may not like a person for the effect they’re having on the world and even reaching my world with their crap, I couldn’t in all honesty have wished him to die of SARS-cov-2.
I would have smiled and felt better if I’d gotten to read his obituary, though.
Can I go to the shops and just, you know, browse around? What’ll I find at the shops, anyway? How do I, what happens, where and why? There’s patchy information out there and I’ve been collecting and curating… I’m keeping this article pinned and will keep adding practical information as I find it.
Stock in many supermarkets has returned on the shelves. Quite a few countries are proving that they can prevent having any new cases at all some days, now the aim is to have those zero new case days turn into zero new case weeks, months, and years. Masks and staying isolated until given new instructions are the most important issue right now, no false sense of relief and rushing out and risking a whole new wave of infection.
SARS-cov-2 appears to become unviable at temperatures above 98C (208F) so boiling or blanching in boiling water should make most foods safe to consume.
Back to the original article:
We use them whenever we feel we may be in an exposed situation.
Our locale covers a fairly large geographical area, it has reported two cases to date, our main problem is that we’re on a highway and we get – sorry, we got – a lot of tourists. Lockdown has eliminated all but the stupidest tourists, and you just know they’re the ones you’re going to run into. So masks are mainly to protect others from any possible infection emanating from us and thanks to some good luck in the pantry we can last a week or two between restocks.
Gloves are a “one shot” Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in this situation. Unless you have a way to sterilise them, they carry just as much contaminant as your hands would. Use them like a shield that you then remove – carefully, first turning both the cuffs, then turning inside out and disposing of so you never touch the outside of the gloves – and dispose of.
And if you forgot the gloves, all is not lost. Go inside the supermarket to the fresh produce section, grab two plastic bags off one of the rolls, put your hands inside – and go back and grab that trolley or basket.
Hand sanitisers should be high alc/vol percentages, as should your alcohol wipes. They may not outright kill SARS-cov-2 but will usefully slow it at the least – they may kill it, but always expect the worst case and anything better’s a bonus. You’re trying to keep your hands and surfaces your hands touch as safe as possible, don’t rely on the sanitiser and touch your face afterwards as that may well leave you infected, and wash properly with soap and water as soon and as often as you can, especially when you get home.
Using outerwear may seem like overkill but it’s a simple thing you can do, remember that SARS-cov-2 is a virus and doesn’t move about on its own. Wash those clothes or leave then out airing in a safe space until twice the virus’ half-life. Washing hands is the best because it breaks down the virus’ coating which ‘kills’ it. Just leaving soap on your hands won’t crush the soap into the virus coating, that needs you to rub soap over every part of your hand with a bit of pressure. Imagine you’re crushing SARS-cov-2 when you’re washing your hands because that’s pretty much what happens.
The half life of SARS-cov-2 varies depending on the surfaces it is attached to. It needs to infect our cells in order to multiply, it needs our hands or sneezes to get to the entry points which are your mouth, nose, eyes, ears, or fresh cuts on your hands or anywhere else. By itself on surfaces, it just lies there slowly dying.
‘Half-life’ means the time that it takes for measured density of viable (live) virus particles is reduced to half. (If the virus is spread at 10,000,000 particles per square centimetre, after one half-life one half of the virus is dead or unviable, leaving only 5,000,000. After another half-life period, that 5,000,000 is reduced to 2,500,000, and then after another half-life period, it’s down to 1,250,000.)
Those are guidelines only, the actual half-life may vary because some materials behave anomalously and so it’s better to treat everything as having a 72 hour half-life. That means that I’d leave things for around ten days where possible, for best chance of them being clean or almost so.
THIS IS WHY HAVING A PANTRY IS A GOOD IDEA.
A ‘pantry’ in this case can be four or five cartons each stocked with items you’d consume in three or four days, and you just work to fill them all bit by bit, using the oldest carton and working backwards through them, all the while filling the emptied cartons again. You don’t need a dedicated room for this.
SARS-cov-2 spreads from coughing, sneezing, and just talking, by people who are carrying the virus but may not yet know it. (In the early stages you just don’t know you have it yet – and that period can be as little as two days but has been known to be as long as ten or twelve days. So a person could in theory go around spreading the virus for up to ten days without realising it.)
Masks prevent those sneezes and coughs from spreading quite as much virus over quite so much of an area but they don’t stop it from happening.
Masks don’t totally prevent you from getting infected, (especially if not worn and fitted properly) but they can be helpful. Also, they make you aware not to touch your face, and cover the two main entry points for the virus which are nostrils and mouth. You have to remember not to rub your eyes.
Gloves are not a fulltime shield. If you wear gloves when shopping you’re still transferring the same amount of material between things you touch. If you pick up apples someone else has handled and put virus on, and then pick up oranges, you’re still transferring the virus from the apples to the oranges. The only difference is that your hands stay clean. (And you can achieve much the same thing using hand sanitiser between handling the two things.)
The one time I’d consider using gloves at all times while out is if I have a fresh cut on my hands. It goes without saying that if you have cuts or abrasions elsewhere in places that get exposed to the air, putting a dressing on is important.
We’ve had the Great TP Stampede of 2020. (Probably.) The Pasta Prohibition followed it, along with All Your Yeast Are Belong To Us and the Say It With Flours incident.
I’ve said my piece a few paragraphs back where I make the case to
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build up a pantry stock that can last a week or two. Seriously. Not just now but for all time, get into that one habit and you’ll be able to ride right over crises like the ones a handful of people have caused us.
But I’ve noticed that the shelves are slowly coming back into stocked situations, and a few times we’ve just done without rigatone pasta for a fortnight rather than try to catch up a shortfall when new stocks arrived.
That seems to be the secret. Slowly build your pantry up, and if something goes out of stock, don’t madly buy it as soon as there’s new stock – just buy as per normal, and slowly everything will recover.
I replace my instant yeast once a year and the bit I have left is actually due to be replaced. But I won’t go out there and grab two tubs of it when it comes back into stock. In fact I might just eke out the life of the yeast I have for another few months before buying a new tub, and if it lasts me 18 months then from now on I’ll just switch to replacing it every 18 months rather then annually as I’ve been doing. In the process – look, I’ve saved myself the cost of a new tub of years every three years.
There are going to be shortages of just about everything, going forward from this point. The climate hasn’t been kind to growers and farmers, the SARS-cov-2 disease has laid workers low at every step of the supply chain, and to top it off some of us abuse those same people working tirelessly and bravely to put what there is on the shelves for us – and then try to buy it all for themselves. Don’t be a dick like that.
Be frugal, be adaptive. No rigatone? You know you could use just plain penne don’t you? And instead of cooking up that whole pack, cook up half of it and save the other half for another meal. Or do one of my favourite things – to hell with the store-bought pasta and either visit the small local store that still carries fresh pasta, or make some dumplings or spaetzle or gnocchi yourself. You’ll save yourself money – and the aggravation of not having pasta available at the drop of a dollar today…
And that’s Ted’s Tips for the week.