The US, us and the virus

March 15, 2020

I have always followed good hygiene practices, or so I thought. However, after the World Health Organization began to share proper hand-washing techniques following the coronavirus outbreak, I realised that I seldom washed my hands for at least 20 seconds, and a lot of times, skipped the backs of my hands.

Am I grossing you out? But did you know that 4 out of 5 people do not wash their hands properly? I did not, until recently. However, living and working in pandemic conditions are teaching us new things every day.

At the time of writing this piece, the total number of confirmed cases has topped 182,000 with over 7,000 deaths globally. The schools in my state, Delaware, have been shut down. My husband’s workplace has asked its employees to work from home. Bars, taverns and restaurants were ordered by the state’s governor to halt their dine-in services. From today onward, the food joints in Delaware, Pennsylvania, California, New York, Michigan, Maryland and most other US states are only allowed to offer takeout, drive-thru or delivery services. Last but not least, The White House has called on Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

The general people in the US also have been asked by their government to stay at home as much as they can in an effort to ‘flatten the curve’ or in other words, to slow down the outbreak by practicing social distancing. A flatter curve ensures that the demand for health care does not exceed its supply.

Today is a Monday, the first day of a brand new week, but looking out the window I find everything deserted. People are indoors and there are hardly any moving cars on the streets. Things have unfolded at an unprecedented rate over the last one week. We are indeed living in pandemic conditions.

Last week, we paid four trips to grocery and department stores to ensure that we had enough food and essentials at home. Unlike a lot of people, we did not panic in the beginning. We took it easy, until our state declared a state of emergency. That very evening, we drove to Costco, a chain membership-only warehouse club, only to find out that they ran out of toilet paper, hand soap and hand sanitizer the day before! They were yet to restock them. In the drinking water section hung a sign that said that a customer could not buy more than two cases of water per day.

I called up Target, a major American department store chain, to find out if they had toilet paper left. They did not. Like almost every other store, the Target store was also sold out of toilet paper, hand soap and hand sanitizer. Everyone suddenly became a germaphobe!

It was both a sad and a mad situation. Some people were hoarding everything from toilet paper, disinfectant sprays, laundry detergents, hand soaps, and wipes to bottled water, cooking oil, eggs, cookies, cereals, and milk. Because of the hoarders, the rest of the customers were left with little or nothing to buy. We had to place an order for toilet paper on Amazon. Never in my life did I think that I would be forced to order toilet paper online, because the physical stores would be completely sold out of them!

Never-seen-before signs have begun to pop up in stores across the country. To control and contain hoarding, stores have now put up signs that limit the number of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant wipes or bottled water a customer can purchase.

I stopped by a Starbucks shop yesterday to get a cappuccino — the coffee shop was unusually quiet with just two other customers. A sign said that Starbucks would no longer accept reusable cups to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The American life as we know it has changed almost overnight.

The outbreak has taught me one thing, that is, everything in a person’s life is uncertain, be it happiness, good health or financial soundness.

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