Tiny but terrible, and “smart”—that seems to be what this COVID-19 virus is. The virus has no brain yet it seems to be outwitting us, and I feel it’s able to do that because we’ve allowed another epidemic to overtake us: the contagion called fear.
Fear distorts our perceptions and better judgment, making us look at people—the next barangay, the urban poor, the Chinese—as the enemy.
My last column explained the importance of understanding how the virus travels in droplets that come out of coughs, sneezes, even talking and sneezing. (Search “New York Times 3-D simulation shows why social distancing is so important.”)
To reiterate, the COVID-19 coronavirus will not live long outside of the body of human beings. Unfortunately, in the short time it is floating around in a droplet from someone’s cough, or in a droplet that has landed on a tabletop, it can find new victims.
Let’s review then what works, and what doesn’t work, with that understanding of basics:
Frequent handwashing with soap and water kills the virus that you might have picked up through your hands. Remember, it must be frequent handwashing, each time for at least 20 seconds. We’re talking about a virus, not bacteria, so forget the antibacterial soaps.
Face masks: After some resistance, the world’s health authorities are saying, sure, why not, masks, even homemade ones, might help. If you have the virus, you then cut down on transmitting it to others, even as you better protect yourself from the infectious droplets. Again, make sure the masks don’t harbor the virus. Wash hands before and after putting on the mask, and don’t touch the mask itself when you’re putting it on, and once it’s on your face.
When it comes to sanitizers and disinfectants, sanitizers must have at least 60-percent alcohol (others suggest 70 percent). Besides the hand sanitizers, we shouldn’t forget disinfectants in our offices and homes: bleach (sodium hypochlorite and the brand name Clorox) and hydrogen peroxide work well enough on surfaces.
Physical distancing is the preferred term now to social distancing. We want people to continue to keep being social, but with physical distance. I love you but distansya amigo, amiga. I’d go for 2 meters apart (about 6 feet) rather than just a meter. And yes, the ban on cockfighting tournaments, karaoke, even religious mass activities, is all for physical distancing.
Other possible routes for contamination? The literature so far says no problems with mail, packages, shoes, clothes.
Then there’s the question people are afraid to ask. Do a search: “Guardian. Can I have sex?”
Now, what doesn’t work against this smart virus.
Lambanog and vodka and many sanitizers out there with too low alcohol content.
Gloves not recommended yet, because you might actually end up picking contaminants and then touching your face. Again, first-class travel for the virus.
Finally, fascist quarantine methods. I’m using that term in its current usage, wonderfully defined in the urban dictionary site as “A lesser authority (corporation, mayor, cop, boss, parent) who legally issues harsh, burdensome, micro-managing, insensitive, or uncaring orders.”
Lesser authority? Read power-tripping. Not only that, some of these methods are unscientific, even contributing to the epidemic.
Foremost, we jeopardize the safety of people when they are ordered to stay inside their homes, not even allowing them to sit in front of the house. Inside their homes, shanties for so many of our urban poor, they can still infect and get infected since physical distancing is almost impossible, and ventilation is so poor. Add on the summer heat now for added health problems.
People need the outdoors for fresh air and exercise. They, especially children and the elderly, need to be outdoors (with masks, and physical distancing) for the sunlight, which is essential for the immune system, and mental well-being. Staying cooped up in homes aggravates depression, anxiety disorder, even domestic violence.
Our quarantine also has these crazy rules like limiting going to market to certain hours or even days of the week, which then leads to crowds during those limited hours. Bye-bye physical distancing.
Notice, too, the many checkpoints where pedestrians and motorbike riders have to queue, with little physical distancing. Meanwhile, motorists who are already much safer inside their vehicles breeze through.
The virus isn’t smart, but it’s winning because people can be dumb, or dumbed down.
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