Living in the Covid-19 environment

April 03, 2020

Living in the Covid-19 environment

By G H Eliason for The Saker Blog

You’ve heard the US Surgeon General saying, “We should be acting as if we have the virus” to flatten the curve? How is this simple statement hugely relevant to protecting your loved ones and other people, helping medical staff in Malaysia and other countries desperately short of necessary protective equipment, doctors forming Facebook groups on social media to exchange advice on how to keep current patients alive based on their grim failures, and saving doctors in countries such as Philippines and Italy?

Understanding the new environment

I used to build decontamination chambers and work in hazardous environments, hence I’m familiar with hazmat protocols, including locked high radiation situations. People working in hazardous environments do so confidently because of the knowledge ensuring they can perceive their world without fear and the simple steps they take, to keep both them and their families safe.

If you perceive the world the same way, you take the fear of the unknown out of the equation and are taking all the proactive steps that are possible.

Fear of the unknown is the worst enemy you can have today. How you should react to Covid-19 is the unknown. While we don’t know how the outbreak will turn out, there are reasonable, common sense, industry-proven concepts that can replace the stress this unknown brings. It can be done at little to no expense.

It is common sense that all information is subordinate to medical and government pronouncements. It is irresponsible to ignore those because the situation is rapidly developing. We are still at the beginning.

Beyond that, there are no caveats to applying best practices.

Divide the world into 3 parts. Contaminated space-Decontamination space –Clean area

Accept as a fact the entire world is now a contaminated space and respect it as such. Starting with that view takes the guesswork out of everything you need to do. Normal people thrive in much more hazardous environments than this on a daily basis because they respect that fact.

Never forget some people will not try to understand or accept basic facts about this hazardous environment enough to take safeguards and protect themselves and you don’t know who they are.

Decontamination space is needed because you want to minimalize even the remote possibility of contamination from the hazardous environment entering your home. Everything outside regardless of the source has to be considered this way before it’s brought in. Wipe it down.

The clean area is your home. You diminish the potential of contaminating it by simple steps, nothing extravagant is needed. It is the one place on earth you know that nothing can harm you. Protect it.

This is why people leaving areas with high infection rates are more at risk of contracting the virus than people who don’t and are taking precautions. That’s aside from becoming a new point of contagion.

The reason is simple. You are moving into areas and are in contact with unknown people and objects assuming they are safe because of geography. All you do in reality is throw all precautions away and move across a contaminated environment without safeguards. Doing so multiplies the odds of contagion by something as simple as touching the wrong doorknob or a gas station pump that a hundred people you don’t know did before you.

The only safe place is the clean space you know about. That is the first rule of hazardous environments.

Contaminated Space

Contaminated space is every place in the world outside your home. Contaminated items include everything not already inside your home. Think of it as if you were living in space. Your own capsule (home) is the only safe environment until this subsides. The rest of the world and everything in it is part of a hostile environment (space). People in public space are part of this environment.

As an example, during my teen years in the US, we used to swim in water reservoirs. If the police caught you, the fine was more for swimming in bathing suits or shorts than swimming nude. The reason was the clothing you wore that morning going through public spaces had the potential to pick up and introduce any imaginable pathogen or contaminant into a source of public drinking water.

Every item whether it is your own clothes, wallet, watch, etc becomes part of this hostile environment in the same way as soon as it leaves your home. Have you ever noticed in movies that the white Tyvek suits worn in bad environments are a flat fabric? More detail is more surface area, which is something to consider.

If you start to think this way, you’ll limit your exposure and minimalize what you bring into it. If you value something, leave it at home. Not exposing personal items is a common practice for hazardous environment work.

This point isn’t about Draconian measures, merely about developing situational awareness in this unusual set of circumstances affecting many countries globally. You decide what’s best for you. By creating a smaller footprint, you lessen the potential exposure exponentially.

During quarantines, households could have a designated person dealing with public activities like shopping. Masks should be mandatory if available and social distance practice in public is a must.

Sanitary wipes for hands are in reality a limited use item. Most of the virus stays intact on your hands and spreadable but it is still better than nothing at all. More than 20 seconds of real handwashing with soap and water is the best practice. Obviously, don’t touch your face in this environment.

Decontamination space

This is important if you are in a high-risk area. You need to stop the potential at the doorstep so you don’t bring contamination into your home. In this case, contamination includes any dirt or dust with the possibility of having the virus clinging to it.

Purchases should be wiped down before they enter your home.

Shoes should stay outside, because of the potential contact they have with the virus from public spaces. Particles on your shoes or clothes can become airborne in a normal environment.  An alternate is washing your shoes with alcohol or other disinfectants. Leave them outside anyway.

The best practice would be to have public clothes and in-home clothes. So, change them before entering your home if possible. If not, try to separate clothes worn in public space from the living area and use a disinfectant spray if possible.

Masks should be left outside the living area. Last on the list is washing your hands and face with water before entering your home. This doesn’t cost anything to set up. It is all done in a particular order for a reason.

Normally, a decon is 3-chambered. A dirty room where outside clothes are taken off. Next comes a shower where everything and everyone is washed down. Last is a clean room where respirators are taken off. This isn’t feasible for most people.

Cleanroom

Take a shower after going to a public place. Try to make sure nothing enters your home without a decontaminating wipe-down first. If you purchased something, assume at least 20 other people you don’t know contacted the item on its way to you.

This is where you live. Keep it clean.

The world

With all that said, please do your part and help others. I came across one small effort that should be a model for us all. In Australia, a young couple has elderly neighbors that are at high risk. They had their neighbors put a green sign in the window to indicate they were fine. A red one indicated they needed help, whether it was shopping or whatever.

The entire world is in this together. By taking simple steps, you can protect yourself. Making sure everyone else around you can also do so? Every part matters. That part is what is going to help slow down the epidemic and make it manageable for doctors and nurses while they find a way through.

Do you think my advice sounds hysterical or irrelevant? Take a close look at what is happening in countries outside USA, Europe and the Middle East. And this is online.

Doctors frantically trying to exchange information online to save current and future patients, using social media groups such such as Facebook {1}. Malaysian medical staff desperately short of PPE, therefore using dustbin liners, cling wrap and plastic bags which are clearly inadequate {2}. 61 doctors have died of Covid-19 in Italy, 12 doctors have died of Covid-19 in Philippines {3}. Hospitals in several countries are being overwhelmed by the numbers of patients in such a short span of time.

You do not have to be the Taiwanese anesthesiologist who invented the Aerosol box for anybody to use without profiting off, which his fellow medical colleagues are replicating in countries such as the Philippines to try to protect themselves {4}. You do not have to be South Korea, which has 121 countries seeking their aid in Covid-19 testing{5}. You’re not being asked to help sew masks or gowns in countries such as Russia {6}, although that will help.

Don’t fall sick from Covid-19, by resorting to preventive measures as if you have already been infected with the virus. Being responsible includes knowing when to be civic-minded, knowing how to react mentally and emotionally and physically in a pandemic is vital {7}, and sharing accurate information in our highly-interconnected complex reality worldwide is always welcome.

Hope this helps.

{1} https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-24/covid-19-mysteries-yield-to-doctors-new-weapon-crowd-sourcing

{2} https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/23/doctors-nurses-turn-to-plastic-bags-cling-wrap-amid-shortage-of-ppe-in-mala/1849203

{3} https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/03/29/12-filipino-doctors-have-died-fighting-at-front-lines-against-coronavirus/

{4} https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2020/03/25/2003733342

{5} https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/coronavirus-covid19-countries-testing-south-korea-12598848

{6} https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/03/31/leaning-on-war-time-history-russian-factories-have-switched-to-sewing-masks-to-combat-coronavirus-a69793

{7} https://virologydownunder.com/past-time-to-tell-the-public-it-will-probably-go-pandemic-and-we-should-all-prepare-now/

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