Update from Italy: Further Preparedness Notes on the Coronavirus Lockdown

In no way do I advocate for substance abuse, but a 6 PM quarantine spritz might be a good idea. You’re not going anywhere. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As the coronavirus wave rolls west, it seems much of the world is about ten days behind Italy. We’re on day 4 of a 27-day lockdown, and the kids are on day 9 of 32 days of the school closure. I received last night a long and detailed email from a lawyer friend and former colleague in Chicago, asking me how she should prepare. Julie is a calm and intelligent woman, and she also knows which way the wind blows.

What is Italy doing for those who were not able to afford to stockpile food and supplies?  What have you done to make sure your family is fed while restaurants and businesses are closed?   What types of medicines/supplies did you buy to help treat the virus if it strikes your home?   Are their any remedies that the health care professionals are recommending—increase vitamin intake, increase water intake. . . ?  Tips on how to stockpile the fridge—for how long?

I began to respond to her, but then thought I would turn it into today’s post. Stateside friends, EU friends, UK friends, you have time to prepare, but do it soon, before the end of the weekend. Do it respectfully. Do not freak out. And do it of your own free will, as soon as possible, if you can. Do not wait for local authorities to usher in this chapter for you. The sooner everyone stops moving around, the quicker medical services can get a handle on the virus. I am talking about the shortest trips and the longest trips. Stop leaving your house. Epidemiological theory demands it – this fantastic article from the WaPo explains why (paywalled).

I am here from ten days into your future. It’s coming to your community. I’m going to suggest, very calmly, what next steps you might consider taking. Four weeks or more is a long time to be at home.

First and foremost. Wherever you stock up on CALM, get as much of that as possible and hoard the shit out of it. You know how in all horror films the person who is freaking out the hardest is always, and obviously, the one who … doesn’t survive. Or doesn’t do well, in a best-case scenario. Channel your inner Liam Neeson and buck up. Your family and community need you to be calm and competent on the coming weeks.

Grocery shop thoughtfully. Plan out your meals, and plan to eat everything in your house, as much as you can. You’re smart. You know basic dry goods strategies. There are tons of articles online right now, with the BBC, The Guardian, NYT, the WaPo, and elsewhere, about strategic grocery shopping to prep for a lockdown. It’s four to eight weeks, not a nuclear winter, so continue to remain calm. And don’t plan to eat garbanzo beans for eight straight weeks. I did that once in 2001. Never again. In China and Italy, controlled grocery shopping has continued. You’re not going to starve in your home. But you’re not going to be able to pop out because you forgot to buy tahini or tortillas or whatever. So plan ahead, and plan for menu moderation.

Find a prep list to help guide you. This list seems sane. To this I would add, make a go-bag of your essential ID, cash, credit cards, eyeglasses, and medicine, and a book, and your phone and its charger, in case medical exigencies separate you from your family.

Talk with your family members about what you plan to do if one or both adults become ill, or hospitalized. Will you quarantine at home to mitigate exposure? Do you have a room or a space available for this? If so, consider preparing it. Perhaps use it to work from home , unless a family member becomes ill.

Make sure you have topped up all your prescription medications and any OTC you might need during a one- or two-month period. If you contract COVID-19 and you are part of the lucky half of infected people who do NOT require hospitalization, you’ll probably feel like shit with flu symptoms. NyQuil, DayQuil, and TheraFlu would probably be useful. Maybe some vitamins or probiotic tabs to help the recovery. Plan to drink all your tea, whether or not you’re sick.

Take some vitamins. Eat your colors. Squeeze some fresh orange juice. We’re doing that every day.

It’s a lot of at-home time. What will help keep you calm at home? If the internet holds out you can stream movies or TV or whatever. Books are good. Kids will need activities and relatively buoyant parents to keep them occupied. Plan ahead on that count, as much as you do on meals, if you have kids at home. Make a list of stuff you never get to, but always mean to, and plan on doing that. You can work on machine learning to help research clinics find a vaccine, or learn how to code Python or make something you’ve always wanted to but haven’t had the time to learn how to do yet. Have a glass of wine; you’re not going anywhere. Drink the good stuff.

What about some Marie Kondo in your home? You’ll be so glad to get out of quarantine when all this is over that nothing will bring you as much joy as fresh air and sunshine, so it’ll be really easy to ditch all the crap you don’t need. We finally opened all our windows today because no amount of essential oil was able to disguise the stale air.

Since you’re not going to be leaving home for weeks, you can take a luxurious bath or a shower every single day. Line up all your nice items and let the bubbles begin. Jason gave me a luxe gift box from L*U*S*H for Valentine’s Day and it is being thoroughly enjoyed.

I also thought of a few things you will NOT need to worry about.

Forget the deodorant, since you’ll have an excellent daily bathing routine. Fill up your tank one last time with gas and forget about driving; you are going nowhere. Recycle all coupons now. You’re not going out for awhile. Get off of social media, because it is NOT going to help you survive. Ration and manage your logged-in social media time, and if you feel anxious, get out of there! If you planned a trip in March or April, cancel it now. If you are somewhere else not home, plan to stay there until all this is over, if you can. And last, while everyone has gotten used to fast deliveries of everything, please, manage your own needs while you can. (An exception to this in Italy is that over-65s are getting support for grocery acquisition; I think their purchases are getting dropped off at their door.) Every additional delivery puts that delivery person at further risk. Just eat your garbanzos.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more ideas and observation about how to cope personally with a pandemic that’s gathering steam.