I am 37 thanks to the same precautions that you need to be taking right now. Thanks on behalf of people like me who might not survive coronavirus.
Right now the United States along with the rest of the world is facing a John F. Kennedy moment — an “Ask not what your country can do for you” moment. And right now you are sitting at home.
It feels like inaction, but I assure you it is not. You are doing this not just for your own health but for that of everyone you know and love as well as those you don’t. Right now social distancing is an act of heroism.
Thank you on behalf of people like me who might not survive this virus.
I am 37, but I would not be had I not been taking the same precautions that you need to be taking right now. Born with the deadly genetic respiratory disease cystic fibrosis (CF), I was avoiding coronavirus before it was cool. These days I feel like an endangered species.
I have lived every single day of my life as if it already was the virapocalypse. I'm neither a doctor nor an epidemiologist, but I was raised in the world you have lived in for the past month.
Come together by staying apart
When I was 15 years old, my life expectancy was 14 years old. My date of expiration has yet to arrive thanks to education, prevention and preemptive measures. So listen up.
It is time to come together by staying apart. Here is some of what I’ve gleaned in my short but hopefully unabridged time on this earth, assuming Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) does not rest and certainly not in peace.
The first rule of COVID-19 is wash your hands like you are George Clooney on ER in 1997. Own it. Sanitary is the new sexy.
Furthermore, in the age of Corona, real men pee sitting down. Not only are there personal health benefits, but you touch fewer surfaces. And by touching fewer (not smaller) surfaces, such as toilet seats, we minimalize microbe exposure.
Human beings in 2020 have a huge advantage over the pandemics of the past. We beat cholera, polio, and smallpox. But today we have one profoundly ubiquitous disadvantage: Cell phones. They are our critical point of vulnerability.
Ironically, our devices of virtual connection are what we touch most. The electronics that virally connect us are spreading a deadly virus. So use alcohol swabs to wipe down your phone before you wash your hands. Most phones are now waterproof. Wash them. Wash their cases too.
If you are feeling isolated right now, then use that germ magnet to call someone elderly or lonely or both. There is no medicine more powerful.
Be cognizant of touching a touch screen, especially to your face. That feeling you get when grabbing the rubber railing of an escalator or pushing an elevator button should also be happening when you touch your phone. Use latex gloves if you have too. Added bonus: Latex gloves will eliminate those awkward instances of people wanting to shake your hand.
Furthermore: Light switches are hot spots. Keyboards are Petri dishes. And remote controls are uncontrollable.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter the gym in 2020. Aside from aesthetics, the primary reason for a good workout is cardio-respiratory endurance. This involves a lot of coughing. So jog outside in the empty streets and do some push-ups at home.
If, like me, you use your shirt to push elevator buttons, note that pathogens can live on your clothing for days, especially coats or sweaters which you don't often wash.
Not only do we live in an age of dirty money, we live in an age of dirty money. You pay a price to handle cash. The same goes for public touch screens such as those at U.S. customs entry points. Convenience does not mean cleanliness.
Take off your shoes indoors. This doesn't magically stop germs from coming inside. Instead, like masks, the act of doing this makes us cognizant of what we touch before we touch our faces — in this case, the floor.
Sunglasses and digital single-lens reflex cameras are agents of contagion. For those of you who wear contact lenses, you are likely touching your eyes all day without thinking about it.
And don’t get me started on steering wheels. Radios and anything else that involves music is a surface that requires disinfection.
As for stuffed animals, wash them. If you must tickle Elmo, then you and your little one are likely to laugh. As a CFer, every laugh in my life has been followed by a cough of equal measure. A comedy club full of patients with chronic respiratory infection is not where you want to be in COVID-19 season.
Be proactive and listen to the CDC
When I was a child, my uncle, a surgeon, knew what my immune system was up against. And so he taught me how to wash my hands. The main thing is to start with your fingertips and end with your arms. Remove your watch and jewelry as well.
Take time to let your hands dry. Hold them in the air like you are Dr. Doug Ross circa 1997 and let gravity do the rest. Drying your hands is almost as important as washing them. So take a beat to remember not to touch the bathroom handle on the way out.
This means that high-risk people like myself must go a step further and preemptively self-isolate so that our tireless caregivers can do their jobs. As for the rest of you: Be proactive. Use common sense. And please listen to the Centers for Disease Control.
For those of you pining to kiss someone whom you cannot, just imagine how magnificent it will be once you can. Life is short. Make choices. There are risks worth taking. Know them.
The process of disinfecting begins in the mind, grasshopper. Minimize contact with unnecessary surfaces so you can maximize contact with the ones you love.
Will Cathcart is a journalist based in Tibilisi, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter: @Cathcarsis