Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: COVID changes

A few days before I left South Florida some five months ago, I met an old friend for dinner.

As I readied to shake his hand, he pointed his bent elbow toward mine.

My quizzical expression led him to say, “This is the future of our greetings. No more shaking hands.”

And his prediction was right on target. Our interaction with others has changed drastically since the coronavirus landed in our midst.

We seniors who are the most vulnerable, according to reports, have had to be very careful. We’ve also had to get used to many different lifestyles.

I think that wearing masks tops the list. I have masks everywhere so they’re always within reach — on my desk, in the car, around my neck — ready to be worn whenever another person is near. I do now feel secure wearing one, but I must say that the hot and humid weather has made it difficult. I think it’s also difficult to recognize people when they’re wearing masks. Although people I know seem to recognize me.

But I have to ask, “Who are you?” I think, though, that the longer we wear them, it will be easier to recognize others.

When I mentioned to a friend about people recognizing me, she said, “That’s easy. You’ve got those blue eyes, curly white hair and big head.”

Not quite complimentary, but accurate, I suppose.

Wearing masks in the extreme heat is also difficult but necessary.

But what other changes have become part of how we function?

I know that, personally, I’m reluctant to make visits to the doctor for fear of catching something.

I have also not been to the library since this began. And before COVID-19, I visited the library at least twice a week. I know it’s now open, but it’s not quite the same with the necessity of making appointments and time limits. I know that these requirements are for everyone’s benefit, but it’s just not the same. I think that I mentioned in a previous column that I am reading through books I have, but never read. It’s good exercise.

Staying the recommended 6 feet apart has also become part of our behavior. Whether it’s at the IGA or the Post Office or the pharmacy, it’s for the best. And we’re getting used to it.

I do know a few seniors who don’t want to venture out of their homes or off their property. They have everything delivered. Including getting someone to pick up their mail.

This lack of social interaction is leading some to busy themselves with new hobbies. Gardening has become more popular than ever. Whether raising vegetables or flowers, your property is your COVID-free place. I understand that some of the largest and juiciest tomatoes are the result of the pandemic.

I am hardly traveling anywhere. As a result, I am putting very few miles on my leased car and spending very little on gas.

It has taken me a while to get used to hand sanitizer. I’m reluctant to stick anything on my hands that is in a public place.

Didn’t some news just come out about some sanitizers made with wood alcohol or antifreeze? I carry my own now and it’s homemade.

I was reading a piece in last Sunday’s Newsday by Walter Nicklin about self-quarantining in Maine, and the dangers of stopping to use bathrooms on his way from Virginia.

He mentioned “toilet plumes.” These are the clouds of aerosol droplets released when flushing. They can contain the coronavirus. I had never heard about that, but I guess it’s good to know. He said that he and his wife bypassed the big communal bathrooms on interstate rest stops for “secluded wooded areas or off-the-beaten- path gas stations with single occupancy bathrooms.”

In other COVID-related news, Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli called my attention to an article in the July 31 issue of the New York Times.

It was in the Science section by Paula Span headlined: “Should Youth Come First in Coronavirus Care?”

She points to bioethicist Larry Churchill, 75, who said that “he intended to avoid hospitals if they became overwhelmed and forgo a ventilator if equipment grew scarce. When a vaccine became available, he would move to the end of the line.”

But his is a minority opinion among those considering medical ethics. The whole concept makes for compelling arguments on both sides.