Category Archives: Public health

The Stand

Editorial note.

Apparently not blogging for six months is a good thing, and not just for those poor souls on whom I inflict my ramblings. I posted three days ago and already have acquired four new readers, to whom I say: “Welcome. Feel free to delve into my extensive back catalogue of posts. Or not, it’s up to you.

I hadn’t intended to write this particular post quite so soon, but events are moving apace, and I thought I’d get it out of the way sooner rather than later. Yes, like every other blogger on the planet, I’m talking about the Covid 19 pandemic. When the first reports came out of China, I was concerned due to the fact that most respiratory infections, Influenza being the most common, come out of China. It’s just the way it is. Flu likes to circulate between fowl, swine and people, and let’s face it, China is full of all three.

What I wasn’t expecting was that Covid would spread so far so rapidly. Everyone was concerned about SARS, but it sort of fizzled out and became a footnote in the memory of most people. As is usual, the first reports were inaccurate, contradictory and low in information, but that’s  how it is with all such outbreaks. However, it wasn’t too long before someone in the area tested positive. This didn’t concern me overly, but it did set my spidey senses tingling, if you get my drift.

I’m pretty well educated, but even so, there is so much bad and just plain wrong information that I was heartened to see one of my favourite podcasts address the issue in a timely manner. I’m talking about the wonderful “MonsterTalk” podcast. https://www.monstertalk.org/210-going-viral-the-covid19-monster/

I’d give it a listen, if I were you, and also to “This Week In Virology” http://www.microbe.tv/twiv/

Dr. Daniel Griffin really knows what he’s talking about, and the hosts, Blake Smith ( his dreadful  puns aside) and Karren Stollznow do a fantastic job of discussing a complex issue.

I won’t rehash what you already know, but I wasn’t in the least surprised when the Bloviator in Chief, the Umpa Lumpa of  the United States spouted off his usual stream of ignorance saying that this new infection wasn’t a big deal and it would all go away in April. Nor was I surprised that he then spent two days on the golf course after his initial briefings. Presumably because he can’t play a musical instrument. Such is the way with all dictators: First of all, ignore the problem, then minimise it, then blame others for spreading “Panic”, by which I mean truth, then blame someone else for the problem, and finally claim you knew about it before anyone else and you’ve been doing a terrific job. So far, so typical. In fact, I half expected Der Trumpfer to claim that he’d never heard of Covid, he might have met him a couple of times, but doesn’t really know him.

And now, finally, I get to my point. You see, I work in the Deli department of a large local supermarket and have contact with hundreds of people on a daily basis, both staff and customers. Unlike my sweetheart and millions of office based workers, I don’t have the luxury of working from home, nor can I do my job in my bathrobe and slippers. Well, I could, but not more than once.

Thankfully, management took the situation seriously from the start. The store managers began holding daily conference calls and the company created a text service to provide employees with updates. Of course, at first there was a bit of miscommunication and confusion, but this was sorted out pretty quickly and new routines where established: We stopped giving out samples to customers, sprayed the counter tops with disinfectant frequently and even reorganised our salad and olive bars. Customers had to get a container from a staff member as well as gloves as we were concerned about potential contamination if people handled multiple containers.

Yesterday, someone dialed it up to 11. We closed the self service bars and replaced them with pre-packaged salads and antipasto. Staff were reassigned to other departments as the company promised not to cut our hours, and then the Governor made an announcement calling people to stay home for a minimum of 14 days. Not that it makes any difference to me, as I have to go to work, but hopefully this will make people realise how serious the situation is. It would be nice, however, if the company were to give  us hazard pay. I have to say that running through my head all day is the worry that the next customer I serve may be infected, but asymptomatic.

As you can imagine, we are all stressed out and it would be easy to fall into the habit of hitting the booze or the comfort food at every opportunity, but I’m trying to keep a lid on it. With care, and a great deal of cleaning, we will avoid any infections, but all it takes is one person to contract the virus and the entire staff will be in jeopardy.

The other weird thing is our change in social status: working in food retail means we are now regarded as “Essential personnel”, something I never thought I’d hear, and it has at least made some people think about the nature of our job. In fact, over the past few days several customers have thanked us for being at work. Most of our customers are pretty decent people, but it’s still nice to be recognised as doing a job which involves risks most people can avoid simply by staying at home.

I can’t really speak for the rest of the store, but the checkers now have plexiglass shields between them and the customers. Pretty sensible when you consider everyone has to go through the checkout. We’re pretty well stocked, but certain areas are stripped bare- toilet paper, of course, as well as cleaning supplies, but also soup and bread as people seek comfort, and I can’t really blame them.

My hope is that all our precautionary measures at work will pay off and that people will do the sensible thing and not leave the house unless they really have to.  I hope also that all of you are well and taking all precautions to avoid getting sick. I wouldn’t inflict Covid 19 on anyone, and I really hope we can weather the storm. I’ll finish now, as I have to check how many kidneys I  have to sell in order to buy a pack of toilet paper.

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