Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Cover your cough. We get it. It’s the same set of advice we get every year when the seasonal flu hits. But every time I wonder, why does no one talk about finger foods?
American eating habits are weird. We often wash our hands before a meal, where we eat almost everything with knives and forks. But how many times have you seen someone wash their hands before snacking? And snacks are finger foods. We shovel popcorn and Doritos and grapes and pretzels into our mouths, often eating out of communal bowls.
Then, what do we do with that Dorito dust that’s left a thick cheesy coating on our fingers? Do we pause the movie and run to the sink? No, we often lick it off.
I’m not doctor, and I’m no nurse, but it seems to me that eating with your fingers is one of the most direct ways that viruses could get inside of you. Especially if you haven’t washed your hands first, and especially if multiple people are grabbing handfuls from the same popcorn bowl, and especially especially if you lick your fingers.
And I can’t figure out why no one mentions it in the same list as “wash your hands” and “stop touching your face.”
Today is Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in a deserted Starbucks. People are coming through the drive through, and a few folks are coming inside, quickly picking up their order, and then departing again. But no one is hanging out.
Just two days ago, on a Tuesday morning, I came in at the same time, and it was packed.
I feel like everything changed yesterday. We reached 1000 confirmed cases in the USA, and more and more we heard stories of people who had all the symptoms of coronavirus but couldn’t get tested. Celebrities came down with the virus. The NBA suspended their season. Trump placed a ban on Europeans traveling to the USA. Oregon declared a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Oregon State University, where two of my sisters go to school, announced that they’re switching to teaching everything remotely.
Yesterday was the tipping point. Everyone is scared, now. Between Tuesday and Thursday, Starbucks completely cleared out.
The two most popular stances to take regarding coronavirus are “panic” and “roll your eyes and telling everyone they’re overreacting.” Although after yesterday, I’m seeing much more of the former, and much less of the latter.
Up until now, my stance has been one of fascination. I’ve always been obsessed with abnormality and unpredictability. Like, I really didn’t want Trump to become president. But I was still fascinated by his bizarre rise to power.
Sometimes I watch the world like it’s reality TV, and don’t think about the fact that abnormality isn’t just entertaining. Abnormality creates real issues that affect real people.
So I’ve decided I want to change my stance. I don’t want to be fascinated by coronavirus, but I don’t want to panic or bury my head in the sand either. So I think, instead, I’m going to try to enact a stance of compassion.
Compassion, first of all, means taking care of myself and complying with annoying laws that limit gathering sizes and such, not for the sake of my own health, but for the system as a whole. I’ve read that the goal, now, is not to stop coronavirus, but to slow it’s spread as much as possible, so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with more patients than they have equipment to help.
At some point, compassion may come down to caring for sick people, even if it puts my own health at risk. I mean, who knows what will happen with hospital capacity and such. But as Christians we have to prepare for that possibility.
I don’t know what compassion looks like on the Internet. I don’t know how to calm fear with typed words. I don’t know if I should even try.
I will say, when my own thoughts slip into a panic spiral, the thing that has helped the most is listening to musical renditions of psalms. This is one I particularly like:
I have no more hot takes on coronavirus. I hope you take care of yourself. And I pray that God will redeem this situation, and use it to make us become more compassionate towards each other.
Lots of other countries use communal bowls at meals where everyone eats with their fingers.
My understanding is that people in these countries always wash their hands before eating with them.
There’s much I admire about the Orthodox church, but…the Greek Orthodox’s Holy Synod recently issued a statement asserting that the shared spoon for communion wine “cannot be the cause of the spread of illness”. Some food rituals are, apparently, sacred and incontaminable. If your faith suffices, lick on!
The church I went to before I moved has issued instructions to small groups to serve individually packaged snacks where possible and avoid communal bowls as well as encourage removal of shoes and hand washing upon arrival at the groups.
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Thanks for writing this!!! Bless you for your timely and needed words!!
It’s curious how different Churches react. Mine has withdrawn the Chalice from the laity, despite an apparent lack of evidence that anything can be spread that way (and if people don’t already know, they should), while others just insist on Sacred Grace and don’t seem to take any precautions.
Personally, I’m unhappy with both: our Church is giving far too little attention to people’s spiritual welfare and the fact that being engaged with the Eucharist doesn’t mean only being engaged with it when convenient – and from the secular point of view people should have real evidence there is a probability of harm before they ask people to suspend normal religious practice (religious freedom is normally considered very important in the West).
On the other hand, I’d be inclined personally to suggest that refusing to take any precautions (e.g. wiping the spoon or whatever would work within their liturgy) could be argued to be presumption (putting God to the test). But if I had to choose between the approaches, I’d go for the second – at least it involves real belief and a refusal to cave into earthly pressure.
As far as the whole panic/oh nonsense divide goes, I feel really rather the same – i.e. that neither is really right. It isn’t nonsense, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to suppose it is a zombie apocalypse. On the one hand, there is obviously a need to be prepared for impact on hospitals and businesses and so on, and to make sure the really high risk people are protected. But some things are being blown out of proportion.
I read a newspaper report earlier that was making a horrifying thing of the notion that more than a thousand people in Italy had died. The estimated excess winter deaths in the UK for the year 2018-2019 is 23200*, and if I’m reading the chart rightly, that’s more than 1000 a day (I believe our population is slightly higher than that of Italy, but not by an enormous amount). 26,610 people died or were seriously injured on the roads in the UK in the year ending June 2018. It isn’t that it doesn’t matter, but from the purely statistical point of view, it isn’t actually particularly frightening.
I agree with you all the way about the finger foods, unless someone comes up with good evidence to the contrary. I generally reckon that hand-sanitiser and frequent hand washing are worth it in the winter just to avoid catching and spreading colds etc.
May God be with everyone, and preserve us from the temptations, and grant a holy death to all who do succumb. “For though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God”.
I apologise: the road statistic is misleading because when I checked back to do something else with the figures, it turns out most of those people were seriously injured rather than killed. The number of reported deaths was 1,770. The winter deaths figure seems to be correct.
This is the most solid post on the virus that I’ve read so far. Thanks. 🙂 I identify with being entertained by the odd situations happening in the world but am learning that the world is made up of souls. I was encouraged by this call to compassion!
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I agree with you 100% about the finger foods. Somehow I just never really thought about that. Also, it’s definitely true that people are panicking. i mean, what’s with all the toilet paper buying? At Walmart, there is literally none in the toilet paper isle. Why not buy bread, or cheese, or nuts? At least you can eat those, if it comes down to that. You can’t eat toilet paper. Thanks for a great post!