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.