Are you prepared? Rumours have circulated all week, but the first case was confirmed in our small town yesterday. Yes, this is another post about the dreaded C word. It’s on everyone’s mind so there’s no point pretending it isn’t. Ireland still has relatively low numbers compared to other countries, but there is already community transmission. From what I can gather, Cork seems to be one of the hardest hit counties outside of Dublin, although the news reports are only vaguely referring to cases in the “east, south, west, and north.” I wish the Irish media would be more specific about areas affected and follow the example of other countries such as Italy and South Korea.
We are quickly learning what we need to do to avoid further infection in order to slow the virus down. I appreciate the proactive approach the government is taking and welcome the school closures effective from today. Who would have known my daughter would simply be ahead of the curve when she decided to homeschool this year? Now all of her classmates are in the same situation!
This morning I received a message from one of the parent and toddler groups we attend. I’d like to share it here because it’s vital parents receive the information needed to protect our communities.
I hope you all stay safe during this difficult time. The children will get through this no problem. Pediatric hospitals are empty in Italy at present after 3 weeks of school closure as the usual viruses stopped circulating. Remember with COVID-19 children are vectors not victims. In most epidemics young children are the transmitters. Therefore for school closures to be effective it’s really important that the kids aren’t mixing with other kids while out of school. They will give it to each other and silently pass it on to our loved ones. What we do now will contribute to how this develops in Cork. Avoid situations where the children will interact. If the community respond to this it will shut it down more than anything we do in hospital. From my experiences in the hospital this last week I would say that Coronavirus is closer to all of us than we realise and the degrees of separation for all of us is getting narrower. I’m not that good at social media but if this could be shared as widely as possible with parents in Cork it will help. This message needs to go viral to stop the virus.Dr. Muireann Ní Chróinín, consultant respiratory pediatrician at Cork University Hospital (CUH)
As of today, Ireland is exactly 14 days behind Italy in terms of Coronavirus cases. According to an article in the Irish Times, two doctors from Co. Clare wrote a letter to the British Medical Journal stating that the Irish healthcare system could soon become overwhelmed. To avoid this happening we must:
- Practice Social Distancing
- Continue contact tracing
- Implement high-volume testing
- Quarantine infected people
- Redeploy healthcare staff for triage centres
It goes without saying that the public also needs to curb stockpiling impulses. On Monday I noticed there was a quiet panic as I shopped in Lidls. I needed to buy our weekly groceries which can be overwhelming at the best of times. I didn’t want to join the ranks of those who are hoarding, creating an impossible situation for people who cannot afford to do so. However, I got a fright when I saw the pasta section; the shelves were empty except for lasagna sheets! My 2 year old survives on fusilli so I asked a member of staff when they’d get the next delivery. He told me they couldn’t get any more pasta and that the shop had run out 3 days earlier. Those words sparked my spending spree. I have a large family so it’s not difficult to fill a shopping cart, but I spent double what I normally would. I managed to get the last bag of wheat flour. Stocks were noticeably low on tinned items (no kidney beans), and many other items were impossible to find.
Tuesday I went to our local SuperValu to see if I could buy the items Lidls didn’t have anymore. I noticed the car park was full when I arrived at midday. Inside the shop the atmosphere was tense. I snapped and bought items I hadn’t intended to get: vitamins C and D (my daughter was recently diagnosed with a significant deficiency so we’ve all started taking the sunshine vitamin). I stocked up on cleaning supplies, risotto rice, and spices. (Let’s just say we have enough coconut milk and lentils to eat curry for a long while)! Thankfully there was still pasta at that stage which was a relief. I’ve bought enough alcohol to at least get us through St. Patrick’s Day. I predict the next shortage will be beer, or maybe even spirits seeing that we’ll all be cooped up with our children 24/ 7 for the foreseeable future!!!
All jokes aside, it’s understandable that we should be nervous about what’s happening since it’s unprecedented (in my lifetime). By yesterday the quiet panic I’d observed all week had erupted into full blown chaos. I spent more than 3 times what I normally would on food this week and still question whether I’m prepared enough for what’s coming. (I tried a self-imposed ban on shopping Wednesday and Thursday with zero success. A trip to the local health food shop saw that my wallet was significantly lighter). There went our holiday fund! Our Easter trip to France was cancelled anyway so what the hell…
Yesterday every checkout till was open at SuperValu which I’ve never seen before. There was a line at each one. The man working at the till said it had been that busy since 8:30 am. I noticed he wasn’t wearing gloves and it crossed my mind that they may have already run out. He explained that if a single staff member contracts the virus, the whole shop will shut down. How will we buy fresh produce, milk and other perishables? It’s only a matter of time now that we know there’s a confirmed case in the area.
I haven’t left the house today but my partner told me over the phone that the streets are empty. It seems people are already self isolating by staying home. Childcare is obviously an issue for working families now that all schools and creches are closed.
As for myself, it looks like I taught my last dance-fitness class yesterday morning and am suddenly unemployed. I was informed after I finished that Rehabcare would be closing and they’d contact me when it’s safe to meet again. Three of my current weekly classes are with vulnerable populations; for the last month I’ve been working with elderly people who are in the highest risk category. I fear that they will suffer loneliness as a result of the coronavirus outbreak even if they are lucky enough to stay well.
How is the current outbreak affecting you? Has the virus reached your vicinity yet? My response is to buy books and support new authors! Unsurprisingly it seems I’m in the minority in that regard. I was the only person in our local bookstore yesterday. I’ve stocked up on reading material for me and my family for the coming weeks. I wonder how small businesses like our independent book shop will weather this setback?
My outpatient appointment was cancelled at CUH yesterday as the hospital is still on lockdown. I was told it would be rescheduled in 3 or 4 months. The woman who rang me promised to fax a prescription to my local pharmacy, but she must have forgotten or been too busy. When I went to the chemist to pick it up, I was surprised by the new rules. I was immediately stopped at the door as a temporary barricade has been set up. A table with hand sanitiser and a sign that clearly states, “STOP!” blocks customers from walking past. A staff member explained that only one person can be served at a time. Members of the public are asked to stay 2 meters back from whoever is serving them. When it was my turn I approached the counter to pick up a thermometer and Calpol once I was told my prescription hadn’t been faxed. (My toddler has a common cold. His nose is running and he’s sneezing which rules out the dreaded virus. See the chart below and learn how to tell the difference).
I overheard other customers say that people have been stealing disposable gloves and hand sanitiser from the hosipitals. There is a lot of talk about greed and selfishness at the moment. While I don’t doubt that there are people acting in their sole interests, I’ve also witnessed caring and kindness in the Zumba community. Instructors that I’m friends with have offered their own supplies to anyone who is short. I’ve also seen people reaching out to others on social media, offering to drop off groceries etc. to anyone who can’t leave the house because of illness. I hope we will see more of this behaviour.
If the coronovirus has taught us anything, it’s how closely everything and everyone is connected. It’s visible in the workings of our global economy. We will all be impacted in one way or another by this pandemic. It’s already happening. Health is the most immediate concern, but there are also the financial implications.
My plan is to take one day at a time, to focus on practicalities, to do what’s in my control and let go of the rest. I’m going to start chopping and freezing vegetables for soups and stir fries today so nothing will go to waste. I’ve been working a lot so my house is a mess. I’ll start tackling the chaos and prepare to deep clean over the weekend. I also have new craft projects lined up which I might actually have time to do while I’m unemployed.
Wishing you and yours good health and steady nerves! Do comment and stay connected throughout the coming weeks. We need to be positive, stay strong, and get through this together. If you are ill or have concerns about loved ones, know the symptoms and take appropriate action. It’s a good idea to follow the HSE on Twitter for useful updates. Please help spread correct information to friends and family to keep our communities safe.