We can point fingers and blame the leadership, or lack of, for El Paso’s terrible coronavirus situation. There’s no consensus on the right path forward: to shut down, not shut down, or what to shut down.
But that is only one part of the story and is not the end all for turning this ship round. If we could focus on our individual behavior and how we maneuver through our daily lives with this virus, we could help ourselves. Rather than fighting over what’s open or not open, we should make sure across this community we understand the risks and how to mitigate them.
I brought this up to a friend who argued it wasn’t a lack of understanding. Masks, distance, hand washing. Yes, we know. He argued it was COVID fatigue. But I disagree. There’s still much confusion about how this works.
For months, it’s been reported that the virus is not likely spreading on surfaces. In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially confirmed that the “principal mode by which people are infected is through respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.” That means the virus is put into the air by a person – has the ability to hang out suspended in droplets – and then infects another person when they breathe it in.
So then logically, the biggest risk is an enclosed space where the virus is contained and can hang out. While a smaller space could hold higher virus concentrations, a big space with lots of people in and out of it is also dangerous.
But here’s the proof that we still don’t get it: Cleaning products remain in short supply and the demand for hand sanitizers is still very high. Yet, the minute the grocery stores lifted capacity limitations people returned to shopping together in big groups.
The primary problem isn’t whether or not you’ve sanitized your hands or carts. The problem is too many people moving about together breathing the same air, even with their masks on.
Essential businesses or nonessential, it doesn’t matter. If you have crowded venues or stores and continuous gatherings, the virus will spread. No amount of Lysol will stop that. A deep clean won’t either. It’s hygiene theatrics as a scientist put it in The New York Times last week, and far too much emphasis has been put there.
What needs to happen right now is a household commitment to shopping alone, exception to the single parent with kids under 12 in tow. This single effort would reduce the number of people in stores by multitudes. Even better, stay out altogether by taking advantage of curbside pickup or delivery. Many local retailers and restaurants are offering curbside options, too.
And finally, we must lay low and stick to home until this gets better. That means keeping interactions masked and distanced and letting go of family holiday gatherings for now. Thanksgiving won’t be the same, but I wish you a very safe one.