I’ve been doing what I was told to do: I stay indoors as much as possible; I wash my hands regularly; I wear gloves and a mask (with a lining I braced up with a vacuum cleaner bag) whenever I go into a store; I’m restricting my shopping to a couple of times a week, and I shop primarily in stores with wide aisles.
Still, the other week I found myself gazing upon a tangerine which was to be my dessert and wondering,”The skin. Should I be doing something about the skin?” And feeling pretty foolish, I washed it. But not in hot water and not with soap.
Was I being crazy?
So I’m asking Dr. Rob, my brother-in-law who is retired from a medical practice and therefore has the time, the discipline, the knowledge and the wit to answer possibly silly questions.
First, Dr. Rob says:
Let me begin with the following disclaimer since some of my answers will be an attempt at humor, and some of them will be an attempt at giving real advice, and since it will be up to any reader to figure out the difference, and since I am retired and no longer have malpractice insurance, don’t think for a moment that following any advice given that results in significant physical or spiritual harm will entitle you to any monetary damages.
Now we’ll get to the Q &A. (I’m the Q. He’s the indented A. In red.)
Q. Raw foods? I’ve temporarily sworn off fresh salads because I don’t know how retentive of viruses lettuce might be and since I wash them in cold water…Is is silly for me to buy only greens veggies I can steam myself? The only fruit I buy and eat has thick, inedible skin. But when I peel it, should I worry about viruses lurking in the prickly skin of, say, pineapple? Or transferred onto tangerine or banana peel?
A. The danger is that some asshole coughed or sneezed on your fruit or vegetable. To protect yourself, they should be washed under running water just as you should have been doing even before COVID 19 appeared. It is advised to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before preparing or eating foods. So fresh salads are fine.
Q. Plastic and cardboard packaging? Ethan [bro] told me he wears gloves when he handles packages. Is this reasonable?
A. It’s recommended to leave cardboard packages like those from Amazon in a safe place for 24 hours before touching them. Wash hands after putting them in the safe place, and a day later, after handling it. They say coronavirus can live up to 3 days on plastic.
My solution to many of these problem situations is frequent hand washing and training oneself not to touch one’s face. When I go out to my mailbox to get the mail I don’t wear gloves. I open my mail box which a sick mailman might have touched, get my potentially contaminated mail, open my mail, throw out most of it, wash my hands well, and feel safe. I do this this with anything I can imagine could have gotten contaminated.
Q. What are effective face masks made of? Do they have to be tight over the nose and below the mouth?
A. N95 respirator masks are only helpful if they have a tight fit over the nose and mouth. And they should not be used outside of a hospital setting.
Surgical masks are used to protect the public from someone who is sick. Not sick, don’t use one. Different cultures have different norms. In China, not wearing one makes you an asshole. Other countries it’s the reverse.
N95 respirator masks are not for use by the public. They block very small particles. Surgical face masks are looser, block only larger particles, are made with different thicknesses, and protect from splashes, spray or splatter that may contain bacteria or viruses, and reduce your saliva and respiratory secretions from harming others.
Q. Is it possible to get any useful advice from Trump? Or does listening to Trump present a health risk?
A. Absolutely. Given, due to his malignant narcissism, his monumental ignorance, his corrupt soul, his cowardice, lack of empathy, and pathological lying, the ratio of false unhelpful statements to helpful true ones, is approximately equal to the ratio of grains of sand in the Sahara Desert to the grains of sand in my miniature Zen garden that sits on my tiny bedside table, one cannot reasonably go wrong doing exactly the opposite of any advice the moron in chief gives.
Q. Any particular insight that Tibetan Buddhism can offer us as we try to survive a pandemic?
A. Most important: Wash hands and don’t touch your face.
Q. Any particular insight that Tibetan Buddhism can offer us as we try to survive an unusual type of agitated boredom?
A. Meditate! Get a good meditation app. This will increase your ability to concentrate, which is the antidote to boredom. Not only will this help with boredom, it can get you to remember to wash your hands and STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE! Which can save your life!!
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A. Yes, have a nice day.