Social distancing, decreasing density, isolation. With coronavirus now officially a pandemic, these words are increasingly becoming part of our vocabularies.
It all comes down to avoiding crowds and tight places for a while. That’s not always easy, with work and school and day care and the need to buy groceries.
People seem to be stocking up against the possibility of a 14-day isolation period — with a quadruple ration of toilet paper, judging from the store shelves.
The original advice to wash our hands regularly and rigorously has some additions: avoid handshaking and hugging, and maintain distance when possible.
That can be hard to do. A former intern walked into our office and I gave her a hug without thinking. It’s OK, she said, showing me the hand-sanitizer she had just applied.
I spent last weekend with a dear friend who I don’t get to see often, although I thought hard about whether it would have been better to just stay home.
Instead, we put a lot of thought into our choice of activities — a quick museum visit early in the day when few people were around, then more time exploring an outdoor sculpture garden. A walk around a lake in one of our favorite parks. Another walk along the river later in the day, when her daughter came to visit. We cooked together and watched a movie at home, instead of hitting another restaurant or going to the theater.
What can you do to minimize your risk — or the risk of your becoming a vector?
Can you work from home? Can you avoid entertainment venues? A seat in a movie theater, a crowded a concert, a sporting event or a parade all seem like good ways to get exposed to the virus, and then spread it to friends and family. Cancellations are flooding in — the NBA; St. Patrick’s Day parades in Albany, Boston, Dublin, Chicago and New York City; trade conferences and music festivals worldwide; vacations and business travel. Area colleges are extending spring breaks and making plans to move to distance learning when break is over.
If you are healthy and you are going stir crazy avoiding gatherings, maybe it’s time to explore the woods and parklands when you’re looking for entertainment. Instead of letting your kids hang out at the playground — or even the libraries or museums — explore the trails at a local park or go for a hike.
It’s warming up and, except for my yard, most places are snow-free right now. If there is still snow in the woods, check for tracks — rabbits, snowshoe hares, foxes. Learn to identify the trees in your neighborhood. Take a morning walk and listen to the returning songbirds, or keep an ear out for owls on an evening ramble. Look for snowdrops and listen for peepers. Go stargazing as the moon wanes.
Maybe it’s not the best time to go to a museum or a restaurant. Maybe your day-to-day work events are moving online. But you can still enjoy solitude — or decreased density — out in nature.
Getting out in the fresh air might be good for the body as well as the mind.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on March 29. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.