Lock-Down, Grocery Shopping & Face-Masks
Pre-Post Note/ Thank you so much for all your loving, tender, and moving comments about Rand’s passing. I read them all several times, and cried many more. It means a lot to me that my little fur baby can be remembered by so many. These wounds will take a long time to heal (such deep sorrows for two little kitties), but we will get there in the end.
Quarantine day 20, almost three weeks since the lock-down for COVID-19 began in France.
We are maintaining a pretty fixed routine; work in the mornings, exercise in the afternoons, eating & drinking (probably in excess, but hey…), so the days pass surprisingly fast, but they are also starting to blur together. I forget exactly what day of the week it is, or when I last ventured out for a shop, and the idea of just jumping into the RV and driving off somewhere seems like a faint, but luxurious dream.
And yet, it’s only been three weeks….!
It’s funny how the human mind works, when your world changes. There’s the usual stages of denial (this can’t be happening!), to anger (how could this happen?) to finally, after sheer exhaustion, a state of acceptance. This is true for grief, as well as all major changes in life including (I can now say from experience) forced confinement. But once you get to that final stage, you tend to forget what it was like before it all, which I guess is a kind of defense or survival mechanism. Perhaps the mind purges what it cannot have?
Seriously, all this in only three weeks….
I’m sure there’s a deeper point to all this, something about letting go of things you cannot control, but I just find it insane how quickly my mindset has changed. The world seems a very different place from mere months ago, and so does my headspace. I wonder how it’ll feel next month, or next year? Will it all be the same, or will I forget as quickly as I changed?
Anyway for now there’s just the past week, and here’s what’s happened in our little corner of the universe in that very short time..
The Quarantine Period in France Has Extended to Mid-April
It wasn’t much of a surprise when France extended the nationwide lock-down last week.
For those of you following the COVID-19 infection numbers, you’ll know that we’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be in terms of “flattening the curve”. That’s true here and many other places around the world (including most of the USA). So in France the quarantine has officially been extended until the middle of April, and will undoubtedly be extended beyond that yet again.
I’m still holding onto the vague hope that the virus will peak by end April, but it easily could take longer. Either way, I don’t see restrictions loosening up until May.
The other big change is that we can no longer walk/hike where we want. The new rules in France are that you can only exercise/walk for 1 hour within 1 km of your home. So you can’t drive anywhere (e.g. to go for a hike) and you can’t go for longer hikes. They even launched a website to trace a circle of exactly where 1 km can take you, just in case you pretend not to know (rien n’est laissé au hasard).
And of course, the fines for non-compliance have been raised big-time, thanks to the few idiots who didn’t respect the limits to begin with. Now if you’re caught 3 times without the proper paperwork (or too far from home) you risk a fine of up to 3,750 € or 6 months in prison. Yeah, they’re not messing around anymore.
For us folks here in the countryside this really isn’t too bad. We’re surrounded by fields and walking trails, so we’ve got several hikes we can do in perfect nature (all within the sacred 1 km circle), without any issues at all. Plus we’ve got our garden and outdoor space, and a house to roam around in. Zero complaints here. For folks living in teeny apartments in the cities however, this must be absolute hell…..
The longer this thing goes on, the more I’m deeply and profoundly thankful to be living in the sticks.
Grocery Shopping Is Our Big “Event” Of The Week
The only thing we do beyond our 1 km circle these days is grocery shopping, and it’s now literally the biggest “event” of the week. Never imagined that would be the case….
I’ve had a few different experiences since the lock-down too.
The first thing I tried was the contactless online shopping option that I blogged about a few weeks ago (basically you shop online, then pick the stuff up in the trunk of your car). It looked really promising, but sadly ended up being a bit of a bust. I did two separate orders (one at Intermarché, one at Super U) both of which delivered less than half of what I asked for, and almost none of the items I really needed. And then when I tried again a week later, there were zero slots to pick-up orders for weeks. Ah well, bin that idea….
My in-person experience this week was rather better.
My local Carrefour wasn’t that busy, and had most of the stuff I needed except for a few, precious items that were sold out. And no, it wasn’t toilet paper that was out of stock (what IS IT with the toilet paper craze that’s going on in the USA????), but rather practical foodstuffs such as eggs, flour, cheese, and rather interestingly bacon bits (lardons) that were hard to come by. I guess everyone in our village is making quiche??
Also, everything was orderly, all the checkout cashiers were behind barriers with masks, and customers were encouraged to stand 6 ft apart using tape on the floor. It wasn’t contactless, but it wasn’t bad, and I came home with a decent haul. Exciting stuff, eh?
Local Online Shops Are Springing Up
There’s something new in town! A superbly positive development in all this is that folks selling local produce are starting to go online, and THIS is something I’m really excited about.
Back before all this COVID-19 madness we actually bought most of our fresh food at the weekly street markets. We love these as the fare is local & superbly fresh, plus we have tons of choice in our area. Apparently some of these markets are still open (or so we’ve heard), but obviously attendance is way, way down due to strict travel restrictions. So what’s been happening is that local farmers are banding together to offer online ordering for local customers. And IMO it’s a very cool trend….
In the past week I’ve discovered several of these gems thanks to French friends. So, I’ve now got local suppliers lined up for a delivery next week of meats, flours, eggs & other goodies, as well as a local garden center (where I’m planning to get some tomato plants, amongst other things). This makes me very happy indeed.
And I’ve Changed My Mind About Face Masks
Another big change that’s happened this past week, is my thoughts on face masks.
Admittedly, I’ve been a long time coming around to the idea of using masks. From the very beginning, the official recommendation (from WHO, CDC etc.) was that you shouldn’t wear a mask unless you’re sick or caring for someone sick, and I’ve diligently followed (and re-blogged) that recommendation. However, the more I’ve read about COVID-19, the more I’ve changed my mind.
There’s still so much we don’t know about this virus (e.g. how airborne is it really?), plus there is now solid evidence people can transmit the virus before they are symptomatic, which means that you or I, or anyone else could potentially be sick & infecting people without even knowing it. In the light of such evidence we should all be considered potentially infectious and thus all be wearing masks.
Lastly masks have been shown to help, and have been a requirement in certain countries (e.g. in Asia) for a long while. The trend has taken longer to reach Europe, but it’s getting here. Italy (Lombardi), Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have made face masks compulsory when entering public spaces, and other countries are likely to follow suit soon. It’s a massive change for Western cultures, and it’s a significant one.
And look at that!!! The CDC has JUST changed its stance & now recommends that everyone wear cloth masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Wow! I can confidently say that this is the one and only time in my life that I’ll ever be considered “ahead of the game” for any kind of clothing trend.
But What Kind Of Mask??
So now that I’ve come around to the idea of wearing a mask, what kind did I go for?
Obviously you can still buy masks (albeit at crazy prices) online, but in my opinion the real masks (PPE, N95 etc.) need to go to the front-line doctors and nurses who are putting themselves in danger everyday to keep the rest of us safe. Whatever we do, we should not take away precious resources from those who need them for their life-saving jobs.
But a home-made or cloth mask is a conscientious and easy possibility for everyone! And the good news is, that they can be surprisingly effective if made right, and used right.
A study published in a Cambridge University Journal on the effectiveness of various materials against high concentrations of bacterial and viral aerosols showed that even a basic cotton mix can provide filtration of 50-70% (depending on the fabric) against particles as small as 0.02 micron in size (for reference, COVID-19 is around 0.1 micron in size, and droplets are even larger). That is not medical-grade, but it’s significant.
In addition, although the medical use of cloth masks has not been scientifically validated, there are now two popular designs that have been developed by the medical community & are being actively utilized by medical facilities both in USA & in France:
- Olson Mask Design -> this design is being used by several hospitals in the USA including Unity Point Health & North Memorial Health (click on the links for YouTube tutorials).
- CHU Grenoble Design -> this design has been developed & is being used at the Centre Hospitalier de Grenoble (again, click on the link for the YouTube tutorial (French))
There are a ton of other designs on YouTube as well as the CDC website, including super easy no sew options for those without access to a machine. Plus you can buy cloth masks with filter inserts online. And in all honestly I think just about any of them will work for us regular folk.
The key is simply to use several layers of tightly woven cotton material (cotton has the best balance of breath-ability versus filtering), fit the mask closely over your nose & mouth (a combo of semi-decent design, good elastic/ties & skin tape/double-sided tape can achieve that), and wash the mask immediately after every use.
Also it’s important to remember that these are not meant to be masks that you wear for hours in a medical setting. They are simply a reasonable protective barrier that you wear for the SHORT TIME that you spend in public places on essential outings (the key is still to STAY HOME, folks!!).
I Went For The Olson Design
I decided to make the Olson mask design which uses 6 separate pieces of fabric. It’s a bit fiddly to put together, but it has multiple layers, as well as a filter insert. Plus I like the fact that it’s been created by a hospital team & properly fit-tested (with skin tape). It’s not necessarily the prettiest mask out there, but it is very functional.
The only barrier I ran into is that I’m a pretty poor seamstress (entirely self-taught) and I’m working on what is essentially a toy sewing machine. All I have is an old IKEA machine (primarily meant for kids, I think) and it is temperamental as all get-out. Still, I manage to get by, with persistence and a fair amount of swearing.
For the design I used the exact online instructions, except I added a little internal loop of material in the nose area for a removable metal nose-clip (see pics below).
And IMO the result was pretty decent!
My first mask took me almost a whole day to make (the darn toy machine kept crapping out), but I’m getting a smidgen faster every time I go and my plan is to give them all away. My next lot are going to local friends, and then I will continue to sew for anyone local (friends, old folks, nurses etc.) who wants them. It’s a looong process (for me), but I figured it’s the least I can do during this time. Anyway, I’ve got the time now right?
That’s It For This Week!
So that wraps up our week! I have no idea what next week will bring, but at this rate I’m sure I’ll have at least another 2,000 words or so to share with you. Either way, I’ll be sure to update you right here.
I’d love to hear about YOUR week and your quarantine (if you happen to be holed up like us). DO share in the comments below!!SPONSORED LINK:
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