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Getting Through a Pandemic

Sugar rationing at Costco Wholesale, Coralville, Iowa, March 11, 2020.

We have a Costco Wholesale Club near the home, farm and auto supply store where I work two days per week.

Wednesday is my day to pick up provisions there on the way home after work. Costco sells a lot of what we use in our kitchen but especially organic frozen vegetables, milk, butter, cheese, eggs, jarred olives, tomato paste, prepared black beans, raw tortillas, flour, sugar and the like. They are a good fit for our semi-veg cuisine and we like the USDA Organic shield on much of what we buy.

Costco was rationing provisions yesterday because of the coronavirus. Rationed items included water, rice, sugar, diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, nitrile gloves and liquid handsoap.

While waiting in the checkout line, the woman behind me commented that I had no water or toilet paper in my cart, referring to a common social media meme about “Costco panic buying.” I replied we manage our own well so we don’t buy bottled water. The person in front of me asked the cashier if this would be a record sales day for the store. The cashier replied decidedly not. One has to wonder if those rationing signs on certain items increase sales more than the social phenomenon of “panic buying.”

A crew inside the entry offered to wipe down carts with hand sanitizer. A few members wore the kind of masks I keep in the garage to prevent breathing sawdust. More than anywhere else I go, Costco is a petri dish of international human interaction, mostly because of the nearby university hospitals and clinics. I declined the sanitizer and kept a comfortable social distance from fellow shoppers. If I die of COVID-19 you’ll know it was a bad call.

News this morning is the president twiddled his thumbs while addressing the pandemic to the nation from the Oval Office last night. Pandemic response seems outside his wheelhouse. The World Health Organization identified the coronavirus as a pandemic about the same time the president was preparing his speech. Also in that time window, actor Tom Hanks and his spouse were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. At least the rich and famous can get a test kit and have results reported.

At the end of the day it was a regular experience, one among many. Our best chance to survive is to listen to health professionals and work to follow their guidance. That can be done. It’s all part of sustaining a life in a turbulent world.

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