Happy autumnal equinox!
Today marks the first day of (astronomical) fall for the northern hemisphere and we are feeling it in the northeast US. Now that the smoke from the west coast wildfires has mostly cleared, the air is cooler, crisper. We are able to start keeping our windows open during the workday, like we did at the beginning of quarantine.
But it also means that our daylight hours are getting shorter, which we have not really had to experience since before quarantine. We have been taking stock of where New York City stands with coronavirus and trying to determine what level of comfort we have with things like seeing friends, going to reopened gyms, and more.
Schools are set to reopen and indoor dining is set to resume next week in New York. If the city isn’t bracing for another wave of cases, we certainly are here in my household. In fact, we are trying to prepare by making sure we have supplies that we may need, since we were only just able to get through the first wave.
Here’s where we stand right now and what we’re thinking about as the cold months set in:
Staying home. We have jobs that allow us to work from home full-time, and over the past 6 months, we have not left the apartment very much at all. It took us several months to get us to leave the apartment at all, but we started picking up food from restaurants about one month ago and taking occasional walks.
Wearing masks. When we do leave home, we always wear masks, and right now we are layering a KN95 mask underneath a surgical mask, more so for peace of mind than anything else. We don’t take them off while we’re out, even if there aren’t people near us; it’s just easier to not forget to put it back on and to not be surprised by someone we didn’t see. Our masks are disposable but we do try to disinfect the KN95 ones a bit by leaving them in the sun. I am looking into using the oven to disinfect and getting reusable masks with filters, but have not been in a huge rush to do so since we leave the building so rarely.
Not seeing anybody. My husband trends more introvert and I trend much more extrovert, but he has been missing social interactions a lot, especially as his friends spend time with each other but we continue to decline invitations. I think there’s a valid fear that the invitations will stop and never start back up, on top of the regular missing-our-friends. However, because most of our local friends are not being strict with how many people they are in proximity with, unfortunately, we don’t feel comfortable seeing any of them at this time. We took one single socially-distanced, masks-on walk with another couple a little over a month ago, and we introduced ourselves to a new neighbor last week, but otherwise we have not really interacted with anyone in person since March.
Not dining out. While we are still supporting local restaurants at least once a week, we have not taken advantage of outdoor dining, which has been available in New York for two months now, and will not be taking advantage of indoor dining, which starts next week, for quite some time. At this time, we don’t feel comfortable with the close proximity to other diners, but we feel uncomfortable with the cost to restaurant staff that comes with our patronage, especially in light of many testimonies from service workers that have been shared to social media. We have increased our minimum gratuity percentage.
Not shopping out. We are continuing to order our groceries delivered to our apartment because stepping foot inside a store is… stressful, for us. We are fortunate enough to have several grocery delivery services that will bring our groceries to our building, so we make sure to leave a big gratuity and avoid going out more than we have to.
Immediate shower if we go out. During the few occasions that we do go outside, we shower immediately when we come home. This is more for peace of mind for my husband, who would never wear his “subway pants” on the bed and doesn’t like the idea of outside grime being on our pillows, even before a global pandemic.
So has anything changed for us in the past 6 months? Have we relaxed anything at all? Actually, we have!
No more wiping everything down. I used to wipe down all of our groceries with disinfectant, or leave non-perishable items (including packages) sitting in a sunny corner for at least 3 days before opening. We have largely stopped this practice, as COVID-19 is mostly transmitted via aerosol and we wash our hands after handling items anyway.
We do go outside sometimes! We try to get some outside time at least once a week, even if we’re just walking to the river and walking up or down along it, or picking up food from a restaurant, maybe taking it to the park to eat picnic-style. Especially because we have had such beautiful weather lately, and it will soon be too cold for us to go outside much at all, we are trying to make sure we go outside while we still can. This has been the biggest change for us, honestly, since we were cooped up inside for so many months.
Not showering immediately after going somewhere within the building. We used to shower if we crossed the threshold of our front door, period. Every time we retrieved our mail, or threw out the garbage. (If our laundry room wasn’t out of service for several months, we would have had to figure out shower timing with our laundry, too.) Now, we have allowed ourselves the margin of our building, extending to our rooftop especially, because we didn’t want the hassle of immediately showering afterwards to prevent us from getting much-needed fresh air on the roof or taking care of important errands within our building.
I want to make clear a few things:
- You don’t need to be as conservative/strict as my family is being.
- We are not judging you for being less conservative/strict.
Everyone has different thresholds and comfort levels, and we are aware that a lot of where ours fall has to do with fear. It’s mentally easier to err on the side of extra-cautious for us.
The shorter and colder days ahead have been forcing us to really reckon with if we can survive the upcoming festive season (Mid-Autumn Festival through Lunar New Year) without making some more adjustments and concessions to our routine. For example, we have been considering visiting my in-laws with a 2-week isolated quarantine, or trying to see my brother for his birthday. As time passes, so too does the pressure for our first social interaction to be… meaningful? Because we’ve held out for so long and feel like something as to ~happen~ for us to change the standards by which we’ve been living. This isn’t logical, but it’s our reasoning nonetheless.
Non-rhetorical question here:
How are you preparing for the colder months?
How are you preparing for the holiday season?
I think many of us have come to terms with not seeing family for the holidays, and I think I’m going to attempt to stave off the lonely depressed feels by lighting as many fairy lights and candles as possible, but it’ll still feel… really lonely and depressing. No amount of cozy lighting and warm music can make up for being with the ones you love. But I have to make do, given the circumstances, and be grateful that mine are still much better than many others.
I want to take the time to remind you to check your voter registration. I checked mine this weekend, even though I voted in the primary elections just a few months ago. CHECK. Justice Ginsburg has passed, may her memory be a blessing, and the upcoming election is not just about who is occupying the White House in 2021. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you with your voter registration, I mean it.
Be well, and happy fall, northern hemisphere dwellers.