help me keep my parents safe
March 23, 2020 3:14 PM   Subscribe

what are the best practices for buying & dropping off groceries (& gardening supplies) for my extremely vulnerable elderly parents? or anyone else who is very high-risk?

my parents are in their mid-70s & mid-80s. my dad is as vulnerable as it gets — emphysema, cancer survivor. thankfully they are maddow-lovin’ liberals & have taken everything 100% seriously from the start. they live an hour north of me in a suburban area.

I am in my mid-30s & live alone in Los Angeles. zero risk factors healthwise. I’ve been social distancing for about 12 days (other than a couple careful shopping trips) & fully isolating at home for a week now. I feel fine.

I am planning to buy groceries for them Very soon, as well as seeds/soil/plantlings for their garden (also their elderly neighbor’s). I trust my level of isolating & precaution more than a random deliveryperson, plus delivery or pickup slots have been increasingly hard to get.

I am still so nervous!!!

my plan:
— do all the shopping in their suburban area (less dense, far fewer cases) instead of LA
— bring my own bags. wear gloves & (basic) mask in store
— dispose of gloves, then put on new ones when I arrive at my parents’ house
— bring everything into the backyard
— dispose of outer packaging whenever possible; disinfect perishables like milk, produce
— have them leave non-perishables outside for 3 days...

1. anything I’m forgetting? any other tips for me or anyone in a similar situation?
2. gardenwise, should I shop at Home Depot or a smaller nursery?
3. if I have my little dog, can they pet him with gloves? can he say hi to their little dog (his best friend in the world)? can I pet their dog with clean hands/gloves?
4. it’s safe to sit in the yard & chat at a 10-foot distance, right? sigh
5. if LA goes into Spain-level lockdown, do you think I’ll still be able to get them groceries again in a month?

thank you for helping me keep them safe. I hope you are all taking care of your health & heads & hearts.
posted by changeling to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in your parent's demographic. I still drive so I I use the Walmart grocery pickup but a number of stores will also deliver. The virus is viable for only a few hours on paper, cardboard and cloth. It can however remain active for days on hard plastic and some metals. Best to treat everything coming in from the outside as a possible contaminant. Even stuff you pick up for them and deliver. Put it away, wash your hands thoroughly and wait 12 or more hours before using any of it. There is no reason to be manic about it. Simply follow the simple guidelines that will significantly reduce any chance of exposure,,,
posted by jim in austin at 3:48 PM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm in the SFV, which maybe means I'm between you and them? If you can get to the Green Thumb Nursery in Canoga Park or Newhall, I always prefer their plant offerings and supplies to the hardware stores (plus, local business), but I can vouch for the Lowes in Northridge as being fully stocked for the somewhat limited range of stuff they carry as far as plants. Check on the day if you're going to Green Thumb, right now their text messages say they're labeled essential and are staying open but that could probably change.

If they are actually near me, mefi mail me and I'll keep you updated on store status. If they're that close, maybe I can help with staging as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:53 PM on March 23, 2020

The virus is viable for only a few hours on paper, cardboard and cloth
I don't think this is correct- the only study that I'm aware of said that it lasts 24 hours on cardboard and I would guess paper is similar. It may not be high risk earlier, but to be safe, it may be best to set the packages aside at least that long.
posted by pinochiette at 5:16 PM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you can, I would try to go shopping earlier in the day (since stores are usually cleaned overnight, and it's hard for staff to clean and practice social distancing while the store is open). In addition, you might want to reach out to your social network/ social media for on the ground details of which store has what (e.g. toilet paper). For the highest safety level precautions, I would leave the groceries at the door and not make it a social call.
posted by oceano at 5:23 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Recently, the NYT reported on the New England Journal of Medicine study about how long the coronavirus appears to live on surfaces and in the air, including a suggestion from an expert, "[i]f people are concerned about the risk, they could wipe down packages with disinfectant wipes and wash their hands." It also seems important to note that a lack of symptoms does not necessarily mean that there is no risk of transmission.

There are also resources from public health authorities and experts collected on the MeFi Wiki Disaster Planning & Recovery page, Medical/Pandemic section that you may want to review, including disinfection guidelines from the EPA.

As reported by the Washington Post in How to pet dogs during the coronavirus pandemic (Mar. 18, 2020), "A separate question is whether a dog’s fur or skin could be contaminated by the virus if, for example, its infected owner sneezed on it. After all, a study published Tuesday reported that the virus can live under laboratory conditions for three days on plastic and steel and one day on cardboard. Might it also reside happily on the lush coat of a St. Bernard? Given the unknowns about the disease, experts recommend that people infected with the coronavirus stay away from pets, as they should from people. So the most conservative approach would be to refrain from touching others’ dogs, because its owner could be asymptomatic."

I also think that the warning in Coronavirus reality check: 7 myths about social distancing, busted (USA Today) by Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Joseph Allen, assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings program at the T.H. Chan School, is also important, because it emphasizes the need for precautions: "Because of the lack of testing availability to date, we don’t know who has coronavirus. For now, we assume we all might, and we maintain social distancing and avoid indoor gatherings large and small so we are not the spark that generates another outbreak fire."

I think one thing you may be forgetting is that you are awesome and it sounds like you are on the right track. A few adjustments, like eliminating the dog idea and reviewing disinfection protocols, could make your plan more conservative about risk, but it does sound like you are being very proactive in helping your parents stay safe.
posted by katra at 5:59 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

if LA goes into Spain-level lockdown, do you think I’ll still be able to get them groceries again in a month?

The Washington Post notes that there are protections available:
[Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel] left open the possibility that Guardsmen also could take on other missions at the request of local authorities, including stocking shelves in grocery stores if the food supply chain fails.
posted by katra at 9:41 PM on March 23, 2020

One addition to katra's great post:
When you visit, ask your parents to keep their dog inside, and if possible leave your dog at home. Given the level of safety you are aiming for you will want to avoid them touching your dog, you touching their dog, and your dogs meeting each other.
There are other ways to care for your parents' emotional wellbeing: For example you could provide the hardware & required (simple) explanation how to set up Skype/Teams/Zoom/... for video chats, or think of other creative ways for your parents to cultivate social interaction despite being in quarantine.
posted by succulent at 11:57 PM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thank you so much everyone. this is very helpful, and you are all so kind. this level of preparation feels over-the-top, & yet I know it isn’t; all it takes is a glance at the devastating accounts from italy.

I will leave my pup in LA. succulent, I’m actually dropping off my sister’s old iPad Pro, too — I loaded it with Zoom, Instacart, Procreate (mom is an artist), Netflix, etc. I’ll wipe it down and have them ignore it a few days. Lyn, I’ll memail you. katra, I’ve read the national guard is already deployed here in CA to distribute food; pals have seen them setting up at dodger stadium. the best parts of humanity will see us through. thank you again.
posted by changeling at 11:42 AM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older How to gracefully resign from a job when the boss...   |   Making Icelandic yogurt, aka skyr at home for the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.