Can I leave 2: I'm leaving
June 21, 2020 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What precautions should I not forget to take as I travel home finally?

It's me, from here. The death count/case count is finally low enough that now seems like the right time to go home. March and April and May were horrific to live through but I wouldn't have felt safe leaving then, and so I'm going on Tuesday in a rented car with a driver because I live in NYC and can't drive (sorry). I'll quarantine in a friend's nice empty sublet for 14 days and then go home, or possibly stay in the sublet, I'm not sure and it's not pressing to decide right away. I've still been fully isolating as described before, the last time I physically saw another person or left the apartment is still March 16th.

Here are the precautions I'm taking:
- n95 mask, gloves, face shield, and goggles
- touching elevator buttons when I go down with a pen/tool
- sitting 6 ft away from driver
- person driving also wearing mask and gloves and the car is sanitized
- full glass partition between me and driver
- soap, hand sanitizer, extra gloves, rubbing alcohol, and wipes if needed in plastic bags
- phone in a plastic bag
- not stopping to pee (i'm really really worried about this, I always have to pee on road trips)
- extra dose of anti-anxiety medication
- hair up, long sleeves and pants
- removing gloves carefully and immediately upon entering apartment, removing shoes and leaving them outside
- washing hands for at least 100 seconds in the proper way, and hand sanitizing them as well
- right after that, changing clothes and showering (mask I'll remove and put aside to be sanitized later)

Is there anything I'm forgetting? The car ride is 90 minutes and we shouldn't hit a lot of traffic. I haven't been so scared about anything, ever, in my entire life, and I've done some pretty scary things. What can I do to make it easier, or would it be better not to do things like listen to music in case I slip up and touch my face or....? How can I not spend 14 days simply waiting to get sick once I arrive?

Thanks for your help and encouragement.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're going to be just fine.

For perspective, I live in Hong Kong and we have (so far!) basically quashed the epidemic with most people going about their daily lives taking way, way fewer precautions than this - universal use of non-fancy/basic masks, avoiding big gatherings, not touching common surfaces and hand washing. You have a very solid plan for avoiding infecting yourself or your driver.

When you arrive, I wonder if it's feasible to have had some groceries waiting in the sublet, or get some delivered. Perhaps cook yourself up a wee feast of local Philadelphia delights? Maybe also take some time before you arrive to figure out what your bedding/towels/cleaning products/toilet paper situation will be - it feels like a waste to take all these precautions and then have to walk down to the corner shop to pick up essentials and then lug them back to the house.

Good luck on your journey home.
posted by mdonley at 10:14 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

You can stop and pee on the side of the road rather than use a gas station bathroom.

The precautions you’re taking sound thorough and I think they make the risk of infection very low, almost negligible. It will be ok!
posted by mekily at 10:14 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

I think the most important part of your plan is the extra dose of your anti-anxiety medication, because these preparations suggest to me that your level of anxiety is far in excess of the actual risks of getting sick. You aren't going to catch the virus from your shoes, nor are you going to absorb it through the skin of your uncovered arms. You are going to be fine.

I think the best thing you can do for yourself is go get a test a few days after you arrive. The 14-day quarantine thing is a holdover from when there were no tests and there was no way to tell if you'd caught it without waiting for the longest possible bounds of the incubation period. But there are tests in the northeast! There's no need for you to wait two weeks when you can wait two days and then get a test.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:27 AM on June 21 [56 favorites]

In response to a life-or-death emergency, I flew across the country in early May. I made it and so did the people that I had to interact with on the other end; none of us got sick. And although I tried, I did way less than you. I am not telling you that to suggest you do less, only in hopes that it helps you relax.

One thing I wish I'd remembered about is keeping little bottles of hand sanitizer at hand, either on a clip to your pants or in your pocket. If you can't get ahold of the little bottles, you can get empty small ones.

Be sure to see if you can go ahead and place a grocery order before you leave, since there may be a long list of deliveries ahead of you.

Is it possible, in the position you anticipate in the back seat, to use a travel urinal? If you think you can do this, be sure to pack supplies to avoid a mess. I personally do the worst possible thing, which is to avoid hydration when I need to avoid urinating, but this does not always even work.

When you are in the backseat and all this is real and normal-seeming, you will want your music or books or whatever it is you usually use to pass the time on long rides. Bring your headphones; wipe sanitizer on them as seems appropriate.

And be sure that your anti-anxiety meds are somewhere immediately accessible, so that you do not have to root through zippered bags for them.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:34 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

You will be fine, you have prepared a lot for this! I just did an 8 hour car trip to visit my Mom, and my biggest problem was that no one else was masking, so gas stations did NOT feel safe at all. I think the only thing you need to watch out for is your concern about having to use the bathroom, as that gets worse for me with anxiety. Make sure to not drink too much liquid right before you go, and if you take any antacid/stomach medication make sure to take that before you leave. Make sure the bag you bring with you in the car has anything you need for the trip. 90 minutes is not that long and you're not driving, so you have absolutely no need to stop and interact with anyone other than the driver.
posted by JZig at 10:37 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

You can keep your windows open in the car.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:38 AM on June 21 [14 favorites]

As to quarantine anxiety: I was unable to get a test without symptoms, and I cannot fake them, so this is probably not going to be an option for you. Even if you do get a test without symptoms, there will be a few days before you would be able to get a meaningful result with a test, and after that a few days when you're waiting.

What I did that I recommend: drawing, painting, video games, or any hands-on hobby; chatting; productive internet commenting; napping. What I did that I do not recommend: getting angry about random bullshit on the internet; perseverating on possible symptoms; reading anything about COVID that you do not need to in order to live your life.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:40 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

You can stop to pee along the way if you need to. You're just going to continue your precautions in a rational way, make it as brief a stop as is reasonable, and then continue on your way. You've got this.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:11 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]

I think people have good advice about how to stop to pee if you have to. Personally, I would also plan not to drink anything the day of the trip until you get to Philly, if possible. (Source: I always have to pee and am anxious about it; I have done this; it's not ideal for caffeine withdrawal/dehydration but I went much longer than 90 minutes.)
posted by ferret branca at 11:27 AM on June 21

Is there anything I'm forgetting?

Something to distract yourself with during the ride, to ease your anxiety and make the time go by faster?

(On reread I see you wrote or would it be better not to do things like listen to music in case I slip up and touch my face or....? - I think you'd do better to listen to music and keep your hands in your pockets or under your armpits if you're worried about touching your face unconsciously. Or wrap a thin scarf around your face and wear a hat, so that even if you touch it you're not actually touching your skin. Or put on a fresh pair of gloves once you're in the car.)
posted by trig at 11:43 AM on June 21

There is advice from public health experts and doctors that could add detail to your ideas for precautions related to shoes, e.g ("“I recommend having a dedicated pair of shoes to go out in and then a clean pair to change into before entering the house,” [emergency physician Cwanza] Pinckney told HuffPost [...] [public health specialist Carol] Winner advised taking off your shoes before you enter the house any time you’ve gone outside to work or to a public place.") and CDC: Your shoes could carry COVID-19 (WTSP / MSN) ("It's better to err on the side of caution at this time, especially with everything going on," said [Dr. Paul Nanda, Chief Medical Officer at Tampa General Hospital's Fast Track Urgent Care].)

There is also this recent article in the Atlantic that includes information from public health experts about What a Negative COVID-19 Test Really Means, which seems to reaffirm your determination to take reasonable precautions, including the 14-day quarantine, e.g. ("the FDA cautions that negative results do not rule out infection.")

I also suggest carrying a pack of tissues, and a small plastic bag for throwing out used wipes, gloves, tissues, etc. And +1 on opening the windows in the car if possible, e.g. "Experts say that opening windows can help flush out virus particles and keep the air more free-flowing." (HuffPost)
posted by katra at 12:21 PM on June 21 [5 favorites]

Windows open at least some of the way.

Windows partway open and a mask, that's 90% of it. The rest would be some sanitizer at the ready, and some tissues in case something comes up you need to touch. Have your own pen just in case you need to jot something down. You may need to scratch your face, and a pen will be useful for that too.

Your hair, your pants... that stuff does not matter at all. Focus where it matters: not breathing other people's exhalations (i.e. keep things ventilated to the outside.) If you have to go somewhere inside to pee, wear a mask. You got this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:49 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

This internet stranger was worried about you, anon, and is glad that you will be going home soon.

Regarding the bathroom concern, perhaps you would feel more comfortable if you wore maxi pads, period panty, or depends? If you do need to “go” in the side of the road, perhaps it would be easier to wear a maxi skirt or bring a towel / scarf / sarong for privacy?

You might want to do a test run of wearing your mask / goggles / shield / headphones Inside your apartment so you can get the fit sorted out beforehand. In addition, you might want to consider making substitutions to to your initial setup if something isn’t working. (For instance, sunglasses may offer less protection than goggles... but if they mean that you will be tempted to touch your face less... perhaps that is a worthy trade off.

It’s possible that you might find the outside world “jarring” after staying inside an apartment for several months. Therefore, it might be nice to have earplugs / headphones, scarf /sheet (To cover your head/ face) as an option.

Finally, just wanted to double check that you have a way to tip the driver.
posted by oceano at 12:49 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Hi! I thought I should update everyone here. I'm fine! Unfortunately my covid test got lost in the UPS, but my driver tested negative twice and I've been symptom free for over fourteen days while taking all precautions (I haven't seen anyone in that time) so, I'm good. I wasn't even able to wear goggles and my gloves sweated right off and I'm STILL good! For the most stressful thing I've ever done, it was absolutely fine!!!!! My sublet is extremely nice, I'm SO much more comfortable, and leaving was the best thing I ever did. It also was not scary in the moment, whether that was because of the extra meds or having burned out my stress by just wanting it to be over with, who knows, but I was eerily calm the entire way. The 14 days were worse than the trip itself but that was also.....just anxiety. If anyone can and is thinking about doing something like this, and god knows I hope nobody is stuck in that situation, you should go for it. I am so, so glad I did. Thank you!
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:13 PM on July 14 [4 favorites]

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