COVID-19: Behavior changes mean we’re not victims

Seeing COVID-19-related behavioral changes in Walmart, especially among African-Americans, told me that we can control our destinies and reopen America.

I’ve always been a rather fastidious person, but that went stratospheric in around 2003, which was the year that I stumbled non-stop from one cold to another for almost eight months. At about the same time, I read that shopping cart handles are among the filthiest things we touch. Those handles are especially high in fecal matter. That makes sense for two reasons: (1) A lot of people (at least back in the pre-COVID-19 era) weren’t good about washing their hands after using the bathroom and (2) toddlers sit in shopping carts. Toddlers are cute, but when I look at them, all I really see is a walking, talking, drooling, snot-dripping, sneezing, sniffling, licking Petri dish with hands.

For the last 17 years, I’ve always had hand sanitizer in the car. When I’m in a store, I never get my hands anywhere near my face. When I leave the store, before I even enter the car or, God forbid, touch the steering wheel or anything else, I bend down to the hand sanitizer stowed in my car door, use my wrist to pump some into my palm, and smear it all over my hands. If I used my phone before I disinfected my hands, it gets wiped down too. Thanks to that change, I reduced to an average of one or two the number of colds I get per year.

Over the past, oh, I don’t know, five years or so, grocery stores have started having sanitizing wipe stations near the shopping carts. I’ve always stopped to use that station. Before 2020, I noticed that few others did.

In the past six weeks, though, whenever I shopped, I was seeing more and more . . . and more people using the sanitizing wipes. Eventually, the stores ran out of wipes. In the last week, the stores where I live, near Charleston, have had employees stationed at the entrance wiping carts for customers.

The biggest change I’ve seen lately, though, has been masks. Two weeks ago, I saw about five people with masks at my local Walmart. Last week, I saw about 20% of people with masks (and I was one). Today, about 40% of the people at the store had masks. What really impressed me was that almost all the black customers wore masks. This matters because, as the media have been at pains to point out, the virus has attack minority communities with special virulence.

That blacks were masked makes me believe that the White House’s messaging has been very good. As you probably know, Yamiche Alcindor, PBS’s resident race hustler/”journalist”, accused Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, who is black, of racism for speaking directly to the black community and telling them that they had to change their behavior if they wanted to lower their COVID-19 risks. I think his message was right on the money — and it apparently was the same message he and Mike Pence had been sharing all last week with minority communities.

Adams began by explaining that, in some ways, blacks and other minorities are screwed. They have higher risks of co-morbidity factors, such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition, they’re more likely to have lifestyles that increase the risk of the disease spreading. They live in more densely populated communities, have multi-generational households, and hold jobs that don’t allow telecommuting.

But here’s the important thing he said — every person has the power to control his or her own risks:

You are not helpless, and it’s even more important that in communities of color we adhere to the taskforce guidelines to slow the spread.

Stay at home, if possible. If you must go out, maintain six feet of distance between you and everyone else, and wear a mask if you’re going to be within six feet of others. Wash your hands more often than you ever dreamed possible. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

And call your friends on your family. Check in on your mother. She wants to hear from you right now. And speaking of mothers, we need you to do this, if not for yourself, then for your Abuela. Do it for your granddaddy. Do it for your Big Momma. Do it for your PopPop.

We need you to understand, especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so we can protect those who are most vulnerable.

While the execrable Alcindor was playing “gotcha” about racism, the black community was apparently listening. At Walmart today, at least half the shoppers were black when I was there. When I got my cart, I saw every one of them use the disinfectant to wipe his or her cart. More than that, as I noted above, most of the black shoppers were wearing masks (as was I). That means that a higher percentage of black shoppers in the store were wearing masks than were white shoppers.

Regardless of color, people at the store were in high spirits. They had a sense, I believe, that they were taking control of their destiny. They weren’t just sitting there waiting to die. They were out and about, but they were making intelligent choices: cleaning objects that transfer disease, wearing masks, using social distancing. It’s huge to have sense of control.

I pity the people in places such as Michigan where they are mere pawns, not allowed to go anywhere or do anything. Knowing that you can affect your destiny is a mental and emotional game-changer. Dr. Adams told one of America’s hardest-hit communities that its members could affect their own destinies and, from where I sat (or stood), that community stepped up to the challenge.

Giving people control over their own lives and destinies is how we get America working again. (Although I’d be happy to see America’s institutions of higher indoctrination stay closed.) The government won’t save you. You will save you, and you’ll save your Abuela, granddaddy, Big Momma, Oma or Opa, Mama and Papa, Nana or whatever else you call your beloved parents and grandparents.

The best way to keep us from being victims is for the government to stop victimizing us — and for the race hustlers and Trump haters to stop trying to paint us as victims.