We're all bombarded with advice about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. The deluge of often impractical or peripheral information can be overwhelming, making it difficult, if not impossible, to translate to our everyday lives.
Fortunately, Jeff Bridges, a state senator from District 26 in Arapahoe County, is helping to cut through the noise. Drawing upon the work of medical experts and trusted sources, as well as observations he made during the weekend before stay-at-home orders for Denver and Colorado were instituted (when plenty of people in public places were making extremely dubious choices), he's assembled a dos-and-don'ts list about the novel coronavirus for his constituents that's simple, straightforward and user-friendly.
"I saw something as a meme on Twitter that said, 'People need to be acting in a way that if they get diagnosed with COVID-19, they can look back on the previous two weeks and feel good about the interactions they had,'" Bridges notes. "And that makes sense to me."
Like many of us, Bridges has had unexpected time on his hands, owing, in his case, to the suspension of the 2020 Colorado legislative session. This week, though, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers will be able to extend the term's end date and pick up where they left off prior to the emergency declarations once it's considered safe to do so — and Bridges has some ideas about how that's going to play out, too.
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As for his list, he says, "One thing I really wanted to emphasize is that stay-at-home is not shelter-in-place. There's a level of panic that comes with shelter-in-place, which is usually reserved for things like active shooters or natural disasters, where you can't run out for a gallon of milk. Stay-at-home means you can get that gallon of milk — but you should try to only go shopping once a week or less."
For his project, Bridges dug into orders from the likes of the Tri-County Health Department, which helped inform "my own lived experience of watching with horror as people played basketball, threw footballs and played on play sets" in public parks even as COVID-19 was rampaging through the community, he notes.
Here's the Bridges list:
• Go to the doctors office and vet
• Get medical supplies or medication
• Get groceries, food (takeout only!), or other essential household items
• Get supplies to work from home
• Get materials from your child's school for distance learning
• Go outside for physical activity, as long as you stay at least six feet away from people who are not in your household and follow social distancing practices
• Go to work ONLY if you provide essential products or services at an essential business
• Wash your hands (Right now. I'll wait.)
• Allow your kids to play on a playground playset (COVID-19 can live on metal for 12+ hours and plastic for 24+ hours)
• Have a birthday party, no matter how small
• Play poker with your buddies
• Toss a football with friends
• Stop by the park for a quick game of pickup basketball
• Go on a walk with a neighbor (unless you stay at least 6 feet apart and just talk loudly to one another across the distance)
• Go out for Starbucks every day (COVID-19 can live on cardboard for 24 hours)
While stay-at-home orders have officially closed public playgrounds, basketball courts and the like, Bridges remains concerned that many people will simply defy these edicts, needlessly endangering themselves and others around them.
"The data is still preliminary," he acknowledges. "This virus hasn't been around long enough for us to have complete certainty about it. But the best information we have says it lives on plastic for 24 hours or more, and that it lives on metal for twelve hours or more. Things like play sets are fantastic hosts for spreading COVID-19, so don't let your children play on them unless it's yours, in your back yard, and the neighborhood kids can't hop the fence and play on it on their own."
He also warns about the packages landing on so many Colorado porches these days, thanks to online purchasing: "Be careful with those Amazon boxes. Open them up, take the stuff out, and wash your hands. Whatever's in the box has been there for more than 24 hours, and is probably safe. But when you go shopping, you shouldn't pick up boxes and put them back. Decide on what you want at the store, then pick it up; if you're not going to buy it, don't touch it."
Such practices dovetail with Bridges's academic training. "I'm the only legislator with a Master of Divinity degree," he notes, "so I think about these things in terms of social ethics. I love the rugged individualism of Colorado. It's a huge strength of our state. But right now, we need to think about things differently."
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An example: A few weeks back, he says, "we were going to host a party because my wife got her Ph.D. We were going to have a great party, but we decided to cancel it, and thank God we did. My father-in-law is immunocompromised because he had a kidney transplant, and we haven't seen him in weeks. And I haven't been physically close to my parents for weeks, either. But this is the time to sacrifice individuals' pleasures for public safety."
As for the thus-far-unscheduled resumption of the Colorado General Assembly, here's his take: "The world we walk into when we come back will be a totally different one, and the focus will be entirely on the economy, health care and public safety — on what we need to get Colorado back in gear. There's no question about that. I don't need to poll my fellow legislators to confirm that. This has been a massive economic disruption that's going to require our complete focus."
He thinks that "there may be some bills that were in place beforehand, and that we have to pass for various reasons. I wouldn't expect a wholesale elimination of everything that was introduced. But we're going to have a different focus, with different priorities."
Until then, he hopes people will pay heed to his list, which he conceived "in a lighthearted but deadly serious way."