April 3, 2020

The Seattle Freeze

Seattle has a certain reputation for its citizens being cold to newcomers. This is known as the Seattle Freeze. Some newcomers find it difficult to make friends due to this polite aura. Some people are wondering if this is why we are doing the Social Distancing thing so well, because it comes so naturally. Could be, but I have found that the Shelter in Place mandate has seemed to open up the freeze. People now are really friendly, when they walk by or we see them on the streets. Lots more smiles, hellos, brief conversations. My theory is that they warmed up because they know there is no obligation to ask me over. (Insert smiley face).

But the truth is, we have mastered the physical distancing thing, judging from the flattened curve. Maybe, it is because there is room to walk in neighborhoods without getting too close, we have a gorgeous spring with a continuous flush of new blossoms, not to mention the views of mountains or water in several directions. We have been given permission to get outside by our governor and that really helps psychologically. I know this is tougher in other areas, and down right impossible in packed New York right now.

That is why it is helpful news today that the CDC is encouraging people to wear homemade masks. Wearing a mask can also allow people to get to the grocery store or pharmacy and feel a lot more protected to do. It is important to remember that hand sanitizer and hand washing are still key components to prevention. I know many of you have already been making masks and sharing them. This is so generous and can help people who can’t sew and are at risk. There are lots of videos and instructions on line, including the US Surgeon General folding a napkin to make a mask. And making your own can save medical grade ones for health care workers. Sharing extra ones you make can be a gift to someone who has reasons to fear going out but needs to get to places like the grocery or the pharmacy. I have seen some pretty stylin’ ones already.

That news about running out of PPE is so discouraging and heartbreaking. All healthcare workers should have the gear they need to protect themselves, and certainly not be fired if they bring attention to it. The way to fight this epidemic is with communication and knowledge, not fear and ridicule. Or greed.

Sadly, we have been unable to rely on the federal government to get people the equipment and supplies they need, testing is improving, but still not enough available. But there are good things- more research and trials of new treatments, public-private partnerships like this one in Massachusetts between the state and one of my favorite NGO’s Partner’s in Health.

The more we know about the disease the more we can do. Information is coming at the speed of light and changing fast. This makes knowing what information to trust difficult. Health care advice now is different than two weeks ago and will probably change in a week. This NYT article listed below is a good article that talks about distinguishing what is reliable from what is not. And this is key to understand: we are still learning about this virus and how it interacts with and effects humans.

Wash your hands.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.