No one thought it could happen in our lifetime. There were not many among us who could readily recall when the entire world shut down in 1918 to ﬁght the ﬁrst modern day pandemic, the Spanish Influenza. Back then there was no vaccine being heralded as a “miracle drug,” no potential way out of such a devastating world disease, a mass murderer.
The swiftness of how COVID-19 hit the world, one country after another, one continent after another, seemed unparalleled in scope and intensity. The fear that everyone felt was not a ﬁgment of the imagination. This fear was palatable. A real-life horror movie came to life on cable news. The country began tuning in to daily brieﬁngs by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to counter the tone-deaf traveling circus show exhibited in the Trump White House press brieﬁngs. In Cuomo’s afternoon “chats” there was a level of honesty and leadership that while primarily focused on the state of New York, the entire country could somehow gauge the veracity of COVID-19 and how it affected the area where they lived. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. Cuomo would inside of a year fall from grace with his own sex scandal. But that tumble will never match the ledge jumper that is fellow former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released “Enhancing Readiness for Omicron: Technical Brief and Priority Actions for Member States,” which gives insight on the latest coronavirus cousin, the Omicron variant, arriving right in time for the holiday season.
Omicron was ﬁrst documented in the Gauteng Province in South Africa on Nov. 9, 2021, after an increase of infections that slightly mirrored the Delta variant, but with multiple mutations and new symptoms. South Africa was the ﬁrst to report the new variant because of its groundbreaking medical technology, but the origins of Omicron cannot be pinned on this region.
“There is absolutely no need to panic," South African Health Minister Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla said Sunday. “This is no new territory for us. We are now more than 20 months’ experienced in terms of COVID-19, various variants.”
That did not stop most of Europe, Canada, and the United States from swiftly issuing travel bans and other restrictions on South Africa placing an ugly stigma upon the continent. Yet researchers in Amsterdam are suggesting that countries such as Germany and Belgium had Omicron cases perhaps two weeks before South African officials announced their findings. Twenty countries including Japan and France have acknowledged the variant’s presence within their borders.
Could Omicron be the trigger that forces another global lockdown? That’s an assessment that many world leaders, especially in the United States, would consider a premature. But with a new variant on the prowl that no one really knows much about, it is not premature to remember the immediate urgency and expediency of the lockdown in 2020. The world was so unprepared for what it would mean to shelter in place that a new crisis was born: the Great Toilet Paper Shortage. Why shoppers were stockpiling their garages full of toilet paper is still perplexing, and there probably is a sociologist somewhere doing methodical research on it, but the truth of the matter is that while “The Walking Dead” has been on the air for more than ten seasons with a successful spinoff, some did not get the memo that a cabinet empty of toilet paper would be virtually last on the list of worries in a time of crisis.
In preparing for a future shutdown, toilet paper should be on the list, but baby and adult wipes are just as good as toilet paper, if not better in keeping one clean and hygienic. Inexpensive and easily stackable, these small, moist towelettes can have multiple uses in the home. Disinfectant wipes, sprays, and cleaners became scarce during the shutdown as well. Now is the time to purchase these items in small quantities. But if the Lysol and generic disinfectant are unavailable, baby and adult wipes with a little bleach works just as well. Speaking of bleach, who was a starlet in the spring of 2020 as well, it should be noted that bleach is a harmful chemical that can cause respiratory complications. But having a container or two in the laundry room on hand for a potential lockdown is a good plan. Hand sanitizer has become a part of everyday life since the pandemic began. Keeping a good supply in the pantry can be accomplished inexpensively by just heading to the neighborhood dollar store.
Vitamin C and most supplements that contained this medicine-cabinet staple were basically nonexistent last year. Not a crumb of it could be found except in oranges and orange juice. Entering the winter months, most households in the cold Midwest have a good supply of vitamin C readily available for cold and flu season. But this year, in preparation for a possible shutdown, head to CVS, Walgreens, or Amazon and pick up a couple of bottles of Vitamin C, elderberry, Vitamin D3, zinc, echinacea, and goldenseal. These immune system boosters were so rare in 2020 that the demand for them increased their prices. Another great win is at your neighborhood health food store: Rosehip, hibiscus, and orange peel herbal teas are full of Vitamin C. Add these alternatives along with echinacea and goldenseal herbal teas in case the Vitamin C stampede depletes the local pharmacy shelves. A lot of health food stores were on empty too in 2020, so now is not the time to procrastinate.
Food and water are essential to sustain life. Everyone in Florida is aware of how important it is to stock up on certain nonperishables. Florida is ground zero for devastating storms such as hurricanes. Every year around May the call goes out statewide for advance preparation for the start of hurricane season June
1. But the lessons learned from the 2020 shutdown are that not only perishables leave shelves quickly. Items such as peanut butter and tuna fish and disappear rapidly as well. Take notice of the sales in the local grocery circular. If there are bogos of needed pantry items, stock up on them. Have a reserve of water for each household member in case of an emergency. Fresh meats and vegetables can be packaged properly to prevent damage and stored in the freezer.
No one knows what kind of mayhem, if any, Omicron will bring in the U.S. Scientists all over the world are studying this variant and its mutations to understand what its signature and composition is and how it will affect the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. So, it is not premature to prepare for the unknown. Good preparation prevents a panic. Being that we are still in the throes of a pandemic, no matter the semblance of normalcy, it is always good to stay in the mode of preparedness. Let’s “Get Ready” as Motown’s Temptations sang years ago, for the next chapter of COVID-19 on the horizon.