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Don’t stand so close to him
editor's notes

It’s right there on the Centers for Disease Control webpage on COVID-19 under the heading: “People who are at higher risk for severe illness.”

In fact, it’s right there at the top of the list: “People aged 65 and older.”

But then, well, then there was a packed Lowes on Saturday, and it seemed every other person in sight was 65 and older, jostling each other for elbow space in the garden center.

I obviously was there, too, getting a nozzle for my garden hose and some dirt for the tomato plants my wife got from a nursery a couple weeks ago and I hadn’t got around to planting yet, or I wouldn’t have seen all the old folks merrily milling about with six packs of petunias in their hands.

The trip was necessary in my case — keep me home for too long and my wife will kill me. Anyway, so much for voluntary social distancing.

My neighbor said people are out and about because they’re bored and he didn’t blame them. He is of the opinion this is a bunch of hooey and much of the county should be opened back up for business because only a handful of folks here have tested positive for the virus so far, and never mind nobody knows how many people have been tested.

“You want to shut something down, shut down the hot spot states like New York and let everybody else go on with their lives,” he said, perhaps missing the clue this is an effort to keep the entire country from becoming a hot spot.

Anyhow, said neighbor, a retired accountant, has also decided COVID-19 is being overblown by us liberal media types to wreck the economy and pin the blame on Donald Trump. I bristled a bit and reminded him back when Barack Obama was president there was plenty of right-wing media types doing everything in their collective power to wreck his presidency, but that fell on deaf ears. Nobody’s ever wrong, anymore, except the other side.

Still, we both agree two wrongs never made a right, and the neighbor is a good fellow. He routinely buys supplies in bulk from Sam’s Club over in Pooler and gave my wife an 8-pack of toilet paper when this hoarding thing surfaced and the world-wide shortage began of what is called bog roll in some countries.

The hoarding is causing a ripple effect, I think, because this press release rolled into the work inbox around 3:30 p.m. Monday: “Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging all Americans to only flush toilet paper, not disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items that should be disposed of in the trash. Flushing only toilet paper helps ensure that the toilets, plumbing, sewer systems and septic systems will continue working properly to safely manage our nation’s wastewater. While EPA encourages disinfecting your environment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, never flush disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items. These easy steps will keep surfaces disinfected and wastewater management systems working for all Americans.

“Preventable toilet and sewer backups can pose a threat to human health and present an extra challenge to our water utilities and their workforce. Flushing anything other than toilet paper, including disinfecting wipes, can damage internal plumbing, local sewer systems and septic systems. Fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly. EPA thanks wastewater utilities and their workforce for their courageous efforts at a time when resources may be stretched thin. Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks. Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and the environment every single day.” That’s fine advice, and it’s word for word what the EPA said.

I am reminded, for some reason, of a trip to the NATO Missile Firing Installation, aka NAMFI, on Crete circa 1991 when I was stationed in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment (Lance). On NAMFI you couldn’t just hop onto a toilet and flush away whatever whenever you felt like it. Each stall was open air and the place was patrolled by a squad of fierce women whose duty was, best I could determine, to keep us Americans from flushing anything that even remotely resembled paper. In my case, all it took was a scowl from the woman on latrine duty at my stall (they were armed with mops and all tended to look like Danny Devito, only with moustaches) to ensure I not only didn’t flush, but pretty much avoided the latrine as much as possible. A buddy of mine, however, said he messed up and flushed and promptly got smacked with a wet mop, which might be how to enforce this social distancing thing.

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