Moving during pandemic requires much planning

Every time I touched a doorknob or surface that one of the movers might have breathed or coughed on, I lathered two rounds of Happy Birthday in it. My hands were pricked three hours into the nine-hour movement, and I felt renewed empathy for the germaphobe Howard Hughes, or at least for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of him in The Aviator, who scrubbed his hands until they bleed.

Before moving, I spoke to public health experts to come up with the most resilient plan possible.

“We need to evolve to understand that we are living with this virus,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the epidemiology and biostatistics department at the University of California at San Francisco. “We’ll be there for the long term. You will have to move. “

Although I had to move despite the novel coronavirus, millions of Americans moved this year, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. They moved from apartments that they could no longer afford, from areas they perceived as dangerous, and from abruptly closed student dormitories.

The packing and moving yourself might be the safest way to go, especially for strong, healthy 20-year-olds, said Megan Ranney, associate professor of emergency medicine and public health at Brown University.

“Life goes on, even in these crazy times,” she said. “It’s about weighing the risks and benefits. In some ways, it may be safer to do it yourself. “

On the other hand, as an emergency doctor, she regularly looks after patients after they drop a couch on their feet or throw their backs away and pull up a brick-heavy cardboard box.

My husband and I came to the conclusion that given my lean strength, muscular diminution since the gyms closed three months ago, and our advancing age, we’d be more likely to stay out of the hospital if we hired moving companies to keep our belongings transport.

We also have a piano.

Ranney and Bibbins-Domingo said the best defense against the coronavirus for moving companies is the same arsenal of virus resistance tools public health officials advertise for a trip to the grocery store – face covering, physical distance and good hygiene.

And you want to hire moving companies that take the greatest possible precautions.

“The most important thing you do is make sure that the people who are helping you move have the lowest risk of developing the virus,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “The focus should be on keeping it out of your home.”

Via FaceTime, I informed the appraiser about the coronavirus security measures that his moving company has taken. None of the company’s 20 moving companies have been sick, he said. Everyone who came to my home wore face covering, had their temperature taken that morning, and had access to unlimited hand sanitizer.

Moving companies found it difficult to grip furniture with gloves on and were more likely to walk across contaminated surfaces in gloves than if they regularly washed their hands and applied disinfectant, he said.

Bibbins-Domingo stressed the importance of testing key workers such as movers for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

I asked the appraiser if the movers had been tested. Although they had access to free Covid-19 tests through the local health department, none had been tested. Unfortunately, I thought it unlikely that I would find a company that had its employees tested and that could move me in time.

Even if all of the movers had been tested, the possibility remained that one of them or I could carry the virus and remain presymptomatic or asymptomatic.

“The best practice is to go around the world as if everyone, including yourself, has a desire because you just don’t know,” said Ranney.

“I think we have to acknowledge that a significant proportion of the coronavirus occurs in asymptomatic people,” said Bibbins-Domingo.

My husband and I assumed we could carry the virus and buckled up our green army cloth masks as soon as we heard the moving trucks pull into our driveway. By then, I had opened every window in both the old and new homes to keep the air flowing and flush out any virus-laden particles that we or the moving companies might throw off.

In addition, at the suggestion of my cousin, who moved that same week, I designated a bathroom for the moving companies in both houses.

Flushing the toilet can lift the virus out of the bowl, according to a June study. For those who only have one bathroom, insisting on closing the toilet seat before flushing the movers could help contain the problem.

I was grateful that I could lead the moving men into a bathroom that I didn’t need to use, also because I had no control over almost everything else.

When the movers arrived, only one of the five was masked. They put all of their face covers on before entering my house. But most wore them as chin guards while they grunted and groaned and pushed the 500-pound piano three steps outward.

One of the movers had an ongoing peek-a-boo problem. Every time he looked down, the blue cloth fell under his nose. I carelessly mentioned the malfunction to the manager, who said he would try to find a different mask. But he never did.

At the urging of Rochelle Ereman, an epidemiologist for Marin County, where I live, I packed absolutely everything before the moving companies arrived. I also packed suitcases with clothes and bedding for three days and moved them and enough kitchen utensils to the new place in my car for a few days.

There was no good science in waiting 72 hours before taking clothes out of my dresser or sleeping on my bed. It was probably an exaggeration. But nobody ends up on a ventilator because of overkills.

On the first night in our new house, my exhausted husband and I looked longingly at our unmade bed. But we spent three nights on a dinghy next to it.

Some experts suggested changing the sheets and wiping the headboard. But I didn’t think I would be comfortable sleeping in it after Ereman emailed the problem, “Oh, the bed. That is hard. The moving companies will handle it and their faces will be right next to it. “

The fear could be worse than sleeping on the floor, I decided.

“The hard thing about the pandemic is that you can get caught up in a cycle of endless preventive measures,” said Ranney. “Fear can be harmful and if you worry about it it will hurt you as much as it will if you hide.”

As we unpacked boxes, filled our cupboards, and called hello to our friendly new neighbors through masks and over fences, our nervousness subsided. Nevertheless, in the first two weeks, the incubation period for the coronavirus, we sweated every cough and every sneeze.

When it was over and we showed up covid-free, our anxiety subsided and we relaxed in the comfort of our new home.

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