Postcards from the Ledge – 4


I went out on that ledge…

and beyond.

Denise and I have been planning THE GROCERY TRIP for a week now.
She is a hydro-geologist genius who cleans up Superfund sites for a living.
That requires, and she meets brilliantly, a highly specialized degree of scientific comprehension, and an even higher set of workplace safety standards…all of which go way beyond my everyday life. So she is the absolute go to when there is a toxic mess.

Both of us live in households with compromised immune systems so the goals we set are to minimize risk of bringing this C19 creature into our bodies and living spaces. Unlike many selfish idiots out there, we take social distancing seriously and the advice to move around in this world as if WE are contagious and don’t want to give it to our neighbors seems like a minimal standard of protection to meet.

We both decided to shop at our local health food store, Leg Up Farmer’s Market.

They always have fresh local produce and we’ve grown to rely on their other healthy and groovy products to fill in the food gaps. But during this pandemic they have stepped up in another way and are open for the first hour for seniors and immune-compromised shoppers. I apparently, and shockingly, qualify for both categories. We also figured that the “viral load” would be significantly less given that the volume of shoppers here is small at that hour compared to our big town grocery store.

We exchanged a few texts with suggestions for safety precautions and then Denise, the scientist, came up with a 3 page document, “Standard Operating Procedure for Grocery Store Trips”. She said I could share it and here are some of the highlights…

This is provided to describe the process used by the author to go to the grocery store.  The author does not assume any legal liability for others following this document. This is intended to reduce risk, not eliminate it. 

Virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Pathways (how you can get it)

  • Inhalation of the virus in the air (aerosol)
  • Mucus membranes (eyes, nose)
  • Dermal contact with contaminated surfaces (touching, then touching your face)

Virus viability on surfaces  (how long it lives)

  • Aerosols (respiration, coughs) – up to 3 hours
  • Copper – 4 hours
  • Cardboard- 24 hours
  • Plastic – 2 to 3 days
  • Stainless steel – 2 to 3 days

Based on this information assume all air and surfaces are contaminated 

Hazard Mitigation (how to reduce the risk of exposure)

  • Use of personal protection equipment (PPE) to prevent dermal contact and inhalation
  • Only one person per trip
  • Post-potential exposure decontamination
    • Kill the virus
      • Disinfectants (hard surfaces)
      • Ultraviolet (UV) light (sunlight) – for items than cannot be easily washed or disinfected – do not rely on this. 
    • Physical Removal by washing (clothing)

Personal Protective Equipment 

  • Homemade facemask – to prevent inhalation.  I use a bandana folded to cover the nose and mouth, held in place with rubber bands or string.
  • Safety glasses – to prevent aerosol and dermal exposure to mucus membranes (eyes)
  • Gloves (nitrile gloves if you happen to have some, other gloves if not available, if using other gloves clean/wash before use) – To prevent dermal contact with contaminated surfaces 
  • Long sleeve shirt, pants, socks, shoes over a layer of inner clothing like leggings and sports bra (or no bra) or t-shirt so you do not flash the neighborhood when disrobing outside – Outer protective layer for your body to prevent contact with your skin


She goes on to itemize lists for…Trip Preparation, Trip Safety Protocol, and Decontamination Proceedures…


Step 1 – Purchased items

  • Wipe cans and boxes down with disinfectant solution 
  • Produce – remove outer bag and place in box
  • Move items to area where you can come get them so someone else or you can get after you decontaminate yourself
  • Place bags in bag for recycling or put reusable bags in bag for washer

Step 2 – Personal Decontamination

  • While outside removal PPE, outer clothing first takin care to not touch your under clothing, followed by safety glasses, homemade mask.  Place in bag so they can be placed in washing without touching them.
  • Place shoes in the sun or leave outside, do not bring them into the house.
  • Place items in washer.
  • Proceed to shower
  • I follow up with a neti pot flush using sterile water and saline solution and a gargle with warm saltwater (I know this is not scientifically proven, it makes me feel better)
  • After decontamination, put away groceries that are temporarily stored in the staging location.

Step 3 – Put away groceries, wash produce

Step 4 – Decontaminate the staging area, door knobs, car surfaces

Here she is with her trial PPE…

So, yesterday…Denise took one for the team and made the first trip.
It went well and with the exception of a few items missing on shelves she is home safely with a month’s worth of food and supplies.

Based on her success…today was my turn.

Coincidentally, just before I left, I watched a video on FB where a medical pro gave his tips on how to decontaminate shopping items when you get them home. Denise nailed it.

I did not take any pics of my PPE, but Herself got a kick out of it. There was only one other car in the lot at 8 when they opened and the staff far outnumbered the eventual shoppers I saw. Plenty of space to distance and a very respectful exchange was experienced each time I encountered fellow shoppers reaching for items on the same shelf. The store was well stocked, except for flour and one or two other items on my list which were not essential. I was able to secure enough food for what I hope will last 2 weeks to a month. By that time the garden should be producing spring greens and early veg to add to the staples and proteins.

Denise reports that Leg Up will soon be reducing their hours to be open 10-6, 10-11 for us old farts.

As for the home decontamination scene.
There was a lot more clorox wiping than I expected…that video suggested wiping the outside of all bags to be put in the freezer which made sense. And I will refine the staging areas in the near future. But so far so good.

The truck, which is currently a hay and birdseed silo…will double for decon 1 – items in original packaging that are stored away from weather and contact while virus germs dissipate – 3-5 days.

The porch decon includes several stages… veg out of bags ready to rebag before coming into kitchen…

Then we have the clean up on aisle three…

Bleach Bucket –

Sudsy bucket to wash clothes…for those of us who do not have a washing machine…

All of that, from shopping trip to decon took two hours.

Then strip down to the buffo…
toss clothes and shoes in the sudsy bucket…
fast enough that Herself cannot get her phone out of her pocket in time to take a pic of that hot mess for this blog…
and directly into the shower…
and presto-chango…
our coffers are refilled and we can settle back into our happy world of self-quarantine.

And we can do that because of all the others in our community and around the world who are sacrificing themselves to keep those store stocked, the testing stations staffed and the health care facilities open. Also a shout out to our local trash collectors, postal workers, and delivery drivers. Thank you to all those helpers who make it possible for the rest of us to do the right thing and stay home.

I feel 10 pounds lighter.
Our increased load of anxieties which met my normal state of neurosis head on
can take a deep breath and relax now.
With the help of our pal Denise…and all those other helpers…
we have achieved our Hunter Gatherer badge.

My other reward…the lingering smell of bacon.

Maybe NOW I can get back to the easel
and let go of these constant waves of fear
and find some of the more playful Muses
and remember how
to paint.

You are not alone…be there for each other.


Tea and Sympathy  – 2004

“Women are like teabags.

We don’t know our true strength

until we are in hot water.”

Eleanor Roosevelt
(Carved on frame).

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