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Mutual Aid Tips: Safe Deliveries For Immunocompromised People During COVID19

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How can you make safe deliveries of food or other supplies to neighbors who may be immunocompromised, during the novel coronavirus pandemic?

Right now, a lot of people are helping out their neighbors. They’re reaching out to people who can’t safely leave their homes during the COVID19 crisis and offering to pick up necessities, whether it’s cleaning supplies, canned goods, or toilet paper. But how can we provide mutual aid without making people sick? I wanted to know more about making safe deliveries.

To hear from an expert, I reached out to Dr. John Stracks, a Chicago MD that’s been treating my mother. She’s vulnerable due to a past heart attack, and I’ve been impressed by how seriously he’s taking all of this. After she forwarded me some of his COVID19 updates, I asked if I could speak to him on the record.

Dr. Stracks has an incredibly calming voice, warm and so easy to listen to that it made me feel better about things just from talking. I really appreciate his time and clear answers.

Update: After publishing, a reader sent me this very thorough safe delivery procedure for COVID19 designed by the QueerCare Network in the UK.

Mutual aid and safe deliveries for immunocompromised people

“Wash your hands every time you pick up a new delivery or are going to drop one off,” Dr. Stracks told me, echoing the most common piece of advice we’re hearing about COVID19.

When it comes to making safe deliveries, he didn’t think most deliveries posed a lot of risk to immunocompromised folks. Of course, if you’re bringing supplies to a neighbor, friend or comrade, be sure to leave them outside rather than handing them off directly.

“To be honest, I feel like people are at lower risk from catching it from an object they are holding than from face to face contact,” he said.

But what about the things you’re delivering? Could COVID19 linger on items? There’s some evidence COVID19 can linger for days on surfaces like stainless steel, but in reality no one knows if it remains infectious there, and the amount of the virus present drops quickly — and quicker on paper than on plastic. Dr. Stracks downplayed the risk of infecting someone this way.

While it’s important to be cautious, he advised that if you need to make or receive a delivery, do your best and try not to let worry about relatively unlikely scenarios twist you up in knots.

People receiving deliveries should wipe down plastic or steel surfaces, and it’s probably a good idea to dispose of any plastic bags and wash your hands after, just to be sure. You could also bring things in a paper or cloth reusable bag, or stack them on the front stoop for someone to pick up if they’re concerned about plastic bags.

Dr. Stracks told us zinc could theoretically help disrupt the virus, and be a useful tool for boosting resistance to COVID19 for people who have to be out working or making deliveries. Photo: A long-haired person in blue clothes, carrying a backpack, is seen from behind as they approach an vegetable stand.
Dr. Stracks told us zinc could theoretically help disrupt the virus, and be a useful tool for boosting resistance to COVID19 for people who have to be out working or making deliveries.

Don’t take chances if you feel sick

While social distancing is vital, some people do still need to be out in the world to work, make deliveries or help folks. He stressed the value of keeping 6 feet apart. When I have to go out, I’ve been wearing a scarf or bandana, mostly just to remind me not to touch my mouth.

“It’s hard for people not to touch their face but there’s something to it, try to do it as little as possible,” he said. He added:

“If you’re in a crowd of 1000 people, you’re likely to bump into someone who has it. If you’re just dealing with one person at a time or you’re not dealing with anyone, you do really reduce the risk of contracting it.”

He also warned to take even minor symptoms seriously, and isolate, if you can, as soon as you feel even a little sick.

“From what we can tell, the virus always starts out fairly mild and if it’s going to take a turn for the worse it usually takes a turn at the end of the first week of symptoms,” he said. “Even if it’s mild you need to keep an eye on it.”

If you start to feel sick, take an immediate break from direct mutual aid activities and stay away from others.

‘Don’t Panic’: Safety tips for everyone

Dr. Stracks believes zinc supplements could be helpful, as zinc may disrupt the reproduction of the virus. In addition, if hydroxychloroquine can help treat COVID19 as some experts now believe, supplementing with zinc in advance could help the drug become more powerful.

“Theoretically, and this is all theoretical, it would work better if people already have zinc inside them,” he said.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT take any form of chloroquine without medical supervision as this can be deadly.

“If people think you’re getting sick, don’t panic. I feel like there are things we can do.”

Dr. Stracks recommended increasing vitamin C and D, making sure you stay hydrated, and get lots of rest.

“It’s still a minority of people who are getting super ill, so try to find a physician to work with who can monitor, but it’s clearly not a death sentence” if you get sick.

Despairing and giving up is the worst thing to do if you do get ill: keep caring for yourself, and get immediate help, if possible, if your fever spikes, breathing difficulties intensify, or things otherwise take a turn from the worse.

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Mutual Aid Tips: Safe Deliveries For Immunocompromised People During COVID19 by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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