Self-Isolation or A Writer’s Dream Life

Nick Galifianakis for the Washington Post
I am in the risk group for the coronavirus–over 65, diabetic, asthmatic, history of CHF–and several places I’ve read recommend self-isolation for that group.

The changes that I would have to make to do that are zero.

I used to kick and scream when they’d ask me to do book tours. “Agents are always asking us to send their writers on tours,” my editor said. “What’s the problem?” “Nobody ever became a writer to meet people,” I told her. Terry Pratchett has a great quote that I thought summed up my life, something about some people being very difficult to imprison. Lock my front door so I can’t get out, and I wouldn’t realize it until Thursday, aka The Day I Have To Talk To People. It’s okay, the people I have to talk to are my therapist and Maria at the pharmacy counter at Walmart, but still, people. On the other hand, it’s the only way to get Diet Coke and bok choy.

So I’m nicely self-isolated with three interesting dogs, more yarn than any one person could use in a lifetime, and the best office for me (MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, iPhone, old school graph paper and a thousand fine point Sharpies in a thousand colors, most of them black, all clustered around a bed with a bay window, chocolate, and lots of light), and I realize I’m almost out of Diet Coke. I run on Diet Coke. I know there is nothing in the stuff to fuel me, it’s basically chemicals, carbonation, and water, but I need Diet Coke. I have a back-up of Diet Vernors which is wonderful, but it’s not Diet Coke. (The “diet” part is for the non-sugar, not losing weight; I’ve given up on that.)

I’m going to have to go out to get Diet Coke and therefore risk the coronavirus. It’s really that sad, I’ll risk death to get my DC fix.

Except I don’t actually believe I’ll get it. I’m going to an elementary school basketball game this weekend, so aside from the grocery, that’s the only people-crowd I’ll be in, assuming my grandchildren do not give me the plague, and other than that, the life of a writer (my kind of writer anyway) pretty much precludes getting close enough to other people to inhale germs. We’re not huggers, we’re watchers.

So what I’m wondering is, am I just in denial? Because it goes both ways: give me an article on any disease and I’ll swear I have it. I am so suggestible that last week when I was at the doc’s for a routine check-up, some woman in the waiting room was talking about how people with a cough should wear a mask. I did not have a cough when I arrived, and I did not have a cough when I left, but sitting there in the waiting room under her disapproving eye, I coughed up a lung. So I figure I’m must more likely to assume I have it than to deny it, but the problem is the symptoms–mostly respiratory like shortness of breath–are the same as asthma and allergies, which I have most of the time. I could have it RIGHT NOW . . .

No, I couldn’t. That’s ridiculous.

So how are you all coping? Is it affecting your life at all? Are you wearing masks and waving to people from a distance? Are you wondering if you’ve ended up in a disaster movie full of people looking serious and worried, or have you been wondering that since the election anyway so this is just more of the same? Do you have enough Diet Coke?

Talk to us. We need to know that Argh Nation is safely in lockdown with plenty of food, water, books, and (according to your needs) dogs, yarn, and chocolate. Be careful out there, people. It’s virus-y.

125 thoughts on “Self-Isolation or A Writer’s Dream Life

  1. I’m not doing much different from usual. I live alone with my cats and go to work every day. I run errands on the weekends and go for a lot of walks. The only real difference is that I have allergies which occasionally make me sneeze or cough (post nasal drip) so I have taken to having cough drops on hand so I won’t have to cough and people won’t give me the “are you contagious” look.

  2. I put this on FB as my response to Covid-19:

    CDC: If you get sick, or think you’ve been exposed, you need to self-quarantine if you can.

    Extroverts: ohmygod, how am I going to survive? I have to TALK TO PEOPLE, and go do things!

    Introverts: Can we extend this to 2025?

    And 2025 might be a bit rushing it.

    I’m so isolated, and Carl brings home anything I want. I know, I’m in the middle of the French Quarter. Theoretically, it’s out there somewhere. I can see it out the windows. I’m fine with it. I think it’s been (counts on fingers…)… well, over four weeks since I stepped outside and had to talk to people, and I’m okay with that. (The deck doesn’t count. I don’t have to talk to people from the deck.)

    I’m definitely in the high-risk factor, with no immune system, so Carl is washing his hands like a fiend, and he’s wiped down everything that comes inside, except Bane, so I’m probably safe.

    Glad you’re safe and with yarn and puppies to make you happy!

    1. Glad you’re being so careful, babe. I thought Mardi Gras was coming your way soon, but it’s just over. That must have been a great party for the virus.

      1. So far, we only have one case (just announced today), but I have a feeling there are tons more here. I know someone who is super healthy and she’s been out for more than 3 weeks (just before MG), knocked on her butt by a ‘flu’… and no test kits. Carl sees her at the job site, so he’s being super paranoid. Now everyone else there is starting to get it. Yay.

  3. I did buy more pasta and rice last week, but only because all the stories about stockpiling reminded me I was nearly out of them. Hopefully I’m in a great place to cope: like you, I’m a hermit most of the time. If I get it, I don’t have any underlying conditions to complicate it. Since I’m on my own, it could be tricky if I were to get really ill – but really, it doesn’t seem that much worse than normal flu for most people.

    Alas, it looks as if it’s going to cause another financial crash, which is likely to cause a lot of hardship. I do not understand why we allow speculation and usery to run the world.

    1. At this point, the whole world is a dumpster fire. What’s a recession gonna do, depress us?

      It’s beautiful here today, I’ve waved to my neighbors and the dogs romped in the yard. I’m concentrating on life at the granular level.

      1. Yes: I’m hoping any further alarms and excursions will just nudge us into altering course in the ways we need to, urgently.

        And our Chief Medical Officer has just said people may soon be asked to self-isolate for a week if they have a cold or flu: so perhaps I should make sure I can feed myself for that long without having to get any shopping done. Probably could. Maybe some powdered milk would see me right.

        1. A terrific benefit of living on a farm in autumn that I’d not previously considered is the food we have available. The freezer is getting a little low, we’re due to butcher again soon, but the poultry are laying and the vegetable patch is trying to overwhelm us with produce. I did count the toilet rolls the other day, just to make sure we were ok. I do not understand the toilet paper panic

  4. I work in a school. At the front window. If an active shooter or an active virus comes in the door I’m at risk. I can throw things at a gunman to avoid being shot, but if that virus heads my way I’m out of luck. I’m probably in the higher risk than normal group – Old, diabetic and asthmatic, but what’s the chance corona virus is going to walk through that door? I can only hope we’ll shut down like Italy if it turns up here.

    I am not worried. I don’t get sick often. But if shut down for a couple of weeks and I get to isolate, I’ll be a happy camper. So many interesting things to do at home!

  5. The dotter visited the mancave earlier, with the preamble, “Since we can hear you coughing from nearly any room in the house, I assume dinner tonight is off.” I could only agree. But insofar as the cupboard is dressed for annual gardening day (Bare, people. Bare!), I allowed as how I will be travelling to Food Lion, just over a mile, and stocking up on my essentials.

    My diet coke will be decaf. My root beer, diet A&W. My frozen dinners, Stouffers. Fresh beef, chicken and pork for stir fry, so there will likely be bok choy and green onions to go with my garlic and bell peppers. Potatoes, red and small.

  6. I’m wondering if my office of IT workers in cubicles (nice cubicles with adjustable standing desks) will be asked to work from home. We’ve passed around the stupid cold so there’s already hacking and sniffing. I got a nice new HDMI monitor, so working from home just got much easier.
    I forget I could be considered senior (63) because, not. But my parents are both truly, technically old, 89, and I hope they will be careful if we get more activity in southern Maine. They’ve been fabulously healthy their whole lives, so they have no caution. I worry, they don’t.

        1. On the internets. I did the google. “What does ‘elderly’ mean?” “65 and over.”

          1. I Googled as well. Not only did it say Elderly is 65, it said it in a large font, for emphasis. If anyone needs to feel schadenfreudey, the article did say that in most of Africa you’re elderly if you’ve exceeded 50.

            I carried my elderly arse to my local grocery store, and as previously stated, my diet coke was decaf. My root beer, diet A&W. My frozen dinners, Stouffers. Fresh beef, chicken and pork for stir fry, so there was bok choy and green onions to go with my garlic and bell peppers. Potatoes, red and small.

            Then, based on my coughing, sniffling sneezing so I could self-isolate symptoms, I called in and will be taking the next two days off, at least.

      1. The internet is for quitters. My mother referred to herself as middle-aged when she was 75. It struck me that she and my dad planned to live to 150 which is somewhat chilling. My mom was not really a fact based person and I have a lot of her observations in my head.

  7. We’re laying somewhat low, although I did go to the pool this morning because I need water like I need air to breathe and Husband continues to look after his mom. But we’re avoiding Son, who got back from a business trip to CA on Friday with the news that someone in the lab across the road from his came down with the Covid-19 and people go back and forth between the labs all the time. Lovely. He’s going to Washington, DC, and Albuquerque this week, so on planes, in airports, etc. I was really hoping he could cancel those trips–not so much, I guess. If we weren’t taking care of my 94-year-old MIL, I wouldn’t worry so much about being with Son, even though we are in the vulnerable group age-wise. I just keep reminding myself that I didn’t see him every week when he lived in CA for fifteen years. I’ll survive without hugging him until we get through this insanity. And I have a new book to start, work to do, yarn to knit, tea, wine, and all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls, so life is mostly good.

  8. I got back last night from a business/personal trip that involved four 6-hour-plus flights spread out over 10 days. When I left on the trip, no one in the US had died and the virus was (supposedly) only in Washington state. How things have changed. I was in the Middle East for half the trip, and the masks were rampant. The last few days were in London, where apparently no one knows there’s a pandemic (i.e., no masks and no widespread cancellations. I mean, 6 Nations rugby is happening–there will be pub gatherings!)

    Of course, one of my travel colleagues reported today that he has a cough (but no fever), so I am now convinced I will come down with it. Just too many plane rides and too many public locations over the past week. On the plus side, due to a permitting snafu, my new office space won’t be ready for a few days so we can work from home until Thursday.

    Having been away for more than a week, I’m low on fresh vegetables. Trying to decide whether I need to go to the grocery store…

  9. I would have no problem self-quarantining if I had just shopped for ice cream. I cannot stockpile ice cream. No freezer is large enough (and my upright freezer is full of other stuff.)
    In 1929, when my mother was twelve, there was a flood in her town that lasted two weeks. Their house was on relatively high ground, and although the water came up to the porch steps it did not enter the house. Usually my mother and her parents and brother lived there, although it was a fairly large house. During the flood, my grandmother sent for people she knew lived on the low side of the creek, and there were a total of fourteen. They had no more than the usual amount of food–my grandfather was a grocer, and could bring home anything needed–but even so there was enough to feed them all for two weeks. The day before the water went down far enough for people to leave they had three meals of ham and biscuits and strawberry preserves. The morning the waters went down, they had biscuits and strawberry preserves.
    It took me until today to realize that this story (and my mother’s subsequent shopping habits) are why I’m having trouble with the idea that people might run out of food?? All by themselves?? In only two weeks?

    1. Francophiles like my sister and bro-in-law believe in going to the market almost every day to shop for what they need for meals over the next two days (though they stockpile specials and coupons items and often plan meals around them). It’s mostly about getting and consuming the freshest things. They’re not too big on frozen foods either.

      I myself am sliding to that view because I HATE throwing away food. And often I don’t buy with meal plans in mind but will buy things like bunches of kale because it’s the king of micronutrients and I SHOULD eat a lot of it. (I live alone–very happily thank you–in case you you didn’t guess it.) I am a fan of frozen but my freezer is heavily stocked already (I also can’t shake the habit of cooking bean stews, soups for four). But not everything freezes well either.

      So it’s a work in progress but I think I’m in ok shape for a week just by defrosting. I’d miss fresh fruits and veggies.

  10. We have cases in SA who all went on holiday to Italy. Some folks are panicked – dust masks are being sold at usurious rates. Except those masks won’t do a thing to stop a virus.

    I’m enjoying making sure little hands get washed at work. And they don’t touch their faces. And that I don’t touch my face.

    I love all the threads with 20 second extracts of songs… “I’m sorry Ms Jackson, oooooo, I am for reeaaal. I didn’t mean to make your daughter cry, I apologise a trillion times. I’m sorry Ms Jackson, oooooo, I am for reeeeaal. I didn’t mean to make your daughter cry, I apologise a trillion times.”

    And Toto’s Africa.

  11. Also, I forgot to say I’m very jealous that you can drink diet soda, Jenny. My body somehow knows that soda is supposed to be very sugary, and boosts my blood sugar despite the absence of carbs. I is sad. But glad you can have your diet coke!!!

  12. I would have left home in an earthquake and trolled stores for Coke Zero should I have run out of it.
    I am eerily fascinated by the panic pandemic over a disease which will possibly impact the older/immune compromised section of our population.
    The rest of the humans will experience it as a bad cold.
    I am 76 so I guess it’s a possiblilty I could be affected. But I haven’t got time to worry.
    Saturday I did stranger’s taxes at the Actors Fund and baby sat my two grandchildren.
    Sunday – church (where people were doing “Namaste” instead of shaking hands) more taxes, went to a show my son was in. Today I got called into Warner Brothers for an unscheduled scene for Macbeth.
    So lots of people around and some are panick-stricken.
    Blessings to you all and i fully support you in doing whatever you need to do to feel safe,

  13. I live in a tiny rural town and work on a farm with about 12 other people, most of whom are related to me, so I’m pretty much in a state of “I wish people would stop irrationally freaking out about the coronavirus so I could go back to rationally freaking out about the flu.” My daughter gleefully reports every day how many kids/teachers are out sick, how many tested positive for flu, how many got sent home sick multiple days in a row after coughing and throwing up all over the rest of the class because parents insist on sending their kids to school sick and then tested positive for the flu.

    She’s eight, she thinks she’s immortal, and to be fair, if she caught the flu I’d probably be fine. If she gave me the flu I’d probably be fine. But my grandfather is 95 and I’m one of his primary caregivers, so yeah. Stop sending your kids to school sick, people. WTF.

    I’m not self-isolating, but I am seriously considering the benefits of homeschooling.

    1. One of the things I saw on the news this morning was an expert saying, “On the bright side, if everyone is staying home when they’re sick and washing their hands like crazy, we might see a major drop in regular flu cases and deaths.”

      So there’s that.

    2. That’s the thing that bugged me today about today’s misinformation from the White House — the suggestion that fewer people (or equal numbers) will die from Covid-19 than from the flu, and we’re not worried about flu deaths, so, shrug. The message shouldn’t be “treat Covid-19 like the flu, and let people die,” but instead should be “why on earth are people going to work with the flu, leading to thousand of deaths, and what can we due to reduce those deaths?”

      It goes back to school days and the “perfect attendance” awards. I always thought that was stupid and counter-productive. If I was sick, I was staying home. For myself and for everyone I didn’t infect. It’s such a backwards virtue award.

      1. Do you know what we can do to reduce those deaths? Vaccinate. And yes, stay home if you’re sick – but the thing with flu is you’re contagious before you’re symptomatic (they don’t think this is the case for COViD-19), so, prevention.

        1. Actually, one of this issues with Corona is that you can in theory be sick for 2 weeks before you’re symptomatic, and therefore spreading it.

          1. That’s not the info we were getting – I think things are changing rapidly as they learn more:

            Asymptomatic transmission

            There is currently a lot of confusion about whether this coronavirus can be spread by asymptomatic people – that is, people who are not displaying symptoms of illness. It can’t be ruled out for certain, but there doesn’t seem much strong evidence. The original paper that started this ball rolling turned out to be based on people assuming the original person didn’t have symptoms. Only it turns out they did.

            While asymptomatic transmission is still a possibility, the information from the recent WHO China Joint Mission Report does show that the majority of people who have contracted Covid-19 have had close contact with someone with the virus and that person had symptoms.

            Speaking yesterday, Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, said: “There’s very clear data from China that people who don’t have symptoms are not ones who spread the virus. The virus is spread through droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.”

            What is clear though is that even people with very mild symptoms can be infectious. ”

            Of course, this was a few days ago, it may have been updated since then! Via

        2. We’ve all been vaccinated, obviously, but so have some of the kids coming to school sick. The flu vaccine is only about 40% effective this year. :-/ Which, obviously, 40% is nothing to sneeze at, I’ll take it over the 0% of not getting vaccinated, but it’s not exactly bulletproof protection.

          I read somewhere that the biggest thing the government could do to prevent illness wasn’t vaccines, but federally mandatory paid sick leave. That rings true. I’m sure a lot of those parents don’t *want* to send their kids to school sick, but between “work when you’re dying” as a core Puritan value and the financial hit of sick leave, they don’t feel they have a choice.

          1. I used to work at a library with a woman who is immune compromised and it used to bug Paul to no end that I’d take sick days if I had a cold. I had paid sick time and plenty of it. I had a hard time making him (and his Protestant work ethic) understand that it was irresponsible of me to go to work sick. In his mind I was wasting those days and I should be hoarding them in case I needed an operation or something.

      2. I remember when I was a kid the rule was – and it was a pretty hard rule, too – you stay home until your temperature is normal for at least a full 24 hours. Why do we somehow think that it’s okay to infect everyone else out there once we’re adults? I get pushing through it to take care of your family, but really, there’s no job out there that’s all that important.

        As for siege mode, I’m ready. I have plenty of pasta, I picked up an extra can of refried beans, some more cereal and almond milk, and I even got some lettuce and a pepper for salads. Let it come, I don’t care. I need the sleep anyway.

        The saddest thing about this is that it’s yet another reason for people to be afraid to touch each other. I’ve started thanking people when they bump into me; it’s the only touch I get these days. Considering moving back in with the husband just for the odd hug.

      3. I spent a lot of kid’s last awards ceremony grinding my teeth. It’s not just that they saved the BIG, cool awards for attendance (as opposed to, say, academic progress? This is a school?) It’s not even just the disease transmission thing although yes that is a HUGE deal. But this is elementary school. If your eight-year-old is choosing for herself whether she goes to school or not, you have bigger problems than school attendance. Why on earth are you rewarding/penalizing little kids for something they have literally no control over?

        The school system and I have Issues.

  14. I’m young(ish), fairly healthy, and not feeling at all worried on my own behalf. But about 85% of my socializing is with people who are a lot more vulnerable than I am, so I feel a fair degree of responsibility to reduce my chances of inadvertently being a disease vector. I’ve made some changes, and am following sensible recommendations.

    I’m going to make an extra donation to my local food bank too. Food insecurity seems likely to rise, especially if schools close (since that’s where lots of kids get to eat). But even if things stay pretty stable, it’s just a place I’m happy to donate to anyway, and always needs the help. For anyone thinking similarly, remember that food banks get a lot more use out of cash donations than from your old canned food! Also, cash can be donated without leaving the splendid isolation of home ;-P

    The first confirmed covid-19 case in my town was announced this morning, and I assume more people are likely to test positive locally over time. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with some friends who stay in shelters, because we want to draft up a list of suggestions/needs for our elected officials — humane emergency response measures that include specific plans for people who are at significantly higher risk and are often ignored (such as people experiencing homelessness, or people incarcerated in jail, prisons, and ICE detention centers). A moral and pragmatic call for action, essentially, to try to make sure nobody gets left behind. Which means the things I’m researching/writing about today are different, but my day-to-day life is basically just the same. Well, with slightly more hand-washing, and significantly less ordering take-out.

    Having to stay home sounds perfectly fine to me — I thrive on solitude, and have little to fear on the entertainment front (there’s the built-in entertainment center between my ears, two of the silliest dogs ever invented, and sunshine, so I’m kind of set. Also Netflix, in case it rains). I will admit that I am selfishly hoping that my partner does not have to start working from home, as sharing the office is kind of a pain (I technically work from the couch or armchair, but I use the office as a vital organizing space…vital, I tell you). But I think campus is probably going to get shut down within the next week or two, so I guess I should probably consider learning to share. Hmph.

  15. Another writer here whose default state is self-isolation (which is part of why the Argh community is so important to me, so I don’t FEEL isolated in bad ways!). I’m also a advance planner by nature, so I usually have about six months’ worth of basic necessities, like food and meds and cat supplies.

    At the moment, I’m not feeling particularly worried for myself (old enough to be at risk, and apparently even high blood pressure is considered a pre-existing condition, although mine is under control, and I don’t have significant lung problems), but it did give me a bit of pause this morning when I read that the pastor of a local church is self-quarantining because she was exposed (not necessarily infected, just exposed), so it’s possibly in my small town (in Massachusetts).

  16. I’m with you on the ease of self isolating, Jenny. That’s pretty much how I live, with cat and books and writing, and occasional visits with friends. I’m at the low end of the high risk group, over 65 but with no particular comorbidities.

    The main thing that’s frustrating me at the moment is that I was going to Ukraine in May to speak at a book festival, and then onto the delta of the Danube to have a look at their rewilding project, and THEN to Romania to see bears in the wild. And now I’m seriously thinking of cancelling, mainly because I can’t get travel insurance that will cover coronavirus, so if I catch it overseas I’m on my own, which could get very expensive. And I can’t quite tell if I’m overreacting (because staying home would really be so much easier) or being sensible. Still haven’t quite made up my mind, but I noticeably haven’t bought the plane tickets yet.

    Meanwhile, people in Australia are going wild over toilet paper. There have been fisticuffs (!) in supermarkets between people who have packed their trolleys with rolls and rolls of the stuff, and others who just want to buy one packet. Why toilet paper? I have no idea.

    1. It’s nuts, isn’t it? It just seems to be this weird, self-regenerating cycle where people are panic-buying because other people are panic-buying. I’m hoping that karma hits the profiteers in the form of swift resupply, and that they get swamped with toilet paper that they can’t on-sell. Meanwhile, it feels a bit like a Monty Python sketch.

      1. Nuts is absolutely right. And as a number of people have pointed out, it makes things really hard for people who can’t afford to hoard, and for people with bowel disorders who need toilet paper RIGHT NOW and find the shelves empty. Fear makes people behave very badly.

    2. Have you tried Allianz group for insurance? As of yesterday they were still covering the medical expenses of coronavirus.

      And yeah, people are hoarding toilet paper here in NZ too. Why??

      1. Allianz has different levels in the US and it has different policies in different countries. For example, I bought a higher level of Allianz for a trip to Alaska this coming June because my sister-in-law has cancer, so we required insurance that included cancelation for any reason (including pre-existing conditions). I had to buy it within 2 weeks of making the first reservation for the trip.

        My son lives in Poland and wanted to insure a trip to Thailand in May. Allianz doesn’t offer more than the basic coverage in Poland, so he can’t buy coverage for things like coronavirus.

        For the Italy trip we probably won’t be going on in April, we used frequent flyer miles for the transatlantic flights and both rental car and all the hotels have generous cancelation policies. So we’ll lose the cost of the flights within Europe — unless Italy is still locked down in 3 weeks and the flights aren’t happening. But we would have paid more for insurance than we’ll lose.

  17. I live in a fairly rural area, but we have two colleges and the kids just left for spring break…going who knows where and coming back with who knows what. Still, we are mostly spread out, which is good. (Although we also have a serious shortage of doctors and nurses already, which is bad.)

    I’m not *terribly* worried for myself. I’ll be turning 60 in April, and I do have asthma, but mostly I’m reasonably healthy. Well, unless the stuff I’ve been dealing with lately turns out to be serious cardiac issues, but probably not. But I do have a number of medically fragile people in my orbit, including my brother in-law who has terminal cancer and who I’m trying to see for dinner and a movie at my house every two weeks for the time he has left.

    My conundrum at the moment is that I am scheduled to fly out on the 18th for a Pagan convention in Minnesota. My publishers, Llewellyn, are there, and I was finally going to get to go to the Mother Ship and thank all the folks who work on my books. And meet my editor’s two cats (okay, that’s the most important thing–I mean, I’ve already met her husband). And give two presentations and be the center of a “Meet the author” evening. I’ve really been looking forward to it. But I’m not sure it is socially responsible to leave my relatively safe town and go through four airports, ride on four planes, and go to a convention full of (usually) huggy Pagans. Sigh. I’m waiting to see if the con will be canceled–at the moment it looks like not, but this whole situation changes every day–but even if it isn’t, I suspect I won’t go.

    I’m also supposed to be taking part in a book signing in Albany with the lovely Anne Bishop, but that’s driving distance and a small venue, so I’m hoping it isn’t canceled.

    And I am VERY happy that my parents, who are in their young/mid-eighties and very healthy, decided to cancel the cruise they were supposed to be leaving on next week. My dad said he was less worried about dying than being stuck in a tiny room on a ship for weeks without being able to get off the ship.

    As for prep, I’ve got extra cat litter, TP, and wine (which is my diet coke), so I should be okay. I always have enough food in the house to feed a small army, if anyone needs a place to hide out. And lots and lots and lots of books.

      1. Shes a sweetheart. This will be our third together and I’m really looking forward to it. She writes actual letters on cards that come through the mail!

    1. Update: I canceled the trip. I really wanted to go, but everything I read says that social distancing is the only way to slow this thing down. It felt socially irresponsible to go.

  18. I’m wondering how many other people feel like I do – that if there has to be a pandemic, I’d much rather it was a virus that killed people in my age group than something like the Spanish flu which killed the young and healthy. I have no particular fear of dying, having had a pretty good go at life. But I’d hate to see the young ones knocked off.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. My generation seems to be standing in the way of more open-minded generations. The idea that we have two old (not elderly, OLD) white guys running for President right now is just more proof that Baby Boomers have to get off the country’s lawn and go relax somewhere else (I say this as a Baby Boomer, more than willing to go relax somewhere else).

      1. And why on earth, at the age of 70+ would you WANT to run for president or prime minister or whatever else???? Haven’t they got books to read, grandbabies to cuddle, wine to drink????

          1. I refuse to have even a tiny taste of power because even a tiny taste seems to turn people into assholes. Peon 4 LYFE.

  19. I try to stay home and not see anyone but hubby. Not that the coronavirus has been reported in our area. But he had to go on a business trip a couple weeks ago, and someone else in the group was getting over the flu. By the end of the week, half the bus was sick. One guy went home and straight to the ER. Yes, hubby came home and got sick, then I got it. BOOOO! We were lucky, cause we were just down for a few days each. All better now, and back to my self-imposed isolation. Yay!!

  20. Well, I came down with a regular cold two weeks ago and was out of the office for a week. Was still obviously (not that) sick on week 2, but could not realistically be out any longer workloadwise (I have no backup) just because I continued to have a stuffy nose and cough. I’m fine now, mind you, but I was on self-isolation for a while and I got stir crazy after a while. My limit as to how long I can sit in the house is about three days is why and this was for about five.

    I have stocked some supplies, but I don’t know if I CAN stock three weeks’ of TP and Kleenex, this apartment ain’t that big. So far we only have one diagnosed case in the county and one in the next county, but I work at a school and what Kate said about gunmen and viruses. Right now, life is mostly still “as normal” other than handwashing machines are everywhere (and I got a guy staring at me for blowing my nose at the gym) and it’s just kind of pre-epidemic panic going on. I am really hoping we don’t get to the point of that going on for weeks. Not sure if those of us with spring birthdays in my friend group should even bother planning activities or what at this point? I hate to agree with the moron, but I still don’t think we’ll all have the flu once it is warm outside everywhere.

    I can’t work at home and I can say that when we were all shut-ins due to the smoke in California a while back, I had fun crafting all day (and heck, that’s about what I did when sick too), but after a certain point I still wanted to leave the house.

  21. I left my teeny-tiny town, got on a plane to a city with many cases of Covid-19, spent 10 hours a day for 2 days in a very large building with nearly 40,000 of my closest strangers each day. I’m middle-aged, healthy, and very capable of self isolating so I’m not worried for myself. My parents are in their 70s and both had nasty respiratory problems earlier in the winter so I won’t visit them until I’m sure I’m okay.

    I think the balance lies, as it does in so many things, in being smart and sensible and not being stupid. And washing your hands.

    1. I live in a city with many immigrants from Asia, being careful not to go to crowded markets,etc. Well Costco is always an absolute zoo. Many wearing masks and gloves.

      I have enough basic stuff and lots of pasta, etc. I bought some frozen veg in case I can’t get out to buy fresh. Usually have a good pantry full of stuff. I can always bake bread if needs must.

      I had to rush from one gate to another to catch a flight home. Of course, as soon as I sat down the asthma kicked in and I started coughing. Couldn’t get the inhaler out fast enough before the condemning stares bore holes in me. Kept saying that I had asthma and I was not sick. Once the lungs opened I was fine and those around me settled their ruffled feathers.

      Washing hands and using common sense. Upping vitamin C, etc. Yes, it would be a plus if all the hand washing reduces the flu.

      We saw Yesterday. A good “feel good” movie, if anyone is looking for movies to watch. Really enjoyed it.

  22. I had errands today so ended up at a favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch. The parking lot was about 90% empty — VERY unusual — and the restaurant about 75% empty at noon. The staff said it has been like that for the last ten days.

    1. They had one check-out line open at the grocery and there were only two people in it.
      There was plenty of lovely bok choy but only 3 things of Diet Coke left.
      I didn’t buy toilet paper. Amazon sends me a case every four months, along with paper towels, Kleenex, garbage bags, and dog food. I know Amazon is Evil, but I love it anyway.

      1. I buy toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap, an organisation that uses part of their profits to build toilets in third world countries. Plus their tp is made out of bamboo, not trees. AND they deliver to the wilds of Tasmania.

        1. Have you noticed the entire product line is sold out here?(Australia) I do not get tp hoarding. Trapped in my house for weeks I’d start wondering about my chocolate or alcohol supplies. Toilet paper can be improvised.

  23. Well, tomorrow we’re up at 4AM to get to the hospital in Boston for my husband’s next heart procedure. It hasn’t been cancelled so I’m thinking it couldn’t be put off for any time. When we were in last week to meet with the doctor he told us that conferences were cancelled and that was Thursday. So I hope all goes well, again. But I’m still a nervous wreck.

  24. I am an extrovert who works mostly from home. I go looking for excuses to get out of the house. Coffee anyone?

    I’m not in a risk group, but I have family who are. Still, it hasn’t really hit in NZ yet – only 4 or so cases.

    I also teach at the local uni and it’s had an impact there. Our academic year starts February, so we have a bunch of students caught up in the travel ban, some have withdrawn, we’re trying to teach some via distance, it’s a shitshow. And bad for the financial viability of our university sector as it is at least somewhat reliant on the income from international students. It’s also had an impact on my consultancy, as some clients (especially tourism sector) are putting marcomms planning and spending on hold.

    I liked this comment, via Twitter: “Not minimising the risks of COVID-19 for a second, but I wish people had the same visceral response to the existential threat of the climate crisis: panic buying tree seedlings, not toilet paper”.

    1. The town road crew came through and butchered a bunch of my trees, leaving a huge gaping hole where there had been foliage that gave me privacy. The bastards. I immediately ordered some bushes (elderberry, in case anyone cares) to fill in the space come spring, and I WILL be replanting trees. Bastards.

      1. Were they on your property and not impacting the roadway? If so, I would be talking to the town manager.

        1. The town crews are legally allowed to go 25 yards from the middle of the road. It is a narrow road. They were well into my property, but it’s allowed. And the town supervisor had admitted he has zero control over the town highway supervisor, who is a mean old bastard.

    2. I too work for a university and even though we have no cases (yet) in Michigan (no one wants to be here in Feb.), there’s been planning. First for the international students who may not be allowed to go home when the semester ends in at the end of April. Now, about whether we’ll close down campus and go 100% virtual. I work in the library. We’re always the last to close, and we’re talking that it may happen. Personally, I would love to work from home! I just need all the comforts to continue working, such as electricity, plumbing, WiFi and deliveries.

  25. Not to worry you, but did you see that there’s some supply chain concerns about the ingredients in Diet Coke and the ability to manufacture at normal levels? I think your point was more about being out amongst the unwashed masses … but you might want to make sure to get extra if you decide to emerge since they may start to run low later:

    1. OH MY GOD. They only had three six packs left, no cases of cans, and it was like that when I went last week, too.

      If I start babbling next week, it’s DC withdrawal.

        1. You’re right, why didn’t I think of that? That’s where I get my Diet Vernors, which I can’t find anywhere anymore. Whew. (Thank you!)

  26. No longer wearing my rings because I find it easier to wash may hands more often and for longer when I’m not juggling them. I finally bought a digital thermometer. And I stopped procrastinating and got a pneumonia vaccination.

    I’ll start stocking up on some staples over the next couple of weeks. I’m not going to go crazy with that.

    I go to a lot of meetings and do voter outreach stuff. Everyone is talking about the possibility of getting sick and there’s low-key joking. Nothing’s been cancelled so far.

    I’m a self-isolator (introvert) too so I’ll be fine if I have to stay home. My dog will suffer if she can’t go on her daily walk.

    I’m hoping that Jeff Bezos will get enough extra change from everyone ordering through Amazon to buy Fox News.

  27. I am currently travelling with my parents in California. We’re driving between national parks, so mostly keeping to ourselves. None of us are worried about catching it, but we have talked pretty seriously about whether to cut the trip short so that if one of us catches a cold we can self-isolate at home instead of having to stay here in quarantine for an extra two weeks before being allowed on a plane home. We decided not to at this point, because we only have 10 days left, but we really need not to get sick in that time so that we can in fact get home. So we’re mostly good here, but keeping an eye on the travel restrictions just in cases.

    Also, your national parks are gorgeous.

    1. Aren’t they?! I hope you’re checking out sequoias, redwoods, and the non-national park coastal drive. We left my brother-in-law’s ashes at Yosemite — a stunning place (no, he didn’t get hit on the head there). I don’t know where you come from, Georgia, but the national parks we’ve seen abroad have been incredible, too. In Britain they come with megaliths that can’t be accessed from the road — you hike to see them.

      1. We are! We started in San Francisco, with Muir Woods, then drive down the coast. We have since seen Joshua Tree and Death Valley. Today and tomorrow are for Sequoia and King’s Canyon, then on to Yosemite.

        We have some fairly spectacular landscapes back in Oz, but nothing like these trees.

    2. Hey not to panic you or anything but if you’re travelling with travel insurance (assuming you don’t have US medical insurance), it might be worth checking to make sure that your insurance will cover medical treatment for Corona virus if you have to get treatment in the US.

      A lot of NZ travel insurance companies are refusing to cover Corona virus costs

      1. Theirs does, mine doesn’t. But I’m not in the right age bracket, and apart from the autoimmune disease i’m disgustingly healthy. Even if I do catch it, I shouldn’t need proper treatment.

        Thank you though. 🙂

  28. I’m a professional hermit and my husband worked remotely even before his office mandated that everybody work from home for the time being, so the biggest change a quarantine would mean for us would be having the kids home full time too. Trying to figure out how much preparing is alarmist and how much is “shoulda done this in February”.

    1. I’ve figured it’s a reasonable precaution to have two weeks worth of non-perishable food in the house. And it’s stuff I’ll eat anyway, so it’s not going to go to waste. Just picking up a little bit extra whenever I shop.

  29. Usually I go out to the store once a week and my husband does the other shopping trip. Two weeks ago I went out to lunch with a friend, the next night we went to a movie then the next went to a crab feed at a local club where there were hundreds of people. I have asthma and am over 70. Two days later I came down with the flu (on a Saturday), ran a fever of 100.5 for two days, had a runny nose and a slight cough. On Monday I emailed my clinic and asked if I should be tested for Corvid-19. They did not answer or tell me to self-quarantine despite the fact that a couple of people in the area have tested positive. Well, it has stayed as an upper respiratory tract infection so it clearly was the flu. And I have stayed home and cancelled out of social activities.

    I have lots of food in the house, some pre-made meals in the freezer (which was really handy when I was sick) so I have not been exposing others to my flu. My husband seemed to be coming down with it, but his turned out to be a major cold which within a week is mostly gone. So he stayed home too. But we are good and I am not as worried about Corvid-19 for me because it doesn’t sound any worse than what I had and I do not see any fragile seniors usually.

    Really, I need to find a new clinic. I like my doctor but she only works part-time and the support staff is unbelievable. When I called them when I broke my toe, they said they could give me an appointment in two weeks.

  30. I am an introvert and my youngest is an introvert only when it comes to talking to people. She loves going out and doing things. She’s mad at me for not letting her go to a new arcade that opened at the mall. I’m not risking that.

    I work at a long term care center, and it’s all about bleaching everything and constant hand washing and sanitizing. No cases in my town that I know of, but we do have cases here in Oregon. Staying cautious, and hopefully everyone else is as well.

    1. There are cases in my county and in several counties around me. I’m so rural and isolated that it’s pretty much six neighbors, me, and the bears. Those bears will talk to anybody, though.

  31. Preschool is going on as usual with extra hand washing and extra cleaning when all the kids have gone. You don’t notice how often everyone touches their faces until something like this.

  32. Only a handful of cases in NZ, all in Auckland 1000km away from me. We’re still trying to keep it out of the country as long as possible. I’m not in a risk group but my partner is and he’s on again/off again about whether to go to Germany for 6 weeks in May. Sounds like a bad idea to me.

    We’ve already got masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, soap and a couple of weeks of food, because we’ve lived through enough earthquakes that we’ve got in the habit of being prepared. So no changes for me, as of yet.

    1. In your husband’s case, I’d stay home and not come to Germany right now!

      Munich had the first cases in Germany due to direct contact with a Chinese co-worker iirc, all of them very mild cases (observed closely and in hospital isolation).

      But in the last about two-to-three weeks the illness has spread considerably and overall life is affected: the number of schools closing is increasing, major as well as smaller events are being cancelled, people are getting worried even though in the past the “ordinary influenza” tended to be more dangerous.

      As a side note: Our son had the “traditional flu” in January/February and nobody made a fuss about it even though the risks are not small (the rest of us kept healthy nevertheless).

      Alas, it’s no fun here right now.
      Travelling around Germany/Europe is going to get difficult with the neighbouring countries closing the borders and others trying to prevent the illness from spreading by not letting people from risk areas in, too (understandably). So does your husband really want to risk not being allowed to come to NZ again?

      In general, we expect more schools to close, more companies switch to tele-working and the first university has closed down, too.
      At work (I work for a smallish, very international business school) our management tries to keep panic at bay and prepare for lectures to be held as e-courses shortly (if only because parents and students are too frightened). All students are covered by the school’s health insurance and the German health system is quite good, but still.

      All of us will be able to do home office tele-work, but hopefully this will not be ncessary too soon. We try to keep calm and get as much work done as usual (no handshakes allowed, washing hands often and with sanitiser etc.). I often wonder how much is down to sheer exaggeration, but still I do not want my parents or in-laws face a dangerous infection.

      And it’s not easy to fend off panic when the media exhilarates in creating panic.
      Also, it’s cumbersome that nobody knows how long this strange state will last. Will life come to a stand still for a longer period? Not a nice thought.

      I’m not in a risk group, I didn’t have contact with someone with covid-19 that I know of. But I’m taking public transport each day. The kids are at school, we have many many contacts each day. When continuing with life in general, this means attending the kids events e.g. all 3 performances of my daughter’s musical at school with more than one parent with e.g. a raw throat. Who knows to how many non-symptomatic yet infected people I have had contact with? Maybe not a single one had covid-19, but many might have had a cold or the “ordinary” flu.

      Yesterday at work, we contemplated what a 2-week-quarantene in one’s flat would mean. For most of us that would mean staying in as a family. Nobody has the space to stock up with enough supplies to do so easily. And with many in self-imposed or government-imposed quarantine, how is going to deliver the supplies needed?
      So I dearly hope it won’t come to that.

      At least it’s not like the plague.

      All the best from Germany 🙂
      Bavarian Cherry

  33. these snippets from

    “Estimates are ~80% of infections non-severe, including asymptomatic infection” so mostly, don’t worry

    early symptoms of cough and fever(less fever for older adults)

    “clinical signs and symptoms may worsen with progression to lower respiratory tract disease in the second week of illness;”

    So for most people: if some sick for most of a week and suddenly worse, or short of breath then it is time to call medical services for help. Otherwise me, I would stay away from hospitals as much as possible.

    I don’t live alone anymore but if I still did, now would be a good time to set up and trade frequent check ins with other people. I love sms for all’s well kind of notes. minimal effort or contact but a good backstop just in case. Sick people aren’t always best judge of when is enough. I’ve been sick enough that doing something as drastic as making a phone call would have been too hard.

    I’d be willing to be backstop, eg do a phone check on someone who’s stopped sending all’s well sms and help them get help if they needed it for people in Sydney. Important to help each other if we can.

  34. I’ve been reading more technical stuff, to much fear news is bad for me but I like to know what to worry about and what not. So harder to find but may be useful

    links from cdc and john hopkins removed so as not to wait for moderation since I’m already late for this page

    “Estimates are ~80% of infections non-severe, including asymptomatic infection” so mostly, don’t worry

    early symptoms of cough and fever(less fever for older adults)

    “clinical signs and symptoms may worsen with progression to lower respiratory tract disease in the second week of illness;”

    So for most people: if some sick for most of a week and suddenly worse, or short of breath then it is time to call medical services for help. Otherwise me, I would stay away from hospitals as much as possible.

    I don’t live alone anymore but if I still did, now would be a good time to set up and trade frequent check ins with other people. I love sms for all’s well kind of notes. minimal effort or contact but a good backstop just in case. Sick people aren’t always best judge of when is enough. I’ve been sick enough that doing something as drastic as making a phone call would have been too hard.

    I’d be willing to be backstop, eg do a phone check on someone who’s stopped sending all’s well sms and help them get help if they needed it for people in Sydney. Important to help each other if we can.

  35. I am a nurse in an ICU. I’ve always wondered if I would do the right thing. I worked in an AID’s hospice, I was worried about Ebola but this is in my wheelhouse. It helps to have a very, very healthy respect for the flu. All I can do is pray for wisdom, wash my hands and be thankful for the life I have. I am also agnostic, so I guess I’m going with Pascal’s wager.

  36. We don’t really have any high risk factors, but we do live in a densely populated city. I have 2 school age kids and I teach at an international school for adults. Lots of hand washing going on in our house. I’m not so much worried about having a intense case as I am worried about getting a mild case and spreading it unintentionally. We have set by a little extra of our staples, but nothing crazy. It’s also allergy season, so I’m taking my allergy medicine and hoping if I sneeze on public transport, a mob doesn’t push me off.

    Another concern I have is that the schools close and my husband is told to do long term telework at the same time. I realize that is a very, very minor concern compared to a lot of other people’s worries, but I get anxious and worn out when we’re all cooped up together for a snow day.(Speaking of introversion!) A week or two would be rough.

    I also think I need to only check the news briefly, once a day. I cut down on a lot of internet news after the 2016 election and it has only done good things for my mental wellbeing. My consumption has crept up slowly. Time to take my own advice again.

  37. I had mild cold symptoms last Monday, but no fever. Stayed home to work remotely the next day and for the rest of the week, even though by Wednesday I was feeling totally normal.

    I just got enrolled in health insurance for the first time in 15 years or so, but the company sent out a reassuring letter that they would cover COVID testing if done by CDC, so since I’ve had no notification of being exposed to anyone, that hasn’t been an option. Did I have a mild COVID case? A normal cold? (Still winter here, so it’s not like that’s a miracle.)

    South Korea’s drive-thru testing system is a wonderful thing that I’ve read about. With Trump & Pence etc. in charge, that’s never going to happen in the US. I work for a fairly large employer, so it seems quite possible someone there has had an exposure, but I have no way to tell quickly and directly if I get the virus, which seems kind of dreadful to me.

    Worst part about self-isolating with vague “maybe?” symptoms was wearing various pairs of winter gloves around the house to try to keep from exposing my husband (who commutes to work on the DC area subway system). There are a LOT of things that are an irritating hassle trying to do with woolen fingers!

  38. Decades ago, Johnny Carson announced on his late night show that there was a shortage of toilet paper. The response was that stores were cleaned out of toilet paper.

    I think people want to do something in response to an emergency. I’m proud of you Arghers who are volunteering to help people in need or donating. If nowadays there were the constant pitches for agencies that aid people, the news would be reporting how much support there is from the general public. Instead, we hear that we, individually, are in danger. Better buy some toilet paper.

  39. Yesterday, I went to a medical imaging center for a test. I had filled out the paperwork online ahead of time, but they still handed me a list of four questions – had I been to China in the last 6 months, have I been exposed…. I was happy to say no to all four.

    I don’t think I’m in the risk group, but my MIL is definitely elderly, and we see her often. So, not getting ill is a good thing. But, it’s also the start of allergy season, so there’s going to be a lot of sneezing and runny noses around here.

    My other concern is for activities that are being cancelled – either because of an abundance of caution or from fear. My local quilt guild is putting on a show in two weeks. We’re wanting to move forward with it,, so hopefully the venue doesn’t pull the plug! Also hoping we don’t end up as a disease vector!

    1. Oh, and we did make sure we have plenty of cat food. Those guys are pretty unforgiving about missing a meal!

  40. I live in Montgomery County in PA and we have 5 cases of coronavirus, schools are closed. The latest case is a doctor from Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.

  41. Stocking up on cat food might be a good idea since my elder statesman here refuses to eat anything but the usual Lidl brand. He might consider taking raw chicken or salmon, though.

    For us, I refuse to hoard food and toilet paper. We live in a small town and in case we have to stay home quarantined, I know many people who would do my shopping just as I would do it for them.

  42. I have the constitution of an ox, so I am usually very resistive to disease, and therefore happily and/or overly optimistically confident of continued health. I leave tomorrow for a trip to Canada, but driving and staying with friends, so no worries. I have a work trip to SF scheduled for April, but counting on my constitution and hand washing, and just hoping that our customers feel comfortable enough to come to our (private, invitation only) shows, but can certainly understand anyone who feels at risk staying home.

    I do have 3 months worth of chocolate on hand, but can’t make any such claims for other food products. My attempts to have backstock usually result in my eventually throwing away cans of soup that had expired 2 years previously, and DH doesn’t eat rice, pasta, etc. any more, so that’s out. I admire all of you who manage better!

  43. I’m over 70 now, and after the horrible flu/respiratory disease of December I’ve been social distancing for months. Do not want anything similar to that again. Always get my flu shot in October and have breezed through winter months without even a cold, but not this season.
    Yesterday, I cancelled the April trip to Australia for my mother’s memorial (Family are questioning if it should be held later in the year) and a giant weight has been lifted. Besides, if they’re out of toilet paper, definitely not going. Ha ha.

  44. I live in a state with 3 confirmed cases and a nervous governor. (He probably thinks he’s being proactive.) So a lot of colleges, including mine, are closing or on essential personnel only. Info is sketchy at this point, but if I am not essential (and I suspect I am not, not without the students here), I will have two weeks off without pay, the joy of being classified as part-time non-regular staff, which makes me think of digestive trouble.
    I need dark chocolate and darjeeling tea for self-imposed isolation, which will not bother my introverted self. So far, I’ve picked up cat food. No panic around here–the 3 cases are several hundred miles away. Having survived cancer, I consider myself sort of immune to any other big things anyway, which is illogical, I know.

    1. For some reason, that and Tom Hanks were a one-two punch. I am not really interesting in either the NBA or Hanks, but it did seem to support the No One Is Safe feeling.

  45. My life is being affected, various plans and events canceled or curtailed. Some of them are really important to me. And my income may be affected. But this won’t be life altering or threaten my ability to buy food or keep a roof over my head, so I am fortunate.

    I’m not very worried about getting sick, because I assume I’ll get better. I AM worried about infecting others, though, so if I am exposed, I’ll self-quarantine. That will be very disruptive to my life… though less so than I originally thought, given how many things are being postponed, canceled, shut down, etc.

    1. Unfortunately for this virus old is over 60. I have until May….

      For those of you pondering travel make sure your airline is in decent financial health. My husband who was inLondon but needed to fly to Amsterdam to get his flight home tried to check in a week or so ago and the company had gone into bankruptcy. Fortunately he could rebook. He and I both speak at a lot of conferences as does my daughter so among us I think we have 7 or 8 canceled conferences? My son as a grad student can stay at the university but has to do his research remotely and—heartbreakingly for him —gymnastics is canceled. I just told my staffer to work from home as she lives with grandparents.

      I did stock us up but I keep a full pantry and it wasn’t a big deal. It did give me flashbacks to when my 9 year old daughter announced at bed time that she was supposed to bring in bread jam honey and butter for a medieval feast at school and I had unopened versions of all. No epidemic will leave my family unfed.

    2. That’s what I’m thinking. Life will just slow down. People will cocoon. If everybody stays home, the hospitals won’t be overwhelmed since the curve of infection will be flattened.

  46. We’re supposed to go to the Olympics in Japan this summer…waiting with baited breath to see if it’s cancelled or changed, because if it is, the tix are non-refundable.

    That said, we did just get back from 3 days at Disneyland (squeezed in our trip before they shut it down) and after EVERY ride, meal, or anything where we had to touch something, we all headed to the bathrooms to wash our hands. Sorely disappointed in MouseCo for not having hand sanitizer stations everywhere.

    As for holing up, my kids are home for the last few days of spring break and my husband is now working from home, so I’ll have my office door shut, praying they can be quiet. And oh yeah, lots of video games for my kids. We have TP and PT and lots of food in the freezer. The dog is set, and I don’t think there will be a run on parakeet food anytime soon.

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