Coronavirus fears changing my ways

Editor’s note: This column was written earlier in the week before all the big news hit.

By Steve Powell

I’m a hugger. Anyone who knows me knows that. But at least temporarily I’m not. And it feels weird, like I’m changing my entire personality.

The first time it felt awkward was at church Sunday. My worship team leader came in for a hug. That was unusual because about a year ago when I first hugged him it was awkward, something he wasn’t used to. And just when he started to feel comfortable about it I had to say – can’t because of the coronavirus.

When his wife, the pastor, started coming over later for a hug he told her – can’t.

That was a strange morning anyway. The church was empty. We had changed from three services to one, and it was only online. There wouldn’t have been anyone there except some board members came to announce the pastor is being transferred to Edmonds.

I really felt bad then that I couldn’t hug the couple. I didn’t because I am at risk. I’m over 60 and have diabetes. So I’d rather be safe than sorry. We have some old friends who we haven’t seen in years, but they both have coronavirus, and he’s in the hospital. So it doesn’t just happen to people who are already really sick.

We had a personal scare when my wife got sick. Just to be sure she was tested. She just had a bad cold, but in a time like this we wanted to be sure.

There are so many unknowns about it. In some ways it feels like society is overreacting; at other times it doesn’t. In many ways it doesn’t seem much different from the flu, which people die from every year, especially those with existing conditions. But people are in such a panic over this locally it’s hard not to get wrapped up in precautions. My wife, who is a nurse, says that’s because we are at Ground Zero. Most of the deaths in this country have happened here, specifically at a care center in Kirkland.

The coronavirus has helped us all remember what our moms used to say. I have a hard time washing my hands for 20 seconds. Using the happy birthday song I can’t get through it twice. I usually get to “dear” the first time through and stop. But I’m more conscientious about it now.

Cleaning your house and work places also are a good idea. A little disinfectant more than once a year is probably good. And I’ve learned to cough and sneeze into my elbow the last decade or so.

Another awkward instance came up Tuesday when as Kiwanis president I was involved in Student of the Month interviews at Marysville Getchell High School. My fellow judges and the students wanted to politely shake my hand, but I awkwardly said can’t. A couple of the students put me at ease with elbow bumps.

And then I wondered if I should cancel the Kiwanis meeting Wednesday. Our club doesn’t have many members who show up, but we are older, some with underlying health conditions, and we do meet at a public restaurant. We decided to meet but it was very understandable if people didn’t show up. Only two of us did.

So for the time being, no hugs or hand-shaking please. I’m liking the elbow bump. Germs get passed around all the time through handshaking anyway.

Steve Powell is managing editor of The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times. His Backseat Coach column runs as needed.