Should you wash your groceries?

A lot of people have switched to online grocery shopping, in light of the Coronavirus. The idea is that you will come into contact with less people; instead of other shoppers, the only threat is the employees collecting and delivering your food. But the risk still remains, and food is a necessity. So the question is, how do you protect yourself from Coronavirus on your groceries?

The most common answer seems to be the same as with all other deliveries: isolate the packages for a few days, then clean off all disposable surfaces. At least, that’s what my household has been doing. After ever grocery delivery, my mom moves the food into the laundry room, where she sprays down the packaging before putting it away.  However, there are conflicting sources regarding if that should be done.

For example, a tweet from the FDA said that there is no evidence of transmission through food packaging, and cleaning everything is not necessary. Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a scientist studying the virus, even said they don’t wash the packaging: they wash their hands after unpacking, but that’s it. Lloyd-Smith claims the concern over packaging came after reports of Coronavirus remaining on surfaces for days, but that study didn’t take factors like humidity, and the real number is closer to 8 hours.

Despite this, my mom still wipes off all the food we get. She argues it’s better safe than sorry, and I don’t disagree. If it’s not hurting anyone, and it puts your mind at ease, it’s fine to keep washing your groceries. It’s just not needed.

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Religion in Quarantine

Last week, two major religions celebrated some of their biggest holidays: Jews celebrated Passover, and Christians celebrated Easter. Both of these holidays involve large gatherings. However, Coronavirus has dictated that this be changed. While some ignored the order and attended services as normal, many chose to stay at home instead.

This is the first time in recent memory that churches have been closed for long periods of time. The pope ordered Catholics to not attend Easter mass, instead suggesting that people attend virtual services. He has been streaming services as well. A recent study found that most churches saw a massive drop in physical attendance, in compliance with social distancing. The graph shows foot traffic at religious institutions across the US.

However, some are arguing that the restriction on religious gatherings goes against the First Amendment, and have been meeting anyway. What’s interesting to note is that large outbreaks in some areas can be traced back to religious gatherings. In South Korea, “Patient 31” attended a congregation and caused a massive uptick in cases.

Similarly, Jews all over the world attended virtual seders to comply with stay at home orders. Unlike Easter, Passover is a holiday spent with family, all having a large feast and retelling the story of Exodus. Instead of attending virtual mass, Jews held large-scale Zoom sessions with extended family. Though there are a few cases of Orthodox Jews ignoring the stay-at-home orders in Israel, I found that virtual Passover was more widely accepted than virtual Easter. My family celebrated Passover by watching the movie version of Exodus (Prince of Egypt, not Ten Commandments), and Zooming with our cousins. Interestingly, the struggle of Passover was not the distance, but rather finding the traditional food in stores.

Coronavirus and the shutdown of telescopes

An interesting casualty of the coronavirus shutdowns are large telescopes. Major observatories all over the world are closing to stop the spread of infection. For some, this is the first time they’ve closed since their creation. Observatory staff members come from all over the world, and the observatories receive many visitors. So, it makes sense that the research centers close. However, this means that a lot of research can’t be done.

Only vital staff is allowed to work at the observatories for now. Those people keep the telescopes in good condition until research can restart. But this means that people who have spent their entire careers preparing to study at a major telescope now are unable to finish their research. Some things are only visible at certain times, and so researches will now have to wait even longer.

The most interesting story is the one of TMT. The telescope will be built atop Maunakea, a sacred mountain in Hawaiian culture. This observatory has been contested for years. For scientists, Maunakea is a great spot for an observatory, as it is high up, where the atmosphere has less of an impact. For the people, however, this mountain is incredibly important, and a large building would ruin it. A truce has been in place since late 2019, where no arrests would be made and no material would be brought up for construction. The Coronavirus is likely to extend that truce. Protestors have been advised to stay at home if they are at risk.

We should be considering the impact Coronavirus is having not just on people, but on society as a whole. Progress on major projects, research, and other goals has been severely damaged by COVID19. But we can look at these issues from a new perspective now.

Coronavirus and Renters

All over the world, Coronavirus is forcing nonessential businesses to close. In order to keep the businesses afloat, some have had to layoff employees. In the US, a staggering 10 million people have filed for unemployment in the past 2 weeks. Most people believe that this unemployment spike is only temporary, however it doesn’t change the fact that millions are without reliable income during a global pandemic. The US government has taken certain steps to help mitigate this crisis. For one, the CARE Act gives each American $1200 to help pay for expenses that arise from Coronavirus. The federal government has also granted homeowners a year-long mortgage break, should they need one. However, these benefits aren’t for renters.

In response to this possible disaster, many communities across the US staged a renters strike on April 1st. If no one pays their rent, then no one can get evicted. Some states have halted evictions as a direct response, but it is not enough. Landlords who face renters strike are afraid they will default on their loans. A few landlords have been reported to threaten legal action, while others are offering payment delays with interest. This only delays or worsens the problems. Unemployed renters cannot afford legal action, and delaying payment means the unemployed are now in debt.

As landlords demand April 1 rent, some tenants are going on strike ...

This situation is an important one to follow because it will only get worse as the Coronavirus crisis continues. The longer people go without proper employment, the harder it will become to pay rent. The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in the US exceeds $1000. This means that the government provided relief only covers one month of rent. So, a renter who has been laid off only has one month rent before they face eviction. In states were evictions are not halted, the homeless population will rise, forcing people to go outside despite any shelter in place laws currently in affect. In fact, those shelter in place laws are hurting the homeless. Homeless shelters are very susceptible to the virus, and confirmed cases causes them to shut down, leaving their inhabitants stranded.

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