Life with COVID-19
In the last week, our lives have changed, and I expect they will continue to change. Here in the Seattle area the situation is pretty fluid, and I expect we are just an early example of what most of you will (or have) felt in the past week.
Many employers (who can) have asked their employees to work from home for the next several weeks. Many schools have closed for 5-6 weeks, are thinking of closing and have looked to online curriculum.
I have several emotions that I’ve gone through around:
The certainty that I had around future plans (work and personal travel and vacations)
The certainty that I can order and purchase nearly anything I want whenever I want
The certainty that my kids will have a consistent schedule and attend school each day
My own work routines and schedule
My feeling is that this situation has some of the effects and impacts of a natural disaster except in slow motion and world wide. The changes we’ve experienced are not sudden - they are evolving.
One thing is clear. The math tells the story of the number and the impact. Not impacted yet? You will be.
I don’t know what the future will hold, but I thought I would share how I had previously prepared for a natural disaster and what we’ve done and considered since the start of this situation.
Natural Disaster supplies
note - many / most of these things will be out of stock. Sorry.
This product can take lake water and turn it into drinking water. I’ve had one for a few years. If the water supply is interrupted then we at least have a backup supply.
We have a stockpile of Emergency Food that we purchased a few years ago. Rule of thumb is a 30 day supply. I purchased all my Emergency Food from Mountain House. I specifically like these buckets and, they have a 30-year shelf life.
Emergency food is for emergencies and for supply chain disruptions.
To do the math for how much you need.
3 meals per day x number of people x number of days.
So for 30 days, you would need 360 servings for 4 people. Each bucket has 32 servings.
There are cheaper options. My approach - if I’m eating this stuff for 30 days and it’s all we have - I want it to not suck. It might be the only thing we have to look forward to!
Last year we had Tesla Batteries installed (two). They are powered by our solar panels. This gives us peace of mind that if there is a disruption to our energy supply we have renewable power.
If you camp you are all set. I have a bunch of camping supplies that I use and that’s our backup. That includes things like a burner and gas to have the ability to boil water.
Bug out Bag
A few years ago I purchased these great REI Emergency Kits. Each one is for 2 people. They don’t make them any more but there are similar products.
Bulk Food and Supplies
If you tried to get non-perishable food last week it was a bit difficult. I discovered this incredible web site called FoodServiceDirect - they are a restaurant supplier and sell in bulk. Their prices are amazing.
This isn’t so much emergency food. It’s the food we will eat but maintain a stockpile through the next few months.
Examples of items I purchased
Clorox To Go Fresh Scent Disinfectant Wipe - good luck finding these anywhere but if there is one thing I plan to do is wipe down every inch of an airline seat / tray / surface I have to touch.
Parmalat Shelf Stable Milk - if you grew up in a third world country you probably know what shelf-stable milk is. Basically it’s milk that doesn’t need refrigeration till you open it up. Well, I purchased a case of it so the kids (and the adults) can continue our supply of milk in an emergency.
Jasmine Rice - always a good idea to have a lot of rice on hand.
Organic Penne Pasta - we eat a lot of Pasta so we ordered a few cases of this. The cost is pretty great.
Cereal - lots of choices in bulk.
Purell - lots and lots and lots of products to choose from.
Working from Home
It’s now the reality of nearly every knowledge worker in Seattle that they are working from home for the next 3 weeks and possibly longer.
Here are some products to make this work well
My buddy Benedikt (who works remotely full time) has some great tips as does my other friend Scott Hanselman who is also remote full time.
I’ve been using a standing desk at work for 10 years. I am already worn out from sitting down at home for a day. So I ordered one of these Vari standing desk products so I can convert an existing desk to a standing desk. My wife is a fan and this recommendation comes from her.
The most important thing when you get a standing desk is a matt to stand on. If you don’t you will be very uncomfortable.
If you aren’t using a product like Microsoft Teams or Zoom - now is the time. My boss now runs the Teams organization at Microsoft so FYI. Zoom is great if you are not interested in the “Microsoft stack”. Microsoft published a great article on how you can use Teams for remote work.
In my opinion, the best way to use Teams is on an iPad or iPhone. It’s easier to stay “present” and not multi-task, the battery life is better, the performance is better etc.
The best Teams feature are awesome background blur and backgrounds. This helps avoid having your messy room in every video :-).
You might want to consider increasing your internet plan to something faster. Comcast has a nasty 1TB cap that you cannot go over without paying more. I pay for unlimited data.
If you have a lot of future travel planned - now is the time to figure out if you have protection.
Here is what I suggest
Check your credit card benefits and read the fine print. Rule of thumb - the more you pay in yearly feels the better the benefits but there are restrictions and limits on everything. Buying your own Insurance plan and Medical Evacuation plan is always going to have fewer restrictions.
For example the Chase Saphire Reserve card has the following trip cancellation and interuption insurance
If your trip is cancelled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels
In the coverage details, Chase discussed quarantine
Quarantine of You or Your Traveling Companion imposed by a Physician or by a competent governmental authority having jurisdiction, due to health reasons
Quarantine – You or Your Traveling Companion is forced into medical isolation by a recognized government authority, their authorized deputies, or medical examiners due to You or Your Traveling Companion either having, or being suspected of having, a contagious disease, infection, or contamination
What don’t they cover?
Your disinclination to travel due to an epidemic or pandemic
If you have not booked airline tickets for summer or fall travel - do so now. Every airline is offering the ability to change tickets if purchased by March 16 or March 31. This allows you to buy a ticket now and then change your mind without paying any penalty (which can range from $100 per person to $500 and more). Also, tickets are pretty discounted now (let’s hope the airlines don’t go out of business).
This is very unusual. Airlines are notorious for being INCREDIBLY inflexible unless you pay a huge premium for refundable tickets. Their survival is at stake here so they are increasingly being more consumer-friendly.
If you didn’t get travel insurance and your credit card doesn’t offer included travel insurance decide if it makes sense to buy some. I purchased travel insurance for a number of upcoming trips that are not refundable. I use Travel Insured International.
There are two types of insurance
Cancel for any reason - the most expensive must be purchased within 21 days of paying for your vacation
Regular - protects you if you become ill, have a death in the family, or something prevents you from traveling like a natural disaster, closing borders, etc. You cannot cancel because you are “worried”. If someone in your family gets the flu or Coronavirus and you cannot travel - this is covered.
I find that regular insurance works for my kind of travel and risk profile.
Note - it’s really important to know that most travel insurance (except cancel for any reason) does not cover you if your airline cancels or delays your flight
Travel arrangements canceled or changed by a common carrier, tour operator, or any travel agency unless the cancellation is the result of severe weather or an organized strike affecting public transportation
What I have learned is that a pandemic is in the “gray area” for travel disruptions. For example, if I am not able to travel because I live in Seattle - it’s not clear what covers that type of travel restriction if I miss a flight or vacation.
Forbes has a good overview of the ins and outs. In short - it depends.
I have this insurance. I pay $350/year for the whole family. If anyone of us is hospitalized for any reason in a foreign country we will be transported back to the United States (hospital of choice) using a private jet or commercial carrier.
AirMed and Medjet are two big operators.
Our kids still have planed school (for now). However, we are preparing for a very extended period of online learning. For that reason, I suggest you think about dedicated computers for them to complete their learning activities.
To be continued….
Well, hopefully, these tips help you acquire some things that you will need now and in the coming months and years.
Stay safe, stop hugging and shaking hands, wash your hands every time you enter your house and before you eat, practice good hygiene and minimize or eliminate any unnecessary human interactions. That’s really all you can do.
I think our lives will be forever changed after this incident. I foresee Americans changing their individualistic views on society and health (universal care, sick leave, safety net).
I see employers questioning if physical interaction in expensive buildings and campuses are required 5 days a week. Driving around these past few days it’s incredible how little traffic there is. Our lifestyles might not be compatible with this kind of future threat.