Five lessons learned from our first two weeks in self-quarantine

We started to self-quarantine two weeks ago on March 3rd. Most of our friends and family thought we were crazy, on Twitter some people called me a “fear monger” and ridiculed our overreaction to something they said was “just like the common flu.” Today, San Francisco has asked everyone to self-quarantine and it’s very likely cities and states across the country will be doing the same very soon.

So why did we start a self-quarantine two weeks ago while everyone else was living their normal lives here? We focused on reading news from Asia and listening to Doctors and medical professionals, all said the same thing — the sooner we can all stay home, the quicker we can reduce the community spread…and yes, community spread started more than two weeks ago.

I heard people say things like, “you’re young and healthy so why are you doing this?” Then I’d tell them that any of us could have it, not know, and potentially give it to someone who is older or immune compromised and give it to them. I care about our community and want to do my part. Additionally, if the estimates are right, around 70% of Americans will get this, I’d like to be in the 30% that doesn’t.

So, we started our self-quarantine on Tuesday, March 3rd, today is Tuesday, March 17th and the whole city has been ordered to self-quarantine. Having been in quarantine for two weeks now we’ve learned a few things that I thought would be helpful to share with other people just getting started.

1.Place online grocery orders early — gone are the days of same-day or even next-day grocery delivery. The good news is, grocery delivery is still alive and well and it looks like it’s going to continue, but it’s going to take longer, likely a lot longer. We’ve learned to place orders a week in advance so if it does take a week to deliver, that’s what we’re expecting.

2. Prime Now and Instacart have a bug you should be aware of — I’m hoping they fix this bug soon but for now it exists and we learned our lesson the hard way over a week ago. As the same-day delivery apps like Amazon Prime Now and Instacart get overloaded they’ll still say things like, “Delivery available in two hours” on the front page and they’ll let you spend 15 minutes loading up your cart. Then, when you go to the checkout screen it will say that no deliveries are available and to check back later. This means you wasted your time and now you have to go find another online grocery store and start the whole process again.

The way to get around this, or at least know what you’re dealing with before wasting a bunch of time is to just add one thing to your cart, then go to checkout and make sure they can actually deliver.

3. Shop at smaller independent grocery stores rather than the big chains
I’ve seen photos of Costco, Trader Joes, and local super markets with massively long lines and bare shelves. First things first, you don’t want to be in a crowded store full of people who aren’t properly protecting themselves from spreading the virus. In most of the photos I’ve seen, nobody is wearing a mask or gloves. Remember, people can feel completely fine for up to two weeks, the whole time they can be spreading the virus. In short — being in a crowded store full of people very likely means you are increasing your chance of exposure.

What we learned early on is that smaller independent grocery stores (Harvest Market is the one closes to us) have fully stocked shelves and aren’t crowded. Yesterday we walked to Harvest Market (wearing a mask, eyewear, and gloves) and there were maybe ten people total in the entire store, everything was in-stock, and there was no line for the cash register.

About an hour later we walked by Trader Joes, there was a line of over 100 people (and nobody was social distancing) and I saw photos on Twitter of bare shelves and people just taking what they could find.

Now is the best time to support your local independent grocery store and you’d be surprised how normal it is inside them. I’ve also heard that people have had a great experience shopping at grocery stores in Chinatown and this is a great opportunity to support these businesses as well.

4. You need to wear the right kind of mask, and wear it correctly, to actually protect yourself and others

While it’s impossible to find the cheap N95 respirator masks online, you can find even better options that are safer and easier to get an air tight seal with. We bought a very small supply of N95 respirator masks on February 15th, yes — we were pretty early on this one. That being said, we do not have a lot of these masks, I wanted to make sure to only take the bare minimum so that other people and medical workers would have access.

What I did buy, that we use the most when we go outside, is a more heavy duty mask that is a NOISH N100 rated safety respirator, the Trend Air Stealth half mask:

Sure, you might look a bit ridiculous, but at a time like this it’s okay to put health and safety over fashion sense IMO. Most countries around the world are encouraging people to wear respirator masks, but there’s a lot of confusion around different types of masks. It’s important to know the difference between surgical masks vs. N95 (and higher) respirator masks, here’s the skinny:

One thing you’ll note when reading about the N95 Respirator is that it does need to be properly fitted. There are tons of videos online about how to wear the mask properly, for guys, you’re probably going to need to shave your beard. That being said, you can don some beard types, here’s the details:

5. Get fresh produce from services like Farm Fresh To You

While your local grocery store might be running low on delicious fruits and veggies, there are services that deliver produce from local farms. Here in San Francisco there are a few options, we’re currently using two — Farm Fresh To You and Golden Gate Organics.

The nice thing about these services is that not only do you get nice fresh organic produce, you’re also supporting local farmers and avoiding spending time at crowded grocery stores. That being said, don’t forget about tip #3, smaller independent stores have really come through for us and so far we haven’t had to sacrifice any of the fruits and veggies we’re used to eating.

I hope this is helpful for those of you who are just getting started, if you’re interested in seeing a bit more about what our first few days in quarantine were like, I made a few videos that can give you a taste of what it was like as we got into what has become our new normal.

Coronavirus Quarantine — Day One

Coronavirus Quarantine — Day Two

Coronavirus Quarantine — Day Three

More to come, if this is helpful a few claps can go a long way!

co-founder at Bold Metrics| previously at Sonos | I write a lot and take way too many photos