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Upside Down – Retiring in a Corona Virus World

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

March 16, 2020 — Wow, life has turned upside down in the last few weeks. A localized epidemic in one Chinese province of a new virus, COVID-19, has spread around the globe and landed as a pandemic in the USA and the rest of the world. The toilet paper aisle is barren (we’re not sure why!), and hand sanitizers and disinfectants aren’t available at any price.  Just about everything is closing. Note: we have a separate Blog post with great Member input on “The Corona Virus and Your Retirement Portfolio: Buy, Hold, or Panic!

The world is in crisis. Compared to other groups, the pandemic will not affect most of us retirees as drastically as it will the working age population. Our travel and social plans will be disrupted and our retirement portfolios are shrinking. We certainly won’t be checking out any new places to retire, at least in person (although we will have plenty of time to do it online!). But there will be isolation, depression, and anxiety. It is also shocking to realize that as baby boomers, we are in the high risk category!

The point of this article is threefold. First, to give links and some basic information about the virus and how to manage your exposure as a person who is much more likely to become seriously ill than the general population. Second, to answer some questions. And third and most interestingly, to get Member Comments on how you are handling the virus. We’ve posed a number of questions about your recent experiences and outlook, and look forward to your Comments at the end of this article.

Not just physical and economic – there is an emotional component

“There are going to be a lot of mental health issues after this.”

Dr. Molly Brady – Emergency Medicine Physician in California

Beyond the economic and physical health effects, many people are feeling extreme anxiety about the Corona Virus – and we are just in the beginning of the crisis. It is a difficult situation because the only way we can control it is to limit our contact with other people. On the other hand this is a time for us all to pull together as a community, nation, and globe. Although we can’t and shouldn’t be together physically, it is fortunate that we can support one another by staying connected virtually. We hope you will reach out to others and do what you can to lessen our respective worries and burdens.

Best advice and links

First of all, DON’T PANIC.  We are a resilient country, and the odds of you become infected are small. The sooner we all take this seriously the better. Listen to authorities and follow basic procedures to reduce the risks even further. We must all pull together to do our part to stop the spread of this strange new menace. As of March 16 the NY Times reports that there have 5,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and the number is growing fast as testing kicks in. By March 23 the number of cases was 33,000. Most cases are in NY, Washington, and California.

Empty toilet paper aisle

Here is a summary of many of the basics from the CDC and other experts, just in case you haven’t seen them yet. This link provides many more sound pieces of advice: Note that the situation is changing almost hourly, stay informed and follow instructions.

1. Try not to touch anything in a public place with your bare hands. Use a tissue, your sleeve, or elbow to open doors and push buttons.

2. Avoid unnecessary travel, particularly by air and cruise ship.

3. Keep your #socialdistance  – at least 6 feet from other people.

4. Avoid large gatherings where there are lots of people. Stay home unless you absolutely have to go somewhere.

“Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.”
— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

5. Don’t shake hands or hug other people.  Have fun with an elbow bump or a bow with folded hand, which is actually a very nice custom!

6. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.

7. Disinfect your phone, credit card, etc. any time it comes in contact with another person or surface. Use a wipe or spray that is proven to kill germs.

8. Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze. Blow your nose with a tissue and then dispose of it and then wash your hands.

9. DO NOT SHOW UP UNANNOUNCED. If you display symptoms or know you have been exposed to the virus, call your healthcare professional for instructions. If you have symptoms assume you have it. Don’t go to ER unless you feel like you need to be admitted to the hospital. The worst thing you can do is contaminate our health care professionals in this crisis.

10. Don’t fall for the many testing or product scams that are emerging.  


Q. What should I do if I think I have been exposed to the virus, or if I feel symptoms coming on?

A. Check with your hospital or medical provider’s website. DO NOT JUST SHOW UP in an ER, clinic, or doctor’s office with symptoms  – they need to know you are coming and prepare.  If you are pretty confident you were exposed to the virus, self-quarantining will probably be the right response – but check with your medical professional. 

Q: What are the symptoms for having the virus?

A: Fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing are the major ones. If you are having shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or blue lips, you need to call your doctor right away. Symptoms usually appear 2-14 days from exposure.

Q. How can I get tested for the COVID 19 virus?

A. Unfortunately, availability in the US is not  yet where it should be. Testing kits are so limited that they need to be reserved for the most vulnerable population. Some communities, states, and cities are in better shape than others. Drive through testing is coming. Many commercial labs are able to run the test for the virus but they can’t do the swab, although that might change in the next week or two. The Villages in Central Florida plans to offering it to its residents, after they have been screened by telemedicine. You can call your doctor to find out about the possibilities, and whether they think it is called for.  Look online or call your city health department to see where there might be a testing site near you. Telemedicine might be the solution here, where a doctor can evaluate you from a safe distance.

Q. I just travelled on a cruise ship or airplane and am worried I might have been exposed. What should I do?

A. Stay home. A city bus could potentially represent the same amount of exposure as a cross country flight on an airplane.  The prudent path is to assume that you were exposed, so you should limit your contact with others after you return.  Remove your shoes and wash your clothing when you return. 

Q. What about my appointments with people I have physical contact with  – barbers, manicurists, masseuses, dentists, etc. – should I cancel?

A.  Right now the safest policy is to cancel. Stay home.

Q. I have a big trip planned in the next few months – should I cancel?

A. Another tough question.  Hopefully we will get this pandemic under control and normal life can resume. But what if it doesn’t?  The CDC recommends you avoid unessential air travel at this time, and especially avoid cruise ships. The airlines, right now anyway, are being generous about rebooking. They might cancel your flight anyway, as has happened with most cruises. If you have only paid a deposit so far, you might want to consider forfeiting it, or trying to get future credit.

Q: How effective are quarantines?

A: Quarantines work. The Washington Post has a fascinating interactive article (available free) which displays what happens under various quarantine scenarios (none, small, moderate, strict). Watch it and you will learn a lot.

Questions for you to answer in the Comments section.

As we mentioned We hope we can have a lively discussion on all aspects of your reactions and changes to your everyday life in this new and shocking Corona Virus world. Please give your brief reactions below. Some of the topics we are interested in hearing about are: What in your life has changed? Are you worried and anxious? How are you protecting yourself?  Have you cancelled travel plans?  Have you quit certain activities or had them cancelled? Are you still going out to dinner or attending social events?  If you are having to stay home more than you would like, how are you entertaining yourself?  Have you tried to get tested, and if so, how did that go? Please share your experiences so we can all benefit from them.

Bottom line – You Are Expendable: Lest you think this is a phony crisis or don’t want to take this issue seriously, consider this. In Italy, where the need for medical resources like hospital beds and ventilators is overwhelming, it is reported that doctors are deciding who will be left to die and who will be treated. People over 60 are among those who will not get treatment.

Caution: We are not medical professionals, our goal here is to provide some basic background information and elicit discussion. Rely on the CDC, your medical professionals, and state and city health departments as your primary information source.

Further reading

Corona Virus and Your Portfolio – Buy, Sell, Hold

CDC Information

Posted by Admin on March 16th, 2020


  1. I’ll keep my contrarian views on this to myself but being a severe optimist and a life-long germophobe will hope that those who rarely washed they hands before this will develop a hand-washing habit that will continue after this passes. In the meantime, here’s a link with info on where you can stream Broadway shows if you need something to watch 🙂

    by Jean — March 17, 2020

  2. To Jean: I applaud your comment about hand washing. As a nurse I keep hand sanitizer with me at all times. Washing my hands is just like breathing to me.

    by Kathy — March 17, 2020

  3. Thank God a few weeks ago I planned ahead and did all my shopping online or by delivery services. I hear many friends scrambling trying to find food to buy or just scared to order online. I’m just glad that we’re no longer working and we started social distancing a few weeks ago. At the end of this hopefully we will learn how to be more careful and mindfall to others. My best wishes to all….stay safe and healthy.

    by Mary11 — March 17, 2020

  4. Already I am seeing some sticky problems come up. The city closed the park with the tennis courts, but people are saying tennis is healthy and if we keep our distances we are safe. The contrary is we all have to be super careful. In our condo association the issue is the pool. The CDC says pools and hot tubs are safe if properly maintained. But with the city closing parks and beaches, what should we do? We could lock all the chairs and tables up since the staff can’t disinfect them, or post a sign that they are not disinfected and use at your own risk. Tough questions.

    by Rick — March 17, 2020

  5. I went out yesterday to pick up a prescription at a nearby pharmacy (which is encouraging patrons to use delivery instead). It was a ghost town. I drove by a mall, and could count the cars on one hand. Even the large grocery store only had a handful of cars. Our county has 60+ diagnosed cases so far, and the numbers are quickly climbing. Yesterday a TSA officer working at our regional airport (Cleveland OH) was diagnosed. Hundreds of people have doctors orders to be tested, and the drive-through testing sites were overwhelmed by cars & had to shut down early yesterday. My cleaning lady said their company is receiving countless calls asking for disinfection services, but they aren’t accepting any new clients. My kids in health care have reminded me that 80% of cases will be asymptomatic, or have common cold/flu symptoms. The goal is to keep that 20% from overwhelming health care resources like in Italy. Since Covid-19 is allegedly 30% more contagious than the common flu, the risks from that 20% requiring medical resources at the same time is genuine. After all, hospitals have limited numbers of ventilators, etc. As an introvert, being stuck in the house with my kindle is not a huge hardship right now.

    I’m obviously worried about my kids who work in a hospital — and worry about my neighbors, who are seniors that have health issues. One has a spouse in a nursing home (nursing homes are now closed to visitors). By the way — our suburb’s Facebook page and sites like have people who are offering to run errands for seniors, so they can remain quarantined & safe. It might be helpful to check if you have similar resources available.

    by Kate — March 18, 2020

  6. Kathy, Prior to a career change to technology and then pharm, I was also a nurse (in the 70s), worked for about 8 years for a large county nursing home (300+beds) that was in a building that had been an isolation hospital. It was like working in a museum. All the doors had huge hooks (no knobs and no push plates) to open and close with elbows and all of the sinks had a stirrup-like lever for knee control )right for cold, left for warm and center to turn off). There were old autoclaves in what we used for break rooms and a number of “iron lungs were stored in the sub basement. Several staff members had worked there when it was an isolation hospital, besides TB and polio they’d get measles, and other contagion. That building still stands but has been empty for years. It was used in the movie A Beautiful Mind, the scenes supposed to be at MIT were filmed there.

    by Jean — March 18, 2020

  7. Waiting for the food supply chain to break down. Grocers, deliver companies, meat packers, dairy, prepared food manufacturers and packagers. Restaurants and bars and all schools shutdown at least until end of month here. Suddenly shots rang out… A wet washcloth can always substitute for TP.

    But gas will be cheap; Canadian crude $9/bbl today…

    by Peder — March 18, 2020

  8. We don’t really consider ourselves as “elderly” and are just over 60 but apparently still “at risk” for all of this Covid19! We are retired and moved here two years ago. We were delighted to have two kids (middle school?), from down the street, knock on our door the other day, and step back. They had taped a paper on the outside of the glass that offers to take our lists and do any shopping we need – should we be sick or too scared to go to the grocery store – all for FREE – delivered to our door! I’m pretty sure they did this around the block. Take heart – there are some amazing kids in New England!!

    by Flatearth6 — March 18, 2020

  9. ….To cope, I have a nice supply of bourbon….a nice comfortable rocking chair….178 channels to pick from…did I say a nice supply of bourbon ?

    by Uncle al — March 18, 2020

  10. Some VERY good news from the front lines! In the study reported a combo of 2 existing drugs, chloroquine and Azithromycin (Zithromax) cleared the virus from all patients treated. It was a small study but the results are very positive.

    Editor’s note: This does sound promising, although the Dr. Fauci and others says there is no proof yet, and there are serious risks associated with those drugs. The combo test was among 20 patients – encouraging certainly but a tiny group. See–it-might-just-work/

    by Jean — March 19, 2020

  11. My retirement job is working in a school as a Special Ed teacher. These are very stressful times. I am 68 and a cancer patient. Before the closed the schools, I was very anxious about this virus. I follow news carefully and saw this coming, but nobody was speaking about it. Now, I am totally isolated at home and we are meeting online to get remote learning up and running. The students are very anxious and depressed and the parents are now in the position of trying to homeschool their children, or have to leave them at home alone while they work. These are very difficult times for families and for me. I pray, keep busy figuring these lessons out. My investment savings have been decimated. I have a grown child living alone in a very large city and she cannot come home because I am at such high risk and she has been riding the subway daily. God, help us all.

    by Maimi — March 19, 2020

  12. Maimi, you have the perfect platform to start a program of youth and their at-home parents helping older members of the community by delivering groceries, etc. They keep saying you feel stronger and more optimistic by helping others, what a great time to impart life lessons to a new generation. While we might need a come-to-Jesus moment for some of the self-absorbed brats spring-breaking, bar-hopping, and “influencers” bloviating online, you can still educate the younger ones about everyone’s responsibility to each other in a society. I’m seeing heartwarming stories on TV and online everyday. One of my favorites was the group karaoke uniting friends and strangers online in a bit of levity. This is your chance to inspire and enlighten.

    by Daryl — March 19, 2020

  13. Looking for something to watch while hunkered down? Here’s a great vid on “what is a virus”? This is just on lecture from a full virology course, if you find it interesting there ae additional lectures from the same course listed with it on youtube 🙂

    by Jean — March 19, 2020

  14. Daryl, my students would warm your heart. They call concerned about me. They are all so sweet, but are extremely anxious and sad that they can’t be at school. I am impressed by these younger folks, and that includes the Millennials. I have a 28 year old daughter in NYC , and she and her friends are the hardest working, most caring people I have ever met. I went to HS in the 60’s and I have to say we were obnoxious. These HS kids are nothing like that and I can’t say enough about them.

    by Maimi — March 20, 2020

  15. One of the things that has apparent during this coronavirus nightmare is how important good healthcare is. Living in a rural community or small town with a far away or limited hospital can be a real problem in times like these, where the facility can easily be overwhelmed. I think we will stick with places where you can count on the healthcare, somewhere in the Sunbelt.

    by Rick — March 20, 2020

  16. Let us not forget to check in on our neighbors and friends who might need support. Maybe they need some groceries or something at the pharmacy. Maybe all they might need (and it would be good for us too) is a little human contact. This event is bigger than all of us, and we can all work together.

    by Jim — March 21, 2020

  17. Although we mentioned this before, be extremely careful about the huge amount of misinformation that is coming out about COVID. Rely only on trusted sources like the CDC, NIH, your state’s directives, and the respected news outlets who have real journalists instead of opinion and conspiracy bloggers. Avoid fringe websites. Don’t pass stories along to your friends unless you have checked multiple sources to make sure the story is really true. You can download the CDC mobile app onto your phone.

    by Admin — March 23, 2020

  18. …I ruled out any ideas of a Florida retirement. This stuff is for real. People can’t make intelligent decisions themselves. They have to be told under threats of big fines or jail. Good luck to all.

    by Billy — April 5, 2020

  19. Billy, I agree with you. ….

    by Maimi — April 6, 2020

  20. When visiting Florida last year at this time, I camethisclose to buying a lovely home in an over 55 golf community in Ocala (and I don’t even play golf). Something told me to wait …

    And as Billy wrote, I am so glad that I returned to my native NH and my seasonal park model home in a southern Maine coastal community! While both states are dealing with this nightmare pandemic, we shall hopefully fare better, due to intelligent governors and caring citizens who wisely recognize the virus dangers and practice safe social distancing.

    by Diane D — April 6, 2020

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