As of this writing, for the past two months, I have not been to a pharmacy or a grocery store. I have used a delivery service. I, like many other people who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), am immunocompromised because of the medication I receive. I am now reliant on other people to obtain the things we need for our household, but it’s unclear to me if this is the right decision.
I do not have a history of getting ill more often than other people, which may be in part because I work from home 100%. Previous to the last few months, I did not take any precautions that were out of the ordinary to avoid colds or the flu. Outside shoes have never been allowed in my house (even for guests) and everyone in the family has always been encouraged to wash their hands upon coming home. I have two school-age children and when they get sick I do take extra measures to avoid getting sick myself (such as wearing gloves, cleaning more frequently, and using a bleach solution for sanitizing). Most of the time that has worked (with one notable exception of what was probably a norovirus).
To be clear: I am not afraid to be sick. I am not overly worried that I would need to be hospitalized were I to develop COVID-19. The odds are in my favor on this. I know how to be sick, IBD has given me that education already. What worries me is being sick for 2+ weeks and being unable to care for my family and to work. Everything in my household would fall to my husband, there would be no one to help him, and I would certainly lose my ability to work. I am full-time freelance, which is a choice I deliberately made for the benefit my health, but it means that I don’t get paid sick time.
I Was Getting Delivery Before It Was Cool
For the past several years, I have used a grocery delivery service regularly. It started because I had a premature baby who couldn’t leave the house for 6 months and then I had a stress fracture in my foot and couldn’t drive. The convenience for the price couldn’t be beat, especially when my work travel schedule is busy. The service I use is really wonderful, I’ve had very few problems with receiving what I need, and the delivery people are always pleasant and helpful. I never had a problem scheduling a delivery until the pandemic hit and everyone was using grocery delivery. I even had one scheduled delivery cancelled. For that reason, I switched to an on-demand service that uses a different store.
Getting groceries or other things delivered means that a person is going into the store for me, picking out the items, paying for them, and then driving them to my house and leaving them on my porch.
I find this really, really uncomfortable.
The reason why I am conflicted about it is because while I am “safe” at home, I am asking another person to wear a mask and gloves and go into a grocery store. From the reading I’ve done in trying to understand the risks, going to the store doesn’t sound like a big risk factor for SARS-CoV-2, as long as people are wearing masks and the store is taking other precautions (physical distancing and contactless payment, for example). But the risk is not zero. What’s more, we can all agree that shopping right now is challenging and stressful. And here I am asking someone to do it for me.
What’s more, I am not well versed on how well the service is paying the people that are working for them or even if masks and gloves are being provided. From the reading I’ve done, it does not sound like this work pays a living wage. I know this is also considered a “gig” job and therefore there’s no benefits offered to the people doing the shopping or delivery. The service I used previously did provide benefits for their workers, including health care, a 401K, and time off.
Am I Asking Someone to Risk Their Safety for My Convenience?
However, the other side to this is that by my using a service, this means that someone is able to work at this time. I’m not able to chat with the delivery folks to find out more about their circumstances. I do tip in order to help make it all more worthwhile for the delivery person. I always give the highest rating, even if I have a problem (such as items being the wrong ones or sometimes items missing). I do these things because I know the drivers may earn more money this way and I’m asking them to do a shit job for me during the pandemic.
So the upshot is: while I don’t feel good about asking another person to take what might be even a small risk for me, I can also see that using a delivery service is helping a person to earn a wage. Furthermore, there are calculated risks that I must take, for instance to get an MRI, get bloodwork done, get a mammogram, and go to the dentist, so does it make sense to minimize every other risk?
My privilege is showing. Even thinking about this as much as I have is a privilege.
I don’t know what the answer is here. For other choices in my life I will do research, I will talk to people, I will consider what’s right for my family. Most of my decisions are made with what is probably an overabundance of logic. One could even make the argument that I should inject more emotion into my decisions than I do currently. Not knowing the best way to proceed is uncomfortable to me.
Not Knowing What’s “Right”
For this decision, I still don’t know what’s right. I am still unsure of the absolute risks to myself and my family if I were to go out more. I don’t know if I would be lowering the potential for someone else to be working if I were to do the shopping for my family. I do know that from the few times I have been out, I have had to ask people to physical distance from me. Not everyone is following the recommendations of our local officials. I will speak up for myself if I need to and that is not always met with acceptance and understanding.
Taking all of this into account, do I really have a choice? Or am I putting my own health and safety over that of other people? I like to have a conclusion for you at the end of a piece, my dear reader, but I don’t have one this time. I only have my logic and emotion at war with one another, still unsure of what is the “best” choice.