72 Things We've Learned During Quarantine (and Hope to Remember Afterward)

What meaningful lessons about empathy, resilience, our shared humanity and toilet paper rationing will we take with us as we move forward — masked and hand-sanitized — into the future?

click to enlarge 72 Things We've Learned During Quarantine (and Hope to Remember Afterward)
Illustration: Jaclin Hastings (@jgracetattoo)

Chances are, if you are a human on the planet Earth, you’ve recently spent the last four to six weeks (or more) in some type of quarantine — self-imposed, government-mandated or a combination of both. Unless, of course, you’re a health care worker, essential employee or have other extenuating circumstances that meant you couldn’t safely lock yourself away at home while figuring out what household textile to use as makeshift toilet paper or whether to binge Tiger King or Love Is Blind first. 

So why has the entire world come to a collective halt? Because we have no immunity to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, a highly contagious and what seems to be highly deadly (to certain people) respiratory illness that has overwhelmed hospitals across the world, infecting more than 3.5 million people and killing more than 248,000 globally from January to May, according to Johns Hopkins University. There’s no real treatment (no, you cannot inject yourself with disinfectant or beams of light) and no vaccine, although scientists, medical professionals, researchers and Bill Gates are scrambling to find both. 

In the meantime, social distancing has been a stop-gap measure to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve,” everyone’s favorite phrase for using isolation to decrease the amount of humans infected with the virus to avoid inundating the health care system and killing everyone. 

So, yes, we did acquire a new viral vocabulary during quarantine, but what else have we learned in the midst of this global pause? And what meaningful lessons about empathy, resilience and our shared humanity will we take with us as we move forward — masked and hand-sanitized — into the future? Other than to be a better person and never take restaurants for granted again...

1. What six feet apart actually looks like.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which basically means standing six feet apart from each other so you can’t spew infected goo droplets onto other people. But “six feet” is a difficult concept to understand for those with no spatial awareness. So here are things that take up six feet: two averaged-sized dogs standing nose to tail, two grocery carts, a dude in a top hat laying on the ground, a dining room table, a bathtub, three arm spans and about one and 1/5ths Danny DeVitos. 

2. There are multiple names for the same disease. 

The novel coronavirus, in the same family as SARS and MERS, goes by COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2. And it went by a third name — the “Chinese virus” — but President Trump decided to stop using the term, which he coined, in late March after many pointed out it was pretty racist. Although, to be fair, the 1918 flu pandemic is still called the “Spanish Flu” and one can imagine several Spanish people took issue with that.

3. The literal shape of COVID-19. 

Looks like a Koosh ball or the iPhone germ emoji.

4. What a pangolin is. 

These cute-ass scaly anteaters are thought to have been an intermediate host for COVID-19, which may have jumped from bat to pangolin to human in a wet market in Wuhan, China — where the virus originated. In light of the pandemic, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture recently released a list of approved terrestrial animals that can be used for food; pangolins did not make an appearance. So it seems best to avoid eating them. Or bats. Or humans.

5. How to not touch our faces.

Don’t. That’s how germs get into your body.

6. To always have at least two weeks’ worth of toilet paper.

Do. That’s how you clean your butt.

7. Every song with a 20-second chorus.

“Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others,” says the CDC. And the best way to keep your digits disease-free is to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds — or the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice — over and over and over again throughout the day. So while the public was discovering the importance of timed hygiene, and the mind-numbing repetition of singing happy birthday to themselves, they also uncovered every other song with a 20-second chorus to break up the monotony of bathroom karaoke. The next time you wash your hands, trying singing the chorus to: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene;” “Queen’s “We Will Rock You;” Beyoncé’s “Love on Top;” Prince’s “Raspberry Beret;” Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide;” Toto’s “Africa;” Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts;” or The Knack’s “My Sharona (Corona).”

8. The virus has exposed racial disparities in the U.S.

The coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on the African-American community. In Michigan, for example, the group makes up 13.6 percent of the population but one-third of the state’s coronavirus cases and 41 percent of its deaths. Generations of discriminatory housing and economic practices have trapped many black people in economically depressed neighborhoods, where residents are far more likely to have pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. A disproportionate number of lower-income residents also work in the service industry, where employees are in close contact with the public.

9. The names of so many governors.

And the surprising amount of power they wield.

10. All of our friends’ streaming passwords.

11. How to kill a man using a tiger and sardine oil.

Carole. 

12. Tigers can catch the coronavirus.

So can lions. Eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 after contracting it from a zoo staffer.

13. House cats can also catch the coronavirus.

Two pet felines in New York state were confirmed to have the coronavirus in late April after most likely getting it from humans. The CDC now recommends the same social distancing protocols for animals as they do for people. No more cat parties.

14. What the inside of every late night show host and TV anchor’s house looks like.

Jimmy Fallon has a slide. WCPO Chief Meteorologist Steve Raleigh has one giant-ass TV.

15. WTF Zoom is. 

And how to turn yourself into a talking potato.

16. Ohioans stock up on liquor in times of distress.

The week in March that Gov. DeWine said all bars and restaurants would have to close to in-person service, Ohioans bought 437,507 gallons of liquor or $38.7 million worth — that’s a 63 percent year-over-year increase.

17. How to make our own cocktails. 

What to do with all that liquor? Cincinnati bar owner and mixologist Molly Wellmann began hosting a daily “5 O’clocktails” video series on Facebook in March where she showed viewers how to create a cocktail at home and provided a bit of the history behind each drink. Every video includes a link to a virtual tip jar to help support out-of-work employees from her bar, Japp’s. And she was just one of many local bartenders digitally showing us how to make a mixed drink.

18. Theater marquees make great platforms for public announcements and encouragement.

Whether it was Clifton’s Esquire saying, “Could be worse, could be raining,” or Covington’s Madison Theater saying, “Wash your hands y’all,” these signs were put to good use. 

19. That we will never complain about having to wait two hours for a table at a restaurant again.

Remember eating at restaurants?

20. Grocery delivery services are extremely convenient until everyone else also learns they are extremely convenient. 

Here’s hoping you can survive on peanut butter and cans of tuna until 4 p.m. three weeks from now.

21. Essential workers are heroes.

Delivery drivers are heroes. Mail-delivery people are heroes. Grocery store employees are heroes. Nurses are heroes. Transit workers are heroes. Frontline workers are heroes. Any essential employee that has continued to go to work to make America move when the rest of us were afraid or hunkered down in our homes is a hero. Thank you. In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown has been pushing for a Heroes Fund for hazard pay for those essential workers on the frontline, including those some have rudely called “unskilled,” equivalent to a raise of $13 per hour. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a first-of-its kind program that would provide tuition-free college education for essential employees working through the coronavirus pandemic, modeled after the G.I. Bill. 

22. Every health care worker deserves access to personal protective equipment.

23. Small businesses will step up when the government or supply chain can’t. 

When America ran out of personal protective equipment for frontline workers, small businesses started pivoting their production. Home sewers and craft clubs —including Sew Masks 4 Cincy — started making their own cloth masks for people to wear over their medical masks, and textile producers across the U.S. used their resources to make masks as well. Locally, Sew Valley revamped their West End incubator to make cloth masks and protective gowns with Hemmer Design for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

24. Distilleries can make alcohol for your hands and not just your mouth. 

When the general public heard the word “pandemic,” they started hoarding toilet paper, guns and hand sanitizer. So when the CDC said, “If you’re going to make your own sanitizer, you need to make sure it uses at least 60 percent alcohol spirits,” distilleries thought: “We can do that.” So thanks New Riff, Brain Brew, Northside Distilling, Karrikin and Northern Row for making boozy hand sanitizer for first responders, health care workers and also general humans.

25. The Insane Clown Posse cares more for its people than many American politicians.

As the TV airwaves filled with politicians and talking heads from the right side of the aisle clamoring for states to reopen and save the economy regardless of the potential loss of human life, some real leadership emerged: Namely, that of the Insane Clown Posse, two face-painted clowns from Detroit who shut down their annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival months ahead of its planned dates, saying they’re unwilling to risk the life of even one juggalo in the face of a global pandemic. Our government, at the state and federal level, have a lot to learn from these wise men, who once gave speeches about their buttholes during a D.C. civil rights protest on the national mall. 

26. Sweatpants can also just be called “pants.”

27. The reality of food insecurity in America.

Nonprofit Feeding America said 98 percent of food banks have seen an increase in demand since March as a result of COVID-19. In mid-April, Mayor John Cranley said the Freestore Foodbank was on pace to give out what they would normally give out in six months in one month.

28. Teachers should be paid 10 times more for dealing with our unteachable heathen offspring.

Oh, so you thought teaching was easy, huh? Wrangling a bunch of snot-nosed, mouth-breathing beasts, animals restrained in their behaviors only by their relatively small size, uncaring creatures hellbent on refusing to learn and continuing to eat crayons. What fools you were. Now you are the one who rations the crayons, you are the one whose lesson plan has devolved to “Please leave mommy alone for a moment for a little cry,” and “Oh, no, don’t drink the ‘juice’ out of mommy’s glass.” Not so easy now, is it? And get this: You even love your children! Imagine if you had to deal with these monsters without the requisite emotional connection. Now, don’t you think teachers should be paid more?

29. Fran DeWine’s sidewalk chalk recipe.

It’s cold water, cornstarch and food coloring.

30. Gov. Andy Beshear is the hot dad we never knew we needed.

31. Tupac Shakur is alive in Kentucky.

During a daily COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Beshear said someone in the state had filed a fraudulent unemployment claim under the name Tupac Shakur and was holding up the process for others. Turns out there is a Kentuckian with the same name as the late rapper, but he goes by Malik. Beshear later apologized.

32. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton has her own catchphrase.

“Don your mask. Don your cape.”

33. Even J.K. Rowling is a fan of Ohio’s creative ping pong ball social distance marketing campaign.

She said so on Twitter.

34. Somehow, nitrile gloves don’t biodegrade when left on the ground outside of the grocery store.

35. Meat thermometers can also be human thermometers.

When Gov. DeWine told people and businesses they needed to start taking people’s temperatures to check for COVID-19, he overlooked one little thing: America was basically out of thermometers. And the ones you could get were selling online for a huge markup. But — life hack — turns out you can stick a meat thermometer under your tongue to take your temperature. Do not stick a meat thermometer into your skin. You probably can, but it would not be comfortable. 

36. This is what dogs/cats feel like cooped up in the house all the time.

37. The benefit of outdoor activity. 

Whether it be backyard gardening, a walk with your dog or a solo hike, we’ve never appreciated our “outside time” more. 

38. How to exercise with wine bottles instead of weights.

Or your cat, a stack of books, a cinder block you found in the backyard... 

39. We could scrap cash bail.

Pesky social justice types have for years argued it’s not fair to keep poor people locked up because they can’t afford a bondsman while people with more money get to bail out and await trial at home. Such reasoning has traditionally been ignored, but the threat of outbreaks in jails has made more prosecutors and judges willing to rethink stuffing jails with people who could just as easily be let loose — if they had the money to buy their freedom. Bail reform advocates across the country have been frantically raising money to cover bail for inmates, rather than leaving them trapped in a confined space with hundreds of others. And while it’s hard to argue that large swaths of our world are not falling apart these days, it’s not because a bunch of people who haven’t been convicted of anything get to shelter in place with their families.  

40. Social distancing is a human right.

By May 3, 34 inmates and two officers had died from COVID-19 in Ohio prisons, and more than 3,900 had tested positive across the state’s 28 facilities because effectively social distancing in overcrowded institutions is extremely difficult. In Michigan, lawyers filed a federal class action lawsuit against the state department of corrections, arguing their 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment is being violated.

41. We didn’t deserve John Prine, and we didn’t appreciate him enough when he was still here.

42. How to make a no-sew face mask with items you can find around the house.

43. Happy hour starts at 2 p.m.

#WinewithDeWine #BeerswithBeshear

44. Summer music festival season is canceled.

Bye, bye Homecoming, Bunbury and Forecastle.

45. How to get refunds for canceled concerts.

Ticketmaster found itself in hot water after the company quietly amended its refund policy to no longer offer full refunds for postponed or rescheduled events, only refunding those that had been formally canceled. After an outcry, Ticketmaster’s president Jared Smith said the company “intends to refund as many tickets as possible in as timely a fashion as is feasible.” Once a postponed event announces a new date, ticket-holders will then be notified via email, at which point they can begin the refund process. Upon receiving the notification, ticket-holders will have just 30 days to request a refund — otherwise the ticket will be applied to the rescheduled date. Their plan appears to have a catch, however: Artists whose tours have been postponed, like Billie Eilish and Elton John, have not pulled the plug nor scheduled make-up dates — making those shows potentially ineligible for Ticketmaster’s refund. 

46. How to vote by mail.

Ohio’s primary election was originally supposed to wrap up with in-person voting March 17, but a last-minute order by Gov. DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health closing polls amid concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an extension of absentee voting until April 28. Which means you had to request an absentee ballot by mail, then receive an absentee ballot by mail, and return an absentee ballot by mail (or dropbox). Sadly, the ballots did not come with an “I voted” sticker.

47. City-wide front porch happy hours are something we could get used to.

48. Drive-by honkings are the new birthday parties.

49. The value of a hug.

 50. We can learn a lot from the elderly.

They’ve been through it all, and they know how to survive it all. Now with everybody turning to the old ways of baking bread and planting gardens, the best advice you can find is from your elderly loved ones. They’ve survived violent flu seasons and multiple depressions and terrible natural disasters. Not only can they teach you how to cope, they can also tell you where to plant tomatoes in your yard for the highest yield. (Where there is full sun and warm soil.) 

51. What a stay at home order means for those experiencing homelessness.

While individuals experiencing homelessness were exempt from following Ohio’s multiple stay at home orders, area nonprofits and social service providers were working hard to find solutions to sometimes overcrowded shelters, which weren’t equipped to accommodate social distancing protocols. This meant securing funding and space to help vulnerable people find temporary shelter at Greater Cincinnati hotels to safely social distance from those who may have COVID-19. 

52. Even the (state) government agrees that marijuana is essential, finally catching up to what the most stoned among us have known for decades.

Most states have allowed their medical marijuana dispensaries to continue to operate during the pandemic, which makes sense: for many, pot is a medicine, and it can reduce anxiety and alleviate pain. In Michigan, the state’s recreational pot shops have also been deemed essential — because if we can’t go on a real trip any time soon, we can least go on a mental one.

53. How to cut our own hair.

Jessie Hoffman, owner of East Walnut Hills’ Parlour salon, has produced several Instagram live videos walking Cincinnatians through the painstaking and terrifying task of trimming our own bangs, God bless her.  

54. That men we know will grow quarantine beards, or will experiment with new cringe-worthy facial hair shapes (and hairstyles).

Hello, quarantine mullet. 

55. When industry stopped, global pollution dropped.

People in northern India could see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years, L.A. had some of the cleanest air of any major city in the world in April and jellyfish were seen swimming in the near-clear canals of Venice. Although temporary (pollution will rebound when the global economy restarts), the near immediate impact is a nice reminder of the power humans have over the environment — for both good and bad — especially with the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

56. That people can successfully work from home in many industries. 

57. That the “Reopen” protests are not a spontaneous, grassroots movement.

Nationwide, protests have erupted against governors’ stay-at-home orders, arguing they’re excessively hurting the economy. But this is no populist uprising — it’s an astroturf campaign funded by Big Money right-wing agitators like the billionaire Koch and DeVos families to make the working class get back to work (for the billionaires). And it’s funny how when Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police brutality he was a traitor, but when a bunch of white guys storm the Michigan capitol with assault rifles they’re patriots. Hmmm. 

58. There’s a chance they make getting unemployment a bureaucratic nightmare on purpose (insert shocked face).

 59. Love conquers corona. 

Some weddings have been rescheduled, others have been held in creative and intimate ways.

60. How to grieve from a distance.

61. All of our favorite brands care about us during These Trying Times, and they will be there for us as soon as These Trying Times are over.

We love you too, Totino’s Pizza Rolls.

62. Everyone you know learned how to bake sourdough bread and posted about it on Instagram.

63. The term Cuomo-sexual.

Thank you for the Cuomo brothers memes, internet.

64. Staying safe at home isn’t always safe.

Especially for victims of domestic violence or children who are suffering from abuse.

65. People cleared out the shelters because dog is man’s best friend.

There’s honestly never been a better time to adopt a furry new friend into your household, and Cincinnatians stepped up to do just that, clearing out the Animal Friends Humane Society in March. 

66. Inflatable shark/dinosaur/unicorn suits will not keep you from contracting COVID-19.

We asked a scientist. She said no.

67. There is an immediate economic fallout that comes from closing restaurants and bars.

More than 30 million Americans applied for unemployment between March 21 and the week ending April 25. According to the National Restaurant Association, two out of three restaurant employees have lost their jobs — that’s more than 8 million of those 30 million people.

68. Local restaurants will step up to support their industry family. 

Chef Jose Salazar teamed up with chef Edward Lee’s The LEE Initiative to transform his downtown restaurant Mita’s into a relief center for employees in the food and beverage industry affected by coronavirus-related closures. The center provided aid in the form of meals and groceries for restaurant workers who were laid off or experienced a significant pay reduction or reduction in hours.

69. When you can’t go to the music, the music will sometimes come to you. 

Bellevue-based music teacher Bryan McCartney has been hosting Trunk Bed Sing-Along tours around Northern Kentucky for neighbors to enjoy from their front porches. 

70. Maybe spending time with your family isn’t so bad after all.

In times of crisis, we often find out who we can really turn to in life, and sometimes you find out that the most reliable people in your life are family. You might not always agree with them on politics or other topics, but when you are sweating out a fever and desperate for a Tylenol delivery, it’s often your family who will step in and save you. 

71. If you have good friends, you are rich.

Maybe you’ve been laid off. Maybe you’re down to your last $20. Maybe it feels like your walls are closing in on you, and you’re totally freaking out. In these (and all other) situations, having good friends is invaluable. They’d do for you what you’d do for them, and you can watch out for each other. So many people don’t have this. If you do, count your blessings. 

72. You don’t have to be productive during quarantine.

Sometimes it’s enough to just focus on taking care of yourself and those you love. 

 By Maija Zummo and Hailey Bollinger with Doyle Murphy, Daniel Hill, Jaime Lees, Lee DeVito, Jerilyn Jordan and Steve Neavling // Illustrations by Jaclin Hastings (@jgracetattoo) 
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