Peter Biro
One of the Best Anesthetists Among the Writers

About the dangers of prolonged home quarantine

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It has been long enough explained how important is to isolate oneself in the times of a virulent pandemic. We were told to restrict our freedom of movement and to sit still on the sofa for as long as possible. I eagerly propagated this unpopular practice for quite some time, and persistently recommended self-isolation – anywhere, anytime. Now some are beginning to hint that the stay in place restrictions should gradually be eased. On the one hand, I have concerns that this could perhaps further increase the number of infections. On the other hand, I eagerly await to see the expansion of my increasing freedom of action. However, there is a more important reason to anticipate the forthcoming relief: This is the all too long overlooked but now very well visible serious risks of quarantine-related deaths at home.

Openly available statistics clearly indicates, the own apartment is the second most frequently named place where sudden deaths occur. This trails right after health facilities such as hospitals, care centers and retirement facilities. Nationally, the number of death in homes are in the tens of thousands per year. It is astonishing how little this fact has been considered in the enforcement of the “lock-down”. In contrast, the last three positions in the death statistics include places of residence such as lighthouses (98), cemetery chapels (99) and telephone booths (100). These three locations made up the official listing of the «100 most popular places for a decent dying», which is published annually by the Office for Population Development and Grave Care. This is precisely why these locations can be described as being particularly low-risk; as far as the probability for a sudden death.

Henceforth, yet there is no trace of any authority recommendations to move to a secluded lighthouse, or a well-insulated cemetery chapel, or not to mention the stacking up with the extended family in a telephone booth. It would be particularly advisable for all of us to be in one of these locations for the duration of the ravaging pandemic.

For now, I very much hope that anyone who will read this will understand my dilemma I am faced with. On the one hand, I never hesitated to eagerly promote the need for a voluntary self-quarantine. Consequently, I have repeatedly propagated this point of view in manifold articles in the international press as well as in interviews with the television and in social media. Even more so, due to my passionate appeals, the American President shifted his initial more liberal approach to a stricter isolationist one. Now, to my chagrin, I have to distance myself from my earlier calls, and I really do not know how to explain to the President my sudden change of opinion. It is painful to learn that he might lose confidence in my counseling.

I am aware of this apparent inconsistency; however, I also have to consider the latest findings in epidemiology along with the understanding of macroeconomics and of contemporary interior design. Especially since the new circumstances became available, I found myself recently able to gain a thorough insight into the disadvantages and dangers of an extended stay at home.

It is no wonder that apartments do so poorly in mortality statistics, because they are full of dangers to life and health, especially if you stay at home longer than necessary. Essentially, there are two fundamental aspects concerning the mentioned dangers in the one’s home: the well-known health risks of inactivity, and, conversely the risks of any kind of domestic activity. Simply summarized, when at home, both might be dangerous: not to do anything, as well as to do something; a classical Catch 22. While almost no one in the living room has ever been attacked by an escaped tiger, or fatally hit by a falling helicopter, countless people have already died from wardrobes crushing on them, exploding coffee machines (with and without milk frother), or from burning curtains. Precisely because of these pandemic-related restrictions, the likelihood of fatal outcome while staying at home has increased immeasurably. Just think of the tragic end of the couple S. and J:G. from W., who died during fine dining under a collapsing pile of toilet paper. Or to mention another, sad example – the excruciatingly long, tragic death of J.M. from D., an octogenarian who lived alone in a secluded bungalow. He fell on the steep stairs as he intended to take a delivery of spaghettis from his carefully hoarded emergency supplies in the basement. He fell so awkwardly that he broke his collarbone, remained trapped, and could no free himself. It happened only late, much too late, namely when his children stopped by after a delayed return from Kazakhstan, that he had long since faded. In his dead rigid hand, he still was holding a “Whole Wheat Spaghetti” package made from extra vitamin-rich white flour and – as indicated on the label – with one additional egg yolk per kilogram. An entire fire brigade was busy to remove his cadaver from the ladder and to wring the pasta from his skinny fingers. The recovered raw material turned out to be still edible and subsequently could satisfy the mourners who attended the funeral. In addition, it might be of interest that the deceased had also hoarded a large amount of canned spaghetti sauces, probably with foresight for the need for an extensive and gastronomically demanding funeral feast. His family and friends liked the “Arrabbaiata Neapolitana” most.

With regard to the general health risk from prolonged dormancy at home, I would like to point to the fact that staying in bed for a long time is associated with an 18-fold increased risk of vein thrombosis. This, in turn, can lead to fatal pulmonary embolism, especially if the horizontally lying viewer must laugh while watching TV. Then the blood clots tear away and get into the lungs, where they may inflict a deathblow on the person concerned, even before he could see the end credits of the series and the following advertisement for life-prolonging health mattresses. Similarly, fiddling in bed with remote controls, mobile phones and tablet computers may also be life threatening. Most of the time, these devices are left on the duvet in front, and since they occasionally need to be recharged, their transformers will overheat and cause a fatal bed fire. In addition, victims wanting to “quickly go to the toilet” may get tangled in the charging cables, and stumble against the home trainer or the laundry chest. Needless to mention the considerable number of consumers accidentally strangled by cable loops who got suffocated this way.

A last largely underestimated risk of death to be mentioned is the serious “isolation psychosis” for folks with an unstable mind, who mentally freak themselves out while staying in the confines of their dwelling and who endanger themselves and others by wielding sharp-edged or chunky household items. Psychotic victims of isolation like to run amok, grab pets to lock them into the washing machine or the microwave. Some run like berserk with an ironing board in front of their heads and mow down everything that gets in their way. Not to mention beaten-up spouses, own or visiting children, or some unsuspecting, innocent sub-tenants. Even if the latter, in their lonely despair, only wanted to shorten their time with a little piano practice. This unpleasant list could easily be expanded with cruelly massacred neighbors or even with ruthlessly crushed flowerbeds. However, I prefer not to do so in every detail, mainly to give a break for the kind readership of these lines.

That is why I am joining the chorus of desperate people, who is calling for an early relaxation of the current applicable movement restrictions. Not only of the fear that the ceiling could fall on my head – and some cracks in the wall are clearly indicating this possibility – but above all, I want to get away from this death trap so innocently called “an apartment”. I’ve had enough!

About the Author
As a single child of Shoa survivors, he emigrated from socialist Romania to Germany in 1970. Two decades later he moved to Switzerland, where he worked as a Senior Physician and Professor of Anesthesiology until his retirement in 2022. Peter occasionally writes satirical short stories in German literature magazines and in Romanian for the Transylvanian online journal
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