An EMT’s Protocols for Surviving COVID-19

An EMT’s Protocols for Surviving COVID-19


March 25th, 2020 

The following protocols are designed for people who understand the need for self-isolation from the virus that causes the disease known as COIVID-19.* We have been given the ‘strong suggestion to stay home’, but since we in this society are used to determining our days and hours, we may not quite know how to enact what is being asked of us. To that end, I have attempted to make complex or vague ideas simple and linear. The situation is fast-changing. I will revise these protocols as necessary and any errors are mine.

 *If you do not understand the need for self-isolation, you may want to shift your sources for information to see why even the government, which at first denied this situation, is getting serious about this virus. Always seek out multiple views. 

CONTENTS: Bio, synopsis of disease, protecting 1) body 2) mind 3) and heart   


EMT, Buddhist teacher of mindfulness and awareness, author, farmer, father



     [If you are already well-informed, skip ahead to learn how to protect yourselves.]  

  •      — COVID-19 is a disease from a novel corona virus. Novel means new. New to humans.
  •      — Therefore, we have no immunity. Only a vaccine will prevent a human from illness.
  •      — No vaccine has been developed.
  •      — This virus attacks the lining of the air passages, causing severe respiratory inflammation.
  •      — If our body is older or compromised, our immune response fills/clogs our lung’s air sacks. Breathing becomes difficult.
  •      — Infection follows into those tiny air sacks. Our suffering is intense.
  •      — As we asphyxiate, our heart stops. Death results…unless we can be treated in a hospital
  •      — Latest research shows that 20% of those who die from COVID-19 develop heart damage that causes or contributes to death. Kidneys and liver are also developing fatal conditions.
  •      — The virus is not detectable by our human senses.
  •      — The virus can remain virulent for days, depending on where it lands.
  •      — The size of the virus measures 1 micron. Very small.
  •      — The virus enters our bodies through eyes, nose and mouth, and, I suspect, cuts and sores:

             1) if we BREATHE the aerosol droplets when someone ill sneezes or coughs.  

             2) if we are sneezed or coughed upon. Eyes are big doors for the spray.  

             3) if we TOUCH a contaminated surface and then touch our mouths, eyes, or nose. 

             4) It can come home on our hair and clothes and infect can the household. 

             5) Washing thoroughly with soap destroys it.


  •      — Without medical intervention, it kills up to 5% of its victims. If we all get it, 5% of 330 million =16.5 million
  •      — America has 95,000 ICU beds. It has 180,000 ventilators but only 100,000 respiratory therapists to run them.
  •      — Limited hospital beds and ventilators means hospitals will become full. If the virus runs rampant, many ill people will die.
  •      — When the system collapses, all other kinds of illness and accidents can’t be treated.
  •      — Even one million people sick in a short period collapses our medical system.
  •      — Therefore do not get ill now!!!
  •      — Important: Older people and those with compromised systems are more likely to die.
  •      — When enough people have gotten ill and recovered, a herd immunity reduces future cases
  •      — At that point society will return to a new normal BUT
  •      — It is unknown whether:

             1) surviving the virus makes us immune from getting it again, or whether 

             2) the virus will mutate (or has already mutated) which could make us ill again.  



  •      — Read CONTAMINATION above and realize that:
  •      — The virus measures 1 micron. Even N95 masks can fail.
  •      — No method is perfect. Medical staff also will become ill.
  •      — Without a vaccine or hospital care, TRY TO AVOID CONTACT WITH THE VIRUS
  •           1) Disinfect the home. If it is decontaminated** and we stay inside, we will not get it.
  •           2) We must develop and adhere to simple methods of “barring the door”.
  •           3) and we must not come in contact with the virus when outside the house. Read on.

** Clothing, counters, door handles, faucets, etc. must be disinfected. Every place you normally touch. Once it is done well, the house is safe inside, unless new contamination is brought in.  

  • ♦ BODY PROTECTION: PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  •      — If we have made our home safe, we can relax inside it and lower our personal stress.
  •      — But how can we safely go out, when we must, for food or serious issues?
  •      — It is good to get air and to move. Do so away from others. Every door you touch is suspect for the virus. See gloves.
  •      — If you must be near others, EG to shop: be protected and be disciplined Read on.
  •      — If you don’t know when or how you will find yourself in a crowd, be prepared, as below.
  •      — SHOPPING: designate one person. The best person is healthiest, youngest, and most capable.
  •      — EMTs use disposable gloves, N95 masks, eye shields and disposable smocks.
  •      — If you have these, lucky you. Consider sharing with vulnerable households.
  •      — If you don’t have these things, improvise, as below.
  • ♦ HANDS – OUTSIDE***
  •      — Cover them with gloves at all times in potentially contaminated locations
  •      — Use whatever gloves you have. The more flexible, the better.
  •      — FIRST, practice putting on and taking off your gloves without touching the outsides!!!
  •      — Know which stops you will make & decide in advance into which pocket to place things. See below.
  •      — When out, treat everything you handle as contaminated. It could be! I also wear a                       
  •           dishtowel in my belt like a football quarterback in the rain. I use it for odd situations.
  •      — Shopping carts—every surface. Your gloves can become contaminated!!
  •      — Everywhere you place a store item then is “contaminated.” Keep your gloves on.
  •      — Your shopping bags become contaminated inside and out.
  •      — Keep cash and credit cards in pockets big enough to get gloves into.
  •      — Put keys into a pocket that gloves will never touch, or agree to have a contaminated car.
  •      — Need cash? Use an envelope and slide it into the “bad” pocket. Easier to pull bills from.               
  •      — Keep your purse and wallet clean.
  •      — If it’s okay to have your car be contaminated, don’t take gloves off inside. The wheel!!!
  •      — If you want safety in your car, take gloves off before touching keys, latches and wheel.
  •      — Your gloves are contaminated. Lay them on a flat bag on your car floor.
  •      — Coins are great virus transmitters. Disinfect them too.

***Some experts say you cannot pick up the virus from surfaces, that it can only be transmitted via aerosol droplets. They then say, never touch your face with your hands, which undercuts the logic of their first assertion. To wit: if it can’t be picked up from a surface, you should be able to touch your face. or we should be washing our faces all the time, too. I move with the belief that surfaces carry the virus no matter what some experts say.  

  • ♦ FACE – COVER IT****
  •      — Use a surgical mask (with loops behind the ears) or sew one. Or use some kind of dust mask.

         HOW TO MAKE A MASK if you can’t sew. 

  •      —Update: many online tutorials on making masks have appeared on the internet. If you must make you own, and do not own a sewing machine consider              these instructions below:
  •      — Use a bandana or cut a sheet long enough to tie around your head.
  •      — Open a large paper clip to fit over your nose. Tape it to the outside of your bandana. (I use Gorilla Tape.)
  •      — Check for fit.
  •      — Inside, tape layers of paper towel/tissues over nose/mouth area. I use four layers.
  •      — Test it. Can you breathe easily?
  •      — You must tie it and remove it without gloves on or it will become contaminated.
  •      — If you take it off in the car, place it, outside down, on a towel if you need to use it again before washing it.
  •      — Got goggles? Use them. Work goggles. Ski goggles, eye shields. Go for it. Be a bandit for a day.f
  •      — Some people have improvised with padded bra cups. Keep thinking of good ways. 

**** Some experts advise against wearing masks unless you are ill. They say 1) they don’t work. And 2) they say they make you touch your face more often. Bolderdash to both! 

1) Experts admit part of the reason is the need to save masks for medical personnel. If N95s didn’t work, medical personnel wouldn’t use them. They are NOT perfect. A homemade mask is NOT as good as an N95. But blocking any droplets from your face is good. 

2) IF you are disciplined in tying and untying your mask with clean hands and you lay the mask down as ‘contaminated,’ when you are finished your shopping, you are in better shape. Wearing masks or not, people will continue touching their faces. The habit is very strong. Best to have clean hands and a clean face as much as possible

3) Cooler heads are entering this debate. The newest point is that wearing a mask prevents you from touching your face. This will become the social standard. 

  •      — If your house doorknob is known to be clean, don’t touch it with gloves.
  •      — Place bags on a towel on the floor, NEVER on counters unless you love cleaning them.           
  •      — Place the towel before you go out. Some people place supplies directly in a garage until needed.The virus usually dies within a few days.
  •      — Take off your outside clothes, hat, mask, and gloves. Place on another towel. Wash them.
  •      — Disinfect everything you bring in as it comes OUT of the shopping bags. Things in plastic film such as bread, chips and potatoes can be emptied into a clean bowl by cutting the bag open and then saved in plastic storage bags. With clean hands pull cereal pouches from their cardboard boxes and dispose of the boxes. Etc.
  •      — Wash your hands. It’s a good time to take a shower. Wash your hair.
  •      — Your bandana may need rebuilding each time you wash it. Oh, well!
  •      — So plan ahead and stay home for 14 day stretches…or more. The prognosis is that our nation will be in shelter-in-place mode for up to three months if we want to avert widespread medical system ccollapse and large numbers of deaths.



This virus calamity seems to have arrived with lightning speed. On top of that it is disrupting every station and lifestyle in our human system—rich and poor, powerful and weak, near and far, working and not. In a matter of a month we are finding our bedrock foundations destabilized.  

Add to this, the rugged preventative measure of self-isolation. Realize it is possible that the voluntary type may become mandatory. This is way beyond normal.  

Given these conditions we can easily feel overwhelmed and betrayed. We can be sure much will be written about this time and its causes. But while assigning blame may help us in the future, pursuing it now does not ease our upset or offer solutions. Consider this: to negotiate the rapid and lethal twists coming our way, we need our best states of mind, to keep our own counsel. 


The one (somewhat) silver lining of this havoc is that being isolated and out of work offers us time to reflect, precious time that our overdriven lifestyles rarely afforded. True, our losses on every level come as a shock. And true, being dumped into space is also a shock to our normal way of being. We may resent the space. Funny, we always wish for it when we are working hard. Now we have it and it presents the opportunity to reflect on the change. Out of anxiety, we may become determined binge watchers of TV and movies. But it is a rare person whose mind becomes more clear from doing so. Out of habit we might use the space to focus mostly on the losses—current, pending, or feared. It is common to use anger, depression or other strong negative emotions to obliterate space. To abuse an old saying about time flying: space flees when you’re having fury.  

But space has its way of remaining unchanged and unintimidated by our moods. And when we stop, when we just stop, stop as our systems now have, we see we are alive. We are still alive. This fundamental blessing of having both a body and a mind is ours, and it is present. If we are not already sick or are not already caring for someone who is sick, we can easily feel the preciousness of this gift. With a little encouragement we might also see the space as the doorway to form new experiences with our same old body and mind. The future is not yet written or known. If we befriend our situation, we can keep our mind clear. This allows us a say in our personal future. 


Contemplation like that above is the prelude to action. First, we can take care of our household: improving the systems we can control. EG disinfecting, creating COVID checklists to “bar the door”, devising new ways of doing chores with our mates and families. We can brainstorm and draw up plans for various contingencies for both while we are isolated and for when we are finally free to go out without fear of infection. Home schooling becomes a big nut for families with children. If we have access to the internet, we can research teaching methods and materials. 



This is extending out, beyond our personal worries and concerns. Beyond ourselves, clarity allows us to see our family and household partners afresh. With a clear mind we can help them when they struggle with these same conditions. The truth may very well be that, as with other plagues throughout history, we all will lose someone dear to us to this disease. So let us take the have time now to call those people who are more vulnerable. Perhaps an older woman we just met who lives alone. Or someone worried about money. Or someone who can’t make a mask for themselves. Or someone caught in a huge apartment building afraid to go out. We have gifts. Now is the time to share them. Yes, it may be mostly on screens—computers and phones etc. But we can help some other family with their homeschooling through Skype or Zoom. If we are a mechanic, we can take calls from people who have car trouble, helping them determine how serious it is and perhaps finding them someone to fix it. If we are prudent about protection, we could go fix their car ourselves. We can help people with their taxes. This is a time of creativity which when combined with caring for others is the best of humanity. Let’s come out of this time closer together and wiser about how to live in this world. 

É MA HOH!   

Thomas Henry Pope © 2020   




Blue Uniforms and Yellow Jackets

Blue Uniforms and Yellow Jackets


Anderson Valley Advertiser   6/20/2015

I blame Yellowjackets. If they hadn’t stung me two years ago this week I’d never have become an EMT, sitting long shifts every week in the Anderson Valley Ambulance Barn waiting for impermanence to flex its muscles on the fate of our neighbors.

I was out raking hay by hand on that nice June morning when four of them little suckers roared out and stung me for scraping over their nest. I did the normal things: ran away cussing, ripped off my shirt to facilitate their retreat, and struggled with humiliation to be laid low by critters that weigh less than a gram. Then after admiring how my hand was swelling up where two of them had hit me, I got hold of myself and went back to raking. I’m over six feet tall. I’ve been stung many times. I can handle this. Stand back.

Rake, rake, rake. . . And what’s that? I lean on the handle a minute and feel my heart racing and my armpits starting to itch, where I know they didn’t sting me. Is it the heat? No, I thought. Must be adrenaline. But what about this feeling woozy? I blew right by the sign that I thought a shot of scotch would be just the ticket to settle me down, even though it was before noon. Mind you scotch, though a lovely drink, is something I save for company and Christmas. Well, 4th of July, too. Anyway, I set off for the house, thinking I was clever to be so creative and present.

But my lady is smarter than me. (Duh, she a woman.) Next thing I know I’m in an armchair, taking Benadryl and preparing to look bright and balanced to fake out the ambulance people who she’s called all the way out to the Deep End on a Sunday. I’m only partway through putting on my calm face and working up my story when firefighters in helmets and full gear and folks in civvies are walking in, radios on their hips blaring to some dispatch called Howard Forest, and hitting me with questions. I’m ready to give my speech and, damn, if they’re not talking with a helicopter circling overhead, trying to figure out the best place to land.

Okay. Now I want to die. Maybe that will teach them a lesson for making such a big deal of things. Though I’m not sure how that’s going to salvage my dignity with Valerie, who’s wringing her hands in a way that makes me think she wants me to die, too. And that should have been another sign. She rarely has a murderous thought.

Then the boys in ambulance-blue uniforms come in with medical bags along with a fellow named Don who gave off an aroma of apples, and they’re poring over me. I’ve got a blood pressure cuff on and some weird medical squeezing thing my finger and they’re flicking a flashlight in my eyes like I’m a drug addict. The only thing that keeps me from calling my lawyer is the fascination that I know a lot of these people. Mark, a damn fine builder is the lead EMT and Charlie, the tree surgeon, is the driver. What are they doing wearing ambulance uniforms and how come I didn’t know about their secret lives? And I do yoga with Kyle who has come in case she’s needed and there’s Martha smiling in the back having rumbled down the long dirt road from the mountains. For a second I presume they’ve all come for the religious service I didn’t know I was about to give.

I look for the microphone and instead they slap an oxygen mask on me, though I hear them say that it doesn’t look like I have sign of—and they use some long medical word—yet. But that they should take me to the ER just to be sure. I look at my lady and she’s nodding, right as I hear that the helicopter has landed down at Handley Vineyards. And I realize I haven’t sheltered my meager funds or updated my will the way I’d meant to.

The story would be better if I had really died or needed some four-inch needle jammed into my heart to bring me back from wherever it is that the White Light lives. But it turns out I’d had my first ever allergic reaction and my body handled it pretty well, with the help of Benadryl. And after a sweet ride with Mark in the back and watching him carry himself like a medical angel, I hung out in Ukiah Valley Medical Center’s ER, where I seemed stable enough to the staff to barely make them look at me. Very anti-climactic.

Still, with the sheen of my invincibility gone, I was now set loose on the slippery slope leading to death, and to prove it came home with two Epi-pens in my pocket to give me twenty more minutes of heartbeat if I ever got stung again and fell into full-fledged “anaphylaxis”—that’s the word they used—all for the low, low cost of $180 after the medical discount. (Valerie had been smart enough to sign us up for the ambulance membership—the best deal insurance deal in modern America, so the trip was free.) Gradually I realized I’d been missing some basic clues about how this valley operates. A whole darn volunteer ambulance service operates here 24/7, made up of people you see in the stores, at the Grange Pancake breakfasts or wine tastings. They show up when you need them and leave without any fanfare. Cool, I thought, as I flew back East to take care of things in Vermont.

While there, we heard news that Mark had a stroke, a bad one, and Charlie fell out of a tree and would be months in rehab. I did some quick math. If they’re all volunteers, they would need people. Which is how I entered the world Emergency Medical Services where I have met a wonderful set of women and men who do miracles and who blush when you raise the point with them. They study hard, train regularly and give big parts of their lives so you can have longer ones yourselves.

Our number is 911. Nothing personal, but we hope never to see you.