How To Have A Successful PCS During The Pandemic
PCS moves are always hard - literally no one says otherwise
This year is a little trickier than usual, however. As if upending your life for weeks-to-months at a time wasn't stressful enough, now there's the added peskiness of a pandemic and nationwide lockdown.
Let's unpack (ha!) some of this PCS season's challenges, and corresponding potential strategies.
Challenge: So. Many. Strangers.
For months, we've been told to keep our social circles small and to limit our contact with outsiders.
All of a sudden, total strangers are going to be in and out of your home, breathing heavily, sweating, and touching all of your surfaces for hours on end.
Coping Strategy: Same Rules Apply
COVID-19 didn't disappear just because the familiar sound of packing tape and the smell of cardboard are filling your empty living room.
Have hand sanitizer and soap available throughout your home and in your bathroom. Request that your packers and movers wear masks.
If you feel weird about asking your packers and movers to wear masks, you can appeal to your installation's rules: the DoD requires movers to wear masks!
And, as always, sanitize commonly-touched surfaces and frequently wash your hands.
For additional protection for your home and belongings, check out AFI's home & renter insurance!
Challenge:Saying Goodbye to Friends and Neighbors
Ah, the good old days, when you could throw a big backyard barbecue to say goodbye to everyone in one fell swoop. Obviously, this isn't really an option right now in most places. Even if it is, a big party may still not be a responsible way to go out in a blaze of glory.
Coping Strategy: Small, Outdoor Gatherings
While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still recommends virtual gatherings as the safest option, the CDC also makes allowances for in-person summer get-togethers.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to host small outdoor gatherings to bid farewell to everyone while remaining within CDC guidelines. The CDC says this kind of meetup poses less risk than a large indoor one.
The important thing is to know the risk levels specific to your community or state: its transmission levels, and the severity of COVID-19 there.
Other factors to consider before hosting a goodbye party: where guests will be coming from (i.e. out of state, versus down the street), how many people will be attending, and any personal risk factors for specific individuals present.
Although many folks may not want to hear it, given how uncomfortable face masks are (especially in the heat), they are still the best way to protect everyone at social gatherings, even outdoor ones.
Other risk mitigation measures may include remaining 6 feet apart from non-household members (or wear masks, where that isn't possible), ask guests to bring their own food and drinks, or appoint one person to serve food.
Challenge:Travelling Cross-Country or Overseas
Of course, a cross-country road trip to your new duty station or a plane trip to Germany is the opposite of "safer at home." However, remember the primary goal of lockdown was to flatten the curve by risk management. This was to be achieved through limiting unnecessary interactions.
The important thing to remember is that a PCS isn't a pleasure trip that needlessly places yourself or others at risk.
Solution: Be Prepared
If you're road tripping to your new duty station with your family, i.e., the people you've been isolated with in your home, travelling by car together is a pretty good disease-prevention strategy.
To further mitigate risk, avoid making unnecessary stops, since the more stops you make, the more contact you will make with others. When you must stop, remember - remain 6 feet apart from people, wear masks when social distancing isn't feasible, sanitize frequently-touched surfaces, and wash/sanitize your hands often!
Keep a kit on-hand with must-have items such as masks, alcohol/disinfectant wipes, and a thermometer.
For extra peace of mind, protect your car trip with AFI auto insurance.
If you're flying, try to book multiple, short flights to avoid sitting in a confined space with possibly-infected individuals for long periods of time. As with the road trip advice, have a kit handy with wipes and hand sanitizer.
Consider putting personal items that flight attendants and TSA agents may handle in plastic bags. Bring additional bags that you can put these items into after you've sanitized them.
Finally, once you board the plane, open the air vent when you arrive in your seat. The vent circulates outside air through the plane, and removes particles by nearly 100 percent.
This one is self-explanatory, isn't it?
Coping Strategy: Self-Care
Take time to exercise. Treat yourself to a favorite snack or treat. Meditate, pray, or practice mindfulness. Schedule an appointment to talk to a counselor or therapist.
PCSing is no walk in the park. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your family during an anxious and confusing time.
Be safe, be prepared, and be the best possible version of you, so you can bring out the best in the people closest to you this PCS season!