We've all heard about the infamous Coronavirus, the virus responsible for school closures, cancelled flights, delays in supply chains, and quarantines. First reported in Wuhan, China on 31 December, it has made it's way around the world and caused many Americans to enter panic mode. Before you buy out your local Walmart of all their toilet paper and canned beans, here's what you should know for how to protect yourself without living in fear.
Who does the virus effect?
According to the CDC, children are not more vulnerable to the virus than older adults. In fact, most of the confirmed cases have occurred in adults. Your children should still continue to wash hands, practice good hygiene, and stay home from school and out of the public if they are sick.
Older adults and those with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk of getting the virus. If you are in one of those groups, stocking up on supplies such as medications, paper products, and food might be a worthy investment. If an outbreak occurs in your community, practicing social distancing by staying home and avoiding public places might be a good idea.
Health care professionals and those caring for sick people are also at a greater risk of infection. Those in contact with sick individuals should continue to practice good hygiene and wear a mask around those who are sick.
How should I prepare?
The CDC recommends people prepare to stay at home for at least two weeks if infected or in contact with a person who is infected. That means that people should stock up on everything they will need at home for two weeks without leaving. You should stock up on things like toilet paper, paper towels, medications, food, and cleaning products so that you won't need to leave your home for two weeks. Even if you are not in contact with a sick person, but there is an outbreak in your community you should still plan to stay out of the public for at least two weeks or until places where a lot of people gather can be deeply cleaned and ventilated.
If you work in a place where working from home is not an option, continue to practice good hygiene, good hand washing techniques, and ventilate your workspace by opening windows and keeping good air flow. Also sanitize surfaces that are frequently touched such as desks, phones, tables, door knobs, and key boards. Try to avoid handshaking, or immediately wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer after shaking hands with someone, even if they appear to be healthy.
Try to avoid large crowds, many cities have already cancelled St. Patrick's Day parades, concerts, and other social events. Universities and schools have already begun to move classes to all online in an effort to contain the virus. If you cannot avoid crowds, make sure gatherings are outside or in a well ventilated area with good air flow. Social distancing might not be very fun but it is in the best interest of public health.
If you have elderly loved ones in a nursing facility or assisted living, consider not going to visit for a little while. You might not be high risk, but they are. Use the technology we have to keep in contact without putting them or yourself at risk. Tools like Facetime and Skype are great at time like this where distancing is necessary but we can still stay in touch. Use social media to not feel lonely or isolated.
In the event that you are sick and don't have enough supplies on hand, consider having groceries and medications delivered. CVS announced it's plan to deliver medications free of charge to anyone who is quarantined. Apps like Instacart allow users to place an order through the app for groceries and other items and have them delivered straight to your front door.
Prepare, don't panic. Follow all of the precautions above and continue to monitor the news for updates. Check with your employer about work from home policies and sick leave. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, stock up on food and medications, and clean and disinfect surfaces you commonly touch. We will soon get to summer and return to normal life, until then be well and stay healthy.