As the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, the World Health Organization has declared this virus a global pandemic. Around the US, events are being canceled, schools are closing, and public health officials are urging people to avoid public spaces as much as possible. While this is a very serious situation, the major concern is remaining calm and levelheaded, not allowing overflowing headlines to disturb rational thought processes.
These changes and adjustments have many wondering what should be done. How serious is this situation? How will it affect day to day life? What can be done to alleviate this? Is it an overreaction to stock up on supplies? While this is a severe epidemic, the best way to endure this is to stay calm, clean, and adaptable.
1) Please, clean your hands and common surfaces
As obvious as it may seem, this crucial step is not put into practice nearly as often as it should be, especially when actively attempting to avoid illness. Same with disinfecting common surfaces at home and work. A simple homemade cleaner is a mixture of 1 cup of liquid unscented chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of water. Some of the most impactful steps to stop a coronavirus outbreak are ones most are well aware of but find it difficult to put into practice.
According to the CDC, you should “wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.” If soap and water aren’t readily available and hand sanitizer is a temporary fix until washing hands again an option.
It is best to avoid shaking hands, sneeze or cough into the bend of the arm, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue and discard it in a closed container. Taking preventative care and extra caution will put us all in a more favorable position to overcome the coronavirus and individually and as a community.
2) Avoid public spaces as much as possible
The most effective way to control the spread of the virus is to avoid being in close contact with large numbers of people or high traffic areas.
Social distancing, any measures to reduce human contact, can help make the outbreak unfold more slowly, essentially saving lives. Canceling conferences and large events, working from home, avoiding travel, or ordering food online rather than going to the grocery stores are all ways to reduce risk to self and others.
3) Wear a face mask if you are sick
In the cities that have experienced significant coronavirus outbreaks, face masks are a common sight. This has prompted many Americans to wonder if we should be doing that too? The answer is that unless a person is sick or showing apparent symptoms, it’s not a particularly good idea.
The CDC “does not recommend that people who are well to wear facemasks, mostly due to the shortage needed for the sick and healthcare professionals assisting them. The CDC does suggest that people who show symptoms of Covid-19 wear a mask “to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.” For prevention, masks are hard to use appropriately and aren’t very effective, so preparatory efforts are better focused elsewhere.
4) Have space and supplies to get better, just in case.
There is no hospitalization required for a majority of cases of Covid-19. Possible symptoms include fever, nausea, a dry cough, and slow recovery; worse cases can take over a few weeks. Have an area for self-isolation that is contained effectively, preferably a room with an attached bathroom that isn’t necessary to share. Purchasing a couple of weeks’ supply of foods and bathroom products to ensure no trips to the store will be needed if infected. Supplies for managing a fever, managing a cough, and other essentials, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, are all useful ideas to have on hand.
Fill daily medication prescriptions that are low or especially crucial.
Nonperishable food to last the households several weeks is another item or list of items that are smart to check off.
All of these suggestions are good to have on hand for any urgent situation or natural disaster. If there is a choice in being exposed to illness, it’s worth stocking supplies, and not making additional trips to the store. Not everyone has the funds or space to stock up on a month of supplies, but anything organized ahead of time means one less inconvenient trip out.
5) Consider what to do if schools and daycares close
The closure of schools is enormously disruptive to the lives of many families. Make back up plans in the case that schools and after-school care close temporarily, just the same as for snow days.
Create a list of people and organizations that can help and join a neighborhood website or social media page to stay connected to local communities. Consider family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, health care services, and other resources that may be needed ahead of time. Ask to work from home or take leave if possible, especially if someone in the household gets sick, or if the school temporarily closes.
6) Psychological ease is essential too
Being psychologically prepared is the most critical aspect of getting through this pandemic together safely. The spread of the coronavirus within the US has been a significant disruption to many people’s lives, a health crisis for some smaller number of people, and a deadly tragedy for a still-smaller number. The state of humanity is calling for some changes to and slowing the pace while we work through this.
If having an “adjustment reaction” or if your friends and loved ones are, be understanding, as this is genuinely disruptive, difficult, and even dangerous for some. Taking real steps to decrease the effects isn’t a trivial or paranoid thing to do; it’s a rational and responsible choice.
Stay connected on your state and local health department’s social media pages and websites for updated information. Be aware of false news being shared on the internet. Accurate and up-to-date information is available from the State Health Department at www.health.ny.gov/coronavirus or its hotline at 1-888-364-3065, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and social media platforms at www.cdc.gov/COVID19.