Now that the CDC has said the coronovirus may be coming to your community, it’s time to talk about what we should be doing at home to prepare without panic.
NPR has had the conversation with several health officials about what common sense things we should be thinking about in case it shows up where you live and work.
Think of it as natural disaster planning.
- Stock up on meds and foods. It’s not only about shelves being depleted of items, but also about social distancing. You should make sure you have a two-week supply of your prescription meds if you have them, but also over the counter medications that you might need if you had a cold or flu. Check your supply of foods for illness, such as crackers, chicken broth, and hydrating fluids like Gatorade.
- Check your cleaning supplies. While little is known about how long the virus can live on surfaces, experts believe it will be erased by cleaners with bleach or alcohol. Even soap should do the trick. Wipe down surfaces that are often touched, such as faucets in bathrooms and kitchens, doorknobs, phones, etc. One expert suggests everyone in the house start a new habit today: Wash your hands as soon as you walk through the door. Wash for 20 seconds, and wash often to reduce transmission anywhere from 30% to 50%. (I was struck by a wall of Clorox Cleaning Wipes yesterday as soon as I entered my local grocery store.)
- Face masks are questionable according to many experts. They are reluctant to recommend them because it may give a false sense of security. If you are sick, there is a good chance using one will protect others. If you are caring for someone who is sick, use one all of the time in their presence, but do not touch the front of it where it is likely to be contaminated.
- Now may be the time to prepare for working from home if you can telecommute. Talk to your boss about this, especially if you live in a large city where crowds of people congregate on public transport.
- If you rely on childcare, have a backup plan ready to implement. Check with friends, neighbors, and family members in case daycare centers or schools close, which can happen without a lot of warning.
- In general, practice good and courteous etiquette as you normally would when you are sick. Cough into your elbow or a tissue which is immediately thrown away. Keep your hands away from your face to avoid touching your nose and eyes. Use soap and water which doesn’t have to be anti-bacterial, or alcohol based gels like Purell.