With newly identified cases of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the rise in the United States, it’s hard not to wonder: “How worried should I be?” This question isn’t the easiest one to answer, since there is still so much we don’t yet know about this virus, but we can at least say this: no one should be freaking out. In fact, 80% of coronavirus cases will not require medical attention.
Even as the number of known cases of the virus surges to 600+, with 22 people deceased in Seattle (most of them elderly), experts want to caution everyone against panicking. It’s not productive, and frankly, it probably won’t keep you from getting sick. The fact of the matter is: this outbreak could get worse before it gets better. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way these things usually go.
But even knowing this, there are things that can be done to perhaps slow the momentum of the virus. And those are precautionary steps that everyone should be taking now. But still… how much concern is the right amount?
Let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts…
Rushing to the store and buying a month’s worth of non-perishables: NO.
In fact, the WHO is actively trying to discourage “panic-buying,” especially of medical supplies such as face masks and hand sanitizer. People who hoard these supplies under the assumption that it will prevent them from getting sick are not only wrong — a regular face mask will not stop you from getting sick — but are putting healthcare workers who need these items for themselves at risk. The only time you should be wearing a mask is if you are sick. The reason so many people are buying masks like this is due to a common misconception about how medical face masks work. They aren’t intended to stop you from getting sick. They’re made to prevent you from sickening others.
Being even more diligent about washing your hands and not touching your face: YES.
First and foremost – Wash your hands often with soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds each time. (CDC guidelines for washing your hands)
Person to person transmission is the most common way for someone to catch coronavirus, which is why it’s recommended you stay at least 3 feet away from someone in public. When someone coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets of saliva or mucus can travel up to 6 feet. Transmission typically occurs when one of these droplets lands in your mouth or nose. (Gross, we know. But that’s why you should always cover your mouth when you cough!)
The other way transmission can occur is if you touch a surface where one of those droplets have landed, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. The takeaway is: don’t touch your face if you haven’t washed your hands first. And really just wash your hands more often anyway. It’s the number one way you can reduce your risk of catching the virus.
As for those hard surfaces, the coronavirus can potentially last for up to nine days outside a human body, so try to put a barrier between you and things other people touch — like using a tissue on a door handle, or a pen to press an elevator button. This doesn’t mean running out and buying a hazmat suit, but do be smart.
Cutting off all communication with the outside world and retrofitting your home with airlocks in an attempt at self isolation: NO.
There’s not much more to say than that.
Minimizing the amount of time you spend in areas with large gatherings of people: YES.
Out of an abundance of caution, employers in some communities are being encouraged to allow workers to telecommute. Officials hope this will reduce the load of passengers on public transportation — a possible hotspot for transmission due to the sardine-like quality of many buses and trains. Areas of large gatherings, such as sporting events or concerts, are also being discouraged or postponed by some officials.
Temporary school closures may be recommended or required to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. If school closures become necessary, here are some great ways to keep your kids actively learning while trying to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Self-quarantining if you have or believe you have the virus: YES.
If you think you have coronavirus, your first step should be to call your doctor. They will be able to help you confirm whether you do or don’t have the virus. It might be that they recommend that you ride it out at home, or they might suggest you visit the ER or urgent care. If you are sick and need medical attention, it’s imperative you call ahead and not just show up. Healthcare providers will very likely have specific safety protocols in place to manage the coronavirus and mitigate risk, so letting them know in advance will allow them to prepare. You don’t want to accidentally infect otherwise healthy individuals!
People who are confirmed to have coronavirus should keep themselves quarantined for 14 days. This means staying home and minimizing all contact with others. This includes family pets if possible.
The most important thing you can do if you get the coronavirus is prevent others from getting sick.
Stocking up on necessary food supplies: YES (to an extent).
It is recommended that the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions stock up on several weeks of food, medicine, and any other important supplies. As a general rule it’s a good idea to have a few weeks of necessities on hand, but considering our elderly population is the most at risk of catching and having serious complications from the coronavirus, they should be prepared to stay home. Our aging population is most at risk. After multiple residents of a Seattle-area nursing home passed from coronavirus, nursing homes around the country aren’t taking any chances. In some cases this means restricting visitors. Part of the concern is that someone could be infected with coronavirus but not show any symptoms yet, meaning there’s a potential for them to transmit the virus unknowingly.
Stay on top of the latest coronavirus developments: YES.
We know the idea of an outbreak or pandemic is scary, especially with the news that’s coming out of China, Italy, and Iran (among others). On the brightside, it seems like the number of new cases in Eastern Asia is starting to slow down, possibly due to some of the extreme measures those governments have taken in the last few weeks.
In addition to washing your hands, one of the best preventative measures you can take is to be informed. Stay on top of what’s happening in your community, and beyond. Preparedness starts with what you know, and the more information you have, the less likely you are to panic.
Please see the links below for additional resources and information :
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“L.A. County, now with 19 coronavirus cases, has first from community spread. Long Beach has first cases.” The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
“Coronavirus Disease 2019.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
“Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
“Coronavirus: Prepare Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9 March 2020.