How to Prepare for COVID-19 Coronavirus in Your Community
NOTE: This article was originally published in March 2020 and contains information that is now out of date (e.g. when the article was published there were no vaccines available – they have now been developed and approved for effective use against severe illness). Check with the CDC online for the most current information.
With the number of cases on the rise each day, news of the Coronavirus pandemic is everywhere. Drastic measures are being taken to #FlattenTheCurve in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus and to save lives. Although it may be too early to know the exact rates of contagion, it is clear that this is a serious threat to a significant number of people.
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What is the Coronavirus
The “coronavirus” in the news is a new virus that has been named “SARS-CoV-2”. The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” and is abbreviated “COVID-19” (it is also formerly known as “2019-nCoV“). This new strain of virus originated in China and quickly spread across the globe.
Symptoms of the lower respitory illness include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
There is no vaccine and there is no cure. Early studies suggest that the COVID-19 virus is more contagious than the common flu and more serious for people over 60 years old and with other immune disorders or medical issues like hypertension.
How to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus
There are a number of smart precautions that can help to lower the chances of spreading the coronavirus. These hygiene tips are good habits to help prevent the spread of many contagious diseases.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. These tips are designed to help prevent contact with and exposure to the virus.
Prevention Strategies for Everyone
These strategies can help everyone lower their chances of both getting the illness and from spreading it.
- Practice Social Distancing
- Stay at home and limit your trips to only go out for necessities like food and medication
- Keep at least 6 feet away from other people whenever possible
- Limit physical contact with others (no handshakes, high fives, hugs, etc.)
- Clean Your Hands Thoroughly
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Alternately (if washing isn’t available), use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Don’t Touch Your Face
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Sneeze / Cough Into a Tissue or Elbows
- Throw away tissues after sneezing or coughing into them
- Immediately wash your hands after coughing or sneezing
- Wear a facemask when needed
- If you are sick, you should wear a face mask when you are around other people
- If you are not sick, a face mask is required when caring for a sick person, but may also reduce risk of asymptomatic transmission so consider wearing one when in public
Extra Prevention Strategies for People at High Risk
Per the CDC, people at higher risk should take additional strategies to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Those at high risk include older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions (like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease).
- Stock up on essential supplies now
- Medications (consider mail order if you cannot go out)
- Pet supplies
- Keep space between yourself and others
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid contact with sick people
- Avoid touching surfaces in public spaces
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel
- Wash your hands often
- Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds when possible
- Use hand sanitizer when it is not possible to wash your hands
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas at home on a daily basis
- Light switches
- Remote controls
- Cell phones
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed
If you find that you need to self-quarantine at home, know that you can get just about anything you need delivered to you at home in most cities. Check out food delivery services like InstaCart and the restaurant delivery services GrubHub and DoorDash as examples .
How to Prepare for the Coronavirus
Even if you never have a single symptom of the Coronavirus, the disease is likely to already be impacting your everyday life.
With restrictions on travel, closures of schools and workplaces, and cancellations of large festivals like SXSW, the things we are able to enjoy are being directly impacted. When these things are combined with shortages of necessities like medicines and toilet paper, there is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic is a major event.
There have been reports of stores selling out of staples like water and toilet paper. Some medications have been in limited supply due to factory shutdowns in affected areas. You may want to make sure you have essentials like these on hand to last for a few weeks in case of closures or quarantines. In addition to your normal staples, the items below can help you to fight off germs at home and out in public.
Supplies to Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic
Ensure that your family is ready for anything with the following supplies. Note that it may be helpful to purchase these items before you need them as any additional travel restrictions could limit product availability.
Whether you prefer a bar or liquid soap, cleansing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way to remove germs from your hands. Note that soap does not need to be “antibacterial” in order to work.
These products can help you disinfect and clean surfaces at home and on-the-go.
A quick spray of these disinfectants can help to kill germs on surfaces around the house.
When there is no soap and water available to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to kill germs. Alternatively (as packaged hand sanitizer is currently in short supply), you can make your own hand sanitizer at home with an online tutorial).
These UV-based sanitizers can help clean unusual surfaces like cell phones, keyboards, and other items that should not get wet with traditional cleaning products.
The current recommendations are that these are only needed when you are either sick or caring for someone who is sick. If that is you, then choose a high-quality N-95 mask to keep the virus from spreading. Otherwise, the health care workers hope that you won’t purchase these if you don’t need them (this will help ensure they are available in hospitals where they are needed most).
If you can sew, consider sewing your own protective face mask at home for your family, and if you have the time, consider making enough to donate to a health care facility in need. For those who do not sew, here is a quick tutorial to make a quick no-sew mask with fabric and rubber bands.
Use disposable gloves that can be thrown out when cleaning. These can also be used to limit contact when caring for a sick person.
Make sure to cough or sneeze into a tissue whenever possible. Throw out the tissue after you sneeze / cough into it.
Staying properly hydrated with balanced electrolyte levels is important for health at all times.
Supplies for Emergency Outages
In the event that services are suspended for brief or extended periods, it can help to be prepared with emergency supplies. These items can be helpful during emergencies of many natures including weather, seasonal, and other emergencies like COVID-19.
Portable Battery Chargers
These portable battery chargers can be charged during times when the power is on, and used as a backup power source when needed. The small sizes are great for travel, but the charge may only power a smart phone for a few hours.
With an ample amount of sun, you can opt for a solar-powered way to charge your devices. There are solar powered options from large to small — choose a portable folding solar panel charger for a backup smart phone charger, or go completely off the grid with a solar powered roof at home and a solar powered car in the garage.
For a versatile tool that provides heat for cooking and generates electricity for devices, consider a small biomass stove.
When you need to make sure that you have uniterrupted power in your home, you’ll want to have an adequately sized gas-powered generator. Purchase one of these well in advance of events like major storms (hurricanes, blizzards, etc.) because they can be impossible to purchase when you need them the most.
If you have storage space and plan in advance, you can store emergency bottled water for you family. However, most bottles are not meant to be stored in high temperatures (like garages in Summer) or over long periods of time (over a year).
If you aren’t able to distill or boil water that is not known to be clean, then at least use a filter to remove most impurities that could make you sick.
Water Treatment Tablets
These small tablets are easy to carry in an emergency “go-bag” to ensure that you can have drinkable water from any water source.
Purifying water using distillation is a way to remove impurities. Tabletop electric distillers make it easy to set a batch for easy dispensing while non-electric versions allow for more versatile distilling options.
*** PLEASE NOTE ***
Many of these items are selling out extremely fast. Make your purchases as soon as possible.
Online COVID-19 Coronavirus Resources
For ongoing updates, follow these internationally recognized health resources:
Based in Atlanta, GA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is at the forefront of the US response to the outbreak. Stay current with updates on their website at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov or on CDC Social Media at:
- Facebook: facebook.com/CDC
- Instagram: instagram.com/CDCgov
- Twitter: twitter.com/CDCgov
- YouTube: youtube.com/user/CDCstreamingHealth
The World Health Organization is committed to slowing the spread of the virus worldwide. Follow online for the latest international updates at either their website at who.int/health-topics/coronavirus or on WHO Social Media at:
- Facebook: facebook.com/WHO
- Instagram: instagram.com/who/
- Twitter: twitter.com/WHO
- YouTube: youtube.com/user/who
New England Journal of Medicine
A collection of articles and other resources on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, including clinical reports, management guidelines, and commentary. Stay informed on their website at nejm.org/coronavirusor on NEJM Social Media at:
- Facebook: facebook.com/TheNewEnglandJournalofMedicine
- Instagram: instagram.com/nejm
- Twitter: twitter.com/nejm
- YouTube: youtube.com/user/NEJMvideo
Please understand that small, individual actions do add up to make a real difference. We are all in this together. Stay safe, healthy, and let’s all get through this together.
Originally published March 11, 2020 and updated on March 23, 2020.