While the CDC
admits there is still many unknowns about coronavirus, they still warn that the virus could be among communities for a long time.
So what can you do to prepare?
Know the symptoms and make a plan.
If you or anyone in your family show symptoms of fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, you need to get to the doctor immediately. If you're not extremely ill, it's good to call ahead before you go because they may be able to help you over the phone, rather than have you sit in an urgent care or ER and infect other people. But if you're having an emergency, go in immediately.
Stock up on medications and other sick-day supplies.
This can mean throat lozenges, saltines, chicken broth, gatorade or Pedialyte. Also make sure you have a stash of fever reducers like Tylenol or ibuprofen, especially if you have children.
Make sure you have enough household supplies for a few weeks.
This is non-perishable food items, household items, pet food, etc. This kind of preparation is what experts call "social distancing," which is how you can avoid crowds at the grocery store when an outbreak hits your area, which will minimize your chances of contracting the virus from strangers.
Make sure you have good household cleaners, such as bleach, rubbing alcohol, and alcohol based hand sanitizer.
So far experts have found from other coronaviruses is that most household cleansers will kill them. The coronavirus has a lipid envelope around it, "like a coat that keeps the RNA inside the viral particle," and even detergent can break down that lipid barrier.
Plan to clean high-traffic areas frequently.
This means kitchen counters, bathroom faucets, door handles, etc.
Only wear face masks if you're sick.
Wearing a face mask before you contract the virus "can provide a false sense of security," says the NPR article. If you're already infected with the virus, it can be helpful to wear a mask to reduce chances you'll infect other people in your home, especially if they're elderly or immuno-compromised. But the research on face-mask-wearing has actually been very mixed.
Talk to your boss now about what will happen if you do fall ill.
If you have the ability to work from home, now is the time to work that out with your boss. If you can't work from home, this is still an important conversation to have with your employer because COVID-19 spreads by contact with other people.
Make a plan for care for children and elderly relatives you look after.
Start to figure it out now if schools or day care centers begin to close. Do you have a plan in place for them?
"For example, for me, I'm trying to think about, what if my mother gets sick?" said Dr. Trish Perl
, chief of the infectious disease division at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "What am I going to do? How am I going to get her cared for?"
Perl recommended reaching out now to friends or neighbors who might be able to help in such situations.
Practice good hygiene habits now.
If you've been in public areas, wash your hands immediately as you return home.
Avoid touching your face, eyes and nose.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds--sing "Happy Birthday" twice and that should do it.
Use hand sanitizer if you're out and about.
Cough into your elbow every time, and wash your hands afterward.
Wash your hands after blowing your nose.