The spread of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 is slowing down on mainland China, where the outbreak started, while it is escalating elsewhere around the globe. As of today, it has reached every continent except Antarctica.
Here in the United States, as concern grows, some schools in Washington state have temporarily closed as COVID-19 spreads through the state. As of Thursday morning, there are now over 158 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 17 states and 11 reported U.S. deaths, and those numbers are expected to increase as more testing kits become available and the virus spreads.
Public concern is mounting across the country as individuals stock their homes with supplies and some are even refusing to go into the office. It is important to note that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Center for Disease Control (CDC) are advising individuals to not panic, take normal precautions (e.g., such as what you do to protect yourself from the flu), and be prepared for local outbreaks. It is a matter of when not if the coronavirus will spread; however, the threat of contracting the virus remains low.
What to do…
- Practice normal, everyday preventive actions
- Social distance
- Avoid individuals who are sick
- If you are sick, stay home from work and keep your children home from school if they are sick
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water; use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available
- Sanitize communal surfaces (e.g., shared work spaces, phones, counters) with soap and water or disinfectant wipes
- Cover coughs and sneezes with tissue and immediately throw away the issue or use your sleeve or elbow if a tissue is not available
What not to do…
- Stock up on face masks
- Spread misinformation
- Get and share the facts.
The following are some practical steps on how you can best prepare for COVID-19 and keep you and your loved ones safe.
- Buy cleaning supplies
- Most cleaning products will kill the virus on surfaces as will soap and water. The CDC has a list of cleaning products that will kill the virus. Scientists know these cleaners are effective because COVID-19 has a lipid envelope around it that can be broken down by soap and detergent.
- Develop a plan for if you or someone in your home gets sick
- If you or someone in your home contracts COVID-19 the CDC recommends everyone stay home. Communicate with the people in your home about how the house will handle someone being sick and if there is anyone in the home who is at severe risk. If possible, prepare a separate room and bathroom for a sick person so the rest of the house can be as separated as possible.
- If someone becomes sick, immediately going to the hospital or doctor’s office is not advisable. Hospitals and doctor’s offices may be overwhelmed with sick people and little can be done to treat the virus. We recommend calling your doctor first and following their advice. If you start to have trouble breathing or become severely dehydrated, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- Stock up on food
- Buy extra food and snacks now to avoid the supermarket chaos that will ensue if COVID-19 is reported in your area. If COVID-19 is reported in your community the CDC may advise individuals stay home. Be prepared, similar to a disaster, make sure you have extra non-perishables in your pantry. Homes should have enough food to last a couple of weeks.
- Call your doctor
- If you take daily medications make sure you have enough to last a few weeks. Call your doctor and find out if they can electronically send a prescription refill to your local pharmacy to avoid visiting the office. During an outbreak, a doctor’s office will be overwhelmed, ensure you always have a month’s worth of prescription medications.
- Plan for office and school closers
- If COVID-19 infects a community, schools and offices may likely close. If you have children, have a plan in place for child care or working from home. Communicate with your employer about the company expectations for teleworking and how to effectively communicate with your coworkers from home.