Worried about coronavirus? Here are all the facts

Last Updated March 2020
By Sarah Pitts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people have a low risk of catching the coronavirus, but it is likely that we will see widespread transmission of the virus across the U.S. in the coming weeks.

Exactly when? That is still unclear. The official statement from the CDC emphasizes that most people in the U.S. have very low risk of exposure, including those living in communities with reported cases of the virus. However, it’s important to take proper disease prevention methods as you would in any flu season, stay informed on coronavirus news, and gather supplies as you would for any impending natural disaster event to be on the safe side. 

 

Best practices for staying healthy

In the best-case scenario, CDC interventions will minimize the spread and severity of the coronavirus. However, individuals can take preventative action to keep themselves and the people around them healthy. 

1. Hand washing

This is the most important step that anyone can take to keep themselves healthy and to prevent the spread of germs. Hand washing should last a minimum of 20 seconds and should include vigorous scrubbing with warm water and antibacterial soap. After, dry hands with a clean towel or let them air dry. You should wash hands after trips to the bathroom, before preparing or eating food, and after contact with public spaces like transportation, doorknobs, railings, elevator buttons, etc.

2. Sanitizing surfaces

In addition to washing your hands, the CDC says you should sanitize the surfaces and items you come into contact with throughout the day. This includes your phone, computer keyboard, countertops, tables, desks, remote controls, toys for kids and pets, touchscreens, etc.

3. Avoiding anyone who is sneezing or coughing

Don’t worry about being rude; step as far away as possible from anyone exhibiting unhealthy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or sniffling. Even if they aren’t sick with a serious infection, their germs can lower your immunity. And if you’re sick, stay home.

4. Covering your sneezes and coughs

Even if you’re just suffering from allergies, it’s critical to properly cover your sneezes and coughs by covering your face with a tissue (as recommended by the CDC). If you are exhibiting symptoms of illness, stay home if possible. 

5. Avoiding face touching

As much as possible, keep your hands off your face, especially away from your nose, mouth, and eyes. If you’re around kids, try to prevent them from doing the same or from putting anything in their mouths. 

6. Staying home when sick

This will help prevent any illness you do contract from progressing farther than it should in addition to protecting the people around you. As much as possible, avoid going to work, running errands, or anywhere else that you might come into contact with others. If your kids get sick, keep them home from school. 

7. Maintaining healthy practices

Practicing a generally healthy lifestyle will support your immune system and help you to stay generally well and to better fight off illness. Eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, get sufficient sleep, be physically active, and take a multivitamin.


How to prepare for the spread of the coronavirus

Prepare as you would for a natural disaster — better to be safe than sorry. Build a kit to make sure you have everything you need on hand when coronavirus reaches your area.

  • Antibacterial soap: Hand washing is a fundamentally important infection prevention practice, so stock your home and office with antibacterial soap. 

  • Disinfectant wipes/spray: Keep alcohol-based wipes or a disinfectant spray in high-traffic areas of your home like bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and other living spaces. You should also keep some wipes on-hand at your workplace, as well as a travel pack for your bag. 

  • Hand sanitizer: In situations where you don’t have access to a sink, the CDC recommends that you opt for a hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol content. Keep sanitizer in your purse, backpack, or whatever bag you carry with you to make sure you always have it, just in case. 

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications: It’s a wise idea to stock up on prescriptions for yourself and anyone in your care, as well as OTC medications like pain relievers and anti-fever pills. Get at least one month’s worth of each. Consider also adding a multivitamin to your daily routine. 

  • Tissues: Keep a box of tissues handy, especially in public spaces like your workplace. Carry a pocket pack with you in case you start to cough or sneeze elsewhere.

  • General supplies: Prepare as you would for any natural disaster. Buy filtered water, emergency food supplies, paper/hygiene products, household cleaners (like detergent, bleach, and dish soap), batteries, pet/baby food, etc.

 

Should you wear a respirator or face mask?

If you are healthy, no. Both the CDC and the surgeon general have asked that healthy individuals stop buying face masks and N95 respirators because these are needed by healthcare professionals and those with compromised immune systems. The panicked purchasing of these masks has caused price gouging and counterfeits, both of which are deleterious to public welfare.

Only healthcare professionals, caretakers, and those who have been told to wear a mask by a medical specialist should wear N95 respirators.

 

What to do if you’re exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus

First, you should know the common symptoms of the coronavirus according to the World Health Organization:

  • Respiratory symptoms

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Fever 

If you’re exhibiting any of these symptoms, be they from a common cold or something more serious, you should stay home to take care of yourself and avoid infecting others. If you’re worried, call your medical professional to determine if you need an evaluation. 

If you feel sick, prioritize rest, hydration, and healthy eating. Monitor your temperature and take comforting showers or baths. Monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention in the case that they worsen.

In general, it’s best to play it safe, especially in times like this. This will help keep you, your kids, your loved ones, and your community as safe and healthy as possible.