3. Don’t panic — start to prepare
“This is not the time to panic, but it is a time to prepare — good old fashioned preparedness planning for your family,” says Katz.
Think about the threat of a possible outbreak in your community the way you’d think about a big snowstorm or a hurricane. If it never hits, great. But if it does, you’ll be glad you prepared.
Don’t hoard, but do stock your cupboards with some extra food and cleaning supplies. Each time you grocery shop, buy a few extra items. Shelf-stable foods such as beans and rice are good options. Also, utilize your freezer to preserve foods, everything from meats and vegetables to cooked grains and bread. Think about having enough on hand to last a few weeks.
- Check the medicine cabinet to ensure you have basic medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
- Think about a backup plan if schools were to close during an outbreak.
- If you take a daily prescription medication, have as much of a supply on hand as possible.
- Ask your employer about a work-from-home option.
“If there’s widespread virus in your community, you may not want to go to the [store]. You may want to distance yourself from others,” Katz says.
4. The uncerta#inty of masks to prevent illness
Overall, there’s not conclusive evidence that wearing a face mask can help prevent being infected by the virus. And public health officials give mixed messages about usefulness for the general public. As we’ve reported, masks may not fit the face tightly, so you’re still able to breathe in infected droplets. And experts worry that masks can give a false sense of security.
Health care providers are trained to use masks properly, and there’s evidence that they’re effective in clinical settings. For people at home, the CDC recommends using masks in certain situations. For instance, if you’re caring for an infected person at home, the proper use of masks can protect the caregiver.
5. Be smart about travel
The CDC updates its travel advisory information frequently. The federal government uses a four-level scale to rank risk. Level 1 equals the lowest risk, and Level 4, the highest.
For parts of Italy, where there’s been sustained spread of the novel coronavirus, there’s now a Level 4 alert. The CDC advises that older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel. “Travelers should avoid contact with sick people and clean their hands often by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.”
Check your health insurance to see if it includes international travel coverage, the CDC recommends. Also, consider travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance. The CDC estimates that without insurance, a medical evacuation can cost $100,000 or more.
If you’ve planned a cruise or overseas travel, consider the possibility of travel disruptions in the event of an outbreak. “Think about the consequences of being caught on ship or over a border when decisions are being made” that could limit or disrupt your travel without much warning, says Christopher Mores of The George Washington University. If you were quarantined, what would your backup plan be for your work and family responsibilities back home? This is something to consider.