This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the coronavirus "COVID-19" outbreak a pandemic, which means the virus will likely spread to all countries on the globe. According to the WHO, about 80% of people who contract the virus recover without needing special treatment and one out of every six people who get SARS-CoV2 (the official name of the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease) becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. The risks for individuals with underlying illnesses are higher.
Unfortunately, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus and its spread, and while some of the brightest minds around the world are working on a vaccine, it could be over a year before something effective is produced at scale for the public. In an ideal world, the virus would spread in stages and slowly enough for our medical infrastructure to support the cases. In a less desirable scenario, the virus may spread more rapidly, which could overtax our country’s healthcare system and have broader impact on the local, state, and global economies.
Like many of you, the team at doc.ai is wondering, how can we prepare?
While the unfolding and spread of SARS-CoV2 feels unsettling, there are actions you can take to become educated, help prevent the spread, and cultivate calm. By now, hopefully, you’re an expert at washing your hands throughout the day, but what else can you do? At doc.ai, we’ve curated some information on how to slow and prevent the spread of the disease, how to prepare mindfully for an outbreak in your area, and to know what action to take in the event of an infection. We also share updates on the latest research in the field and a highlight on the COVID-19 symptom tracker doc.ai has in development (more about that at the end of this post).
PREVENTION AND PREPARATION
Below are some guidelines and precautions to consider to lower your personal health risks and do your part in your community to prevent spread.
How can I prepare for the COVID-19 outbreak?
1) Hygiene & health
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds multiple times every day. Hint: Sing the happy birthday song twice each time you wash up! 🎂
- If you sneeze, cover your mouth with your arm, not your hand. Same goes with a cough.
- Germ-spreading and handshakes, elbow and foot bumps are out. To convey a feeling of warmth and trust to those you meet try a namaste bow. A simple hand wave and smile will also do.
- Stay home. For real. If you’re experiencing symptoms of fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath, individuals may elect to self-quarantine for two weeks to prevent community spread. If you’re worried about paying your rent, know that some cities are starting to ban evictions to keep those who are sick from having to give up their housing for missing work.
- Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily (counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) to maintain a healthy environment for you and others. In communal locations, practice similar precautions. The Environmental Protection Agency has listed common household cleaners that are effective for the coronavirus.
- No need for a mask yet. Purchasing a mask when you’re well shortens the supply for healthcare workers and people with the virus who need it most.
- Get your sunshine vitamins. While there are no definitively proven ways to boost your immune system, there are some recommendations to suggest that vitamin C and D can help, especially in individuals who may be deficient.
- Increase your cardio activity for lung health and overall wellbeing.
- Get some Zzz. Research shows that people who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to get the common cold.
- Be aware of your personal health risks and be prepared to share your personal health history and conditions with whichever care team you visit. It may not be your primary doctor. If you have not had your regular flu vaccination yet, consider getting the shot so it’s easier to decipher if your symptoms are related to the novel coronavirus.
2) Reasonable precautions and preparedness
- An introvert’s dream: work from home if that’s a possibility. Read about getting set up to do that here.
- Gather essential groceries, medications, and personal supplies in case you need to stay home for a period of time.
- It’s a good time to sort through your emergency supplies to see that your first aid and emergency preparedness kits are up-to-date. One sound practice is to keep 72 hours worth of water (three gallons per person) on-hand in case of temporary disruption.
- Prepare a childcare plan if you or a caregiver are sick; and also make arrangements in the event of a school closure.
- Practice social distancing. While attending your ten-person book club meetings is probably fine, large-group events, like concerts and sports games, increase your chances of being exposed to SARS-CoV2. You’re better off sitting out these events. Social distancing is less about prevention and more about slowing the spread of the virus so that hospitals will be more equipped to handle cases.
- Take care of yourself and each other. Once your personal preparedness plans are settled, also check in by phone with friends, family and neighbors that are vulnerable to serious illness or death if they get COVID-19. Also, some members of your community may experience stigma because of their ethnicity, recent travel history, or healthcare profession. If you see negative behaviours or statements, speak out against them to create space for resilience.
3) Stay in the know
Staying informed can help you be prepared and make adjustments to your plans as the COVID-19 pandemic situation evolves. To ensure you’re getting the most important and urgent updates in your area without constantly scanning the news, consider subscribing to alerts (usually text updates) from your local county health department. Other sources of news and recommendations include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WHO.
I’m sick. What should I do?
If you have symptoms that make you worried that you have COVID-19, stay at home and make a telehealth appointment before heading to your doctor’s office. In addition to giving you at-home care tips, your doctor’s staff can help escalate your case with your state’s health department if needed. Each state has designated care facilities or procedures to support the coronavirus. Companies like Ro and American Well are offering free online assessments to help reserve hospital rooms for high-risk individuals that are not able to isolate at home during their illness.
My loved one is sick. How can I best care for them?
Provide support to your household members, partners, and caregivers by helping with their basic needs, monitoring their condition and prohibiting visitors. You can also maintain good airflow with an air conditioner or by opening a window. Specific hygiene tips for at-home care can be found on the CDC website.
Preparing for the coronavirus in a mindful way, can help reduce your fear and make you better equipped for any future challenges. In addition to maintaining your regular healthy habits and activities and practicing coronavirus hygiene, consider the following to cultivate calm:
- Make a plan and execute - Taking action helps you feel in control of what you can do. Consider the scenarios of an outbreak in your area and plan for them with your housemates or family. Check up on your emergency supplies and food storage for two weeks to a month if you can. Avoid too much panic-buying as this perpetuates an overall sense of instability.
- Your routines - In addition to keeping up your normal daily routine as much as possible, make an effort to seek out and take part in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Now is the time to cultivate self-care with self-happiness in mind.
- Stay connected with friends and family - This may mean more emails, social media, and video conferencing if you prefer not to meet in person.
- Limit social media and news reports - With a near-constant stream of reports about the novel coronavirus, you can get overly focused on the latest news. This constant state of high alert can be exhausting. It can wear your body down and distract you from taking care of your day-to-day needs. As mentioned above, try signing up for alerts for your local area and be purposeful of how often you check the news.
- How to cope - If you or a loved one has a preexisting mental health condition, continue with treatment plans, and monitor for new symptoms. Coping with feelings related to the COVID-19 and getting help when needed will help you, your family, and your community recover faster. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration line is available at Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
RESEARCH AND KNOWN SCIENCE BEHIND CORONAVIRUS
For those who are curious to learn more about how the virus functions and the latest research, here are a few resources:
What does the coronavirus do to the body?
National Geographic explains how the virus works compared to historical coronaviruses such as the original SARS from 2002, and how it can impact each organ of the body. Read here.
How do the COVID-19 test kits work?
The Wall Street Journal visited a lab in Singapore to see how the kits work and to understand the accuracy rates. Watch the video.
What is the latest research?
New vaccines are in development and current medications are being evaluated for possible repurposing against COVID-19. You can learn more about this at Nature.com. Additionally, ImpossibleLabs, which members of doc.ai have joined, has also activated a virtual hackathon with the goal of accelerating research and getting ahead of the virus. Learn more about the initiative here.
COVID-19 Symptoms Tracker by doc.ai
Everybody is different and may react to the COVID-19 virus differently. At doc.ai, we’re preparing to do our part by developing a daily symptom tracker that you can share with your medical provider if you do experience symptoms of the illness. It will also inform you of any known cases near you. If this would be helpful to you, we’d love to hear! Just add a comment to this post, or drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re all in this together and we hope this information helps you feel more prepared for the days ahead.
You’ve probably heard different names for the virus and its associated disease, so to clear things up, here’s a quick definition: coronavirus is the name of a broad class of viruses, SARS-CoV2 is the official name of the current virus and COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus.