[You can learn more about the virus from the CDC here]
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Americans that they should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community.
But what does preparedness look like in practice? The short answer: Don’t panic — but do prepare.
That “means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family,” says Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. In other words, what you’d do in case of a possible hurricane or another natural disaster.
We spoke with Katz and other health experts about common-sense things you can do to be ready should the virus hit where you live.
Should I stock up on food and meds?
The reason to stock up on certain products now isn’t so much to avoid potential shortages in the event of an outbreak but to practice what experts call social distancing. Basically, you want to avoid crowds to minimize your risk of catching the disease. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the last place you want to be is in line at a crowded grocery store or drugstore.
If you take daily medications — for example, blood pressure pills — make sure you have enough to last a couple of weeks, suggests Katz, as long as you can get approval for an extended supply from your insurance provider.
Also worth pre-buying: fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, says Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician with Columbia University Medical Center.
Think about adding enough nonperishable foods to your pantry to carry you through for a couple of weeks, adds Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security.
Bracho-Sanchez suggests having on hand your go-to sickbed foods, like chicken or vegetable broth and crackers in case of illness, as well as hydrating drinks such as Gatorade and Pedialyte for kids (though so far, kids seem less vulnerable to COVID-19). That’s because if you do get sick, you want to be ready to ride it out at home if need be. So far, 80% of COVID-19 cases have been mild. (Think cold or flu symptoms.)