Since late December 2019, the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has infected well over a hundred thousand people in various parts of the world and killed more than 4,000 of them. Despite strict quarantine rules for millions of possibly affected people, the virus continues to spread. It is believed that the virus can lie dormant in its victims for up to two weeks, which means several people could be infected by the same carrier before he or she even knows about the illness.
As COVID-19 escalates to a true pandemic state, more and more people are beginning to worry about the threat of disease and how they can protect themselves and their families from harm. Experts are still trying to learn more about the transmissibility and severity of this virus, and in the meantime, the fear of the unknown is real for many of us.
Here are 10 things you can do to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe from COVID-19 during a potentially dangerous outbreak.
1. Wash your hands
We know you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but that’s because it’s important. Make sure you wash your hands often, especially before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom, and after touching any shared surfaces. Scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.
However, please do not stockpile excessive amounts of soap and other items during the pandemic. It may sound like a good idea at first, but it creates scarcity and means that the people who really need certain items can no longer find them. It also contributes to mass hysteria and perpetuates the cycle, making everything worse. Buy only what you need so that everyone can have some!
2. Quit touching your face
You increase your likelihood of contracting the coronavirus if you use your unwashed hands to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, or mouth, which are prime routes for the virus to enter your body. Try to avoid touching your face (unless you wash your hands first) to keep from contracting the virus.
3. Avoid contact with sick individuals
COVID-19 is believed to be transmitted through respiratory droplets produced by an infected person who sneezes or coughs. These droplets can linger in the air and be breathed in or can land on surfaces and be transmitted by touch. Your best bet to avoid illness is to stay away from large crowds, events, or social gatherings.
4. Clean frequently used surfaces
Cleaning the things you and your family touch frequently is another way to avoid contagious diseases. Remember to clean and disinfect surfaces like sinks, counters, door handles, railings, and light switches regularly. Cloth items, such as children’s lunch bags and backpacks, can be thrown in the washing machine and/or sprayed with disinfectant during flu season to keep them sanitary.
5. Wear a mask
Wearing a face mask does not protect you against contracting the COVID-19 virus, but it can help protect other people around you. This is because the COVID-19 virus is small enough to get through the holes in most masks, but larger airborne droplets are not.
If you cough or sneeze while wearing a mask, most of the droplets from that cough or sneeze will be trapped inside the mask or slowed down by the mask, keeping them from traveling several feet like they normally would. In this way, you’re keeping your own germs as close to you as possible and limiting the potential for other people to breathe them in.
When choosing a mask, it’s best to reserve medical masks for medical professionals if possible. Opt instead for a cloth mask, either homemade or store-bought. Please also employ other precautions, such as hand-washing and social distancing.
6. Avoid traveling to infected areas
Because the virus can be spread before symptoms begin to show, it is best to avoid traveling to locations where COVID-19 is known to have spread. Older adults and immunocompromised people should suspend all travel at this time, according to the CDC, as the COVID-19 outbreak has now reached a global scale.
The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea, and most of Europe, as these areas have the greatest concentration of coronavirus cases. Although most of the world has seen some coronavirus cases, there are some places that are safer than others.
7. Know the symptoms to look for
The more you know about the coronavirus, the better you can be prepared to do something about it when you spot it either in yourself or in someone else. Spreading knowledge about the virus (in lieu of hysteria) can help contain it and make sure it’s treated swiftly in those who have it. Some symptoms of the coronavirus include headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and an overall feeling of not being well. More severe COVID-19 infections may result in pneumonia or bronchitis and may have more serious symptoms, such as high fever, cough with mucus, shortness of breath, and chest pain or tightness.
8. Self-quarantine while ill
Chances are that if you get sick this season, you probably don’t have the coronavirus. All the same, it’s best to avoid giving your illness to anyone else by staying away from others, especially small children and the elderly, as much as possible for as long as symptoms persist.
If you or anyone in your household experiences any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however, please stay home from work or school and reach out to your doctor. Those who believe they may be infected with COVID-19 should quarantine themselves at home unless symptoms become severe (which may require hospitalization) or until symptoms disappear and the 14-day quarantine period is complete.
9. Cover your cough
If you have to be near others while you are sick (or even if you don’t), avoid spreading any illness by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow every time you sneeze or cough. Then throw away the tissue and wash those hands again!
10. If you believe you or a family member may have COVID-19, stay home
The coronavirus can be deadly for the elderly and immunocompromised, so as soon as you believe you or someone in your household may have it, you should avoid being near others who might catch it and should seek medical advice on whether you need a coronavirus test and treatment. Self-quarantining for at least 14 days is very important to prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of whether symptoms persist for that long.
Panicking about the coronavirus won’t help anyone; it’s best if we all just remain calm. However, a little extra precaution won’t hurt anyone and could save lives. Use good common sense and personal hygiene and pay attention to news updates so that we can all stay as safe and healthy as possible!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?