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If you've turned on the news this week you know that Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is making headlines around the clock. The situation is constantly changing and it's hard to know what to expect.
Reports that a Coronavirus patient in California wasn't tested for the virus for days and that the same state is monitoring 8,400 people for possible cases have many parents alarmed, but as we said earlier this week, now is not the time to panic—it's the time to prepare.
As the possible first case of "community spread" coronavirus in the U.S. is investigated, the first impulse on hearing the news is to run out and buy as many face masks as you can, but according to the CDC that's not what we should be doing. Instead of panic-buying random supplies, be strategic in how you are stocking your home and your pantry, and how you are preparing your children for potential interruptions to daily life.
On Thursday the director-general of the World Health Organization said, "This is not a time for fear. This is the time for taking action now to prevent infections and save lives now."
Now is the time for action, not anxiety, Here's what you can do, mama.
1. Prepare your home for coronavirus outbreaks
Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University told NPR that the best place to start is with general emergency planning. This "means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family," says Katz.
If an outbreak happens, you won't want to be running to Target for toilet paper and might not be able to order food. If you have prepared for a hurricane or another natural disaster, this won't be much different. It's like Disaster Planning 101, but instead of planning to evacuate our homes we're planning to stay indoors for a significant amount of time.
2. "Store a two week supply of water and food"
There's no reason to panic, but you might want to do a Costco run soon and stock up on non-perishables.
FEMA and other agencies recommend packing emergency preparedness kits to make possible outbreaks of COVID-19 safer and less stressful for your family.
- "Store a two week supply of water and food.
- Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
- Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
- Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic health records.
- Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home."
Check with your insurance: You might have to get approval extended supplies of medication from your insurance provider, so make those calls sooner rather than later.
3. Make a childcare plan
The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, wants parents to prepare for the possibility that schools could be closed.
Having school close would be very disruptive for many families, but we can start getting ahead of it by doing the following:
- Talk to your school and childcare providers about their plan for a possible outbreak or closure.
- Talk to your employer about whether telecommuting or remote work is an option for you.
- Discuss contingency plans with your partner or co-parent if you have one and how you will divide parenting duties if schools close but your workplaces remain open.
4. Be wary of scams
The snake-oil sellers are using the pandemic to fleece consumers, says the Federal Trade Commission. "They're setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information," notes the FTC's Consumer Education Specialist, Colleen Tressler.
"The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments," she explains.
Some scam emails are claiming to be from the CDC, but parents should know that the most up-to-date information is actually on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the World Health Organization (WHO) websites.
5. Don't panic
The Coronavirus an be very serious, especially for elderly individuals, but "there is no evidence that children are more susceptible," according to the CDC.
"In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults," the CDC notes.
The CDC just wants people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that might occur If there is a case in a community. When the virus is spreading the best way to stop it will be to close schools and businesses, even though that will most certainly be inconvenient.
In short, the experts aren't telling us to be ready for the apocalypse, they just want us to be ready to stay home for as long as a couple of weeks. Stocking up on supplies now isn't an over reaction, it's just good emergency planning.
[Correction: A previous version of this story stated 8,400 people were being monitored possible cases in California. It is only 8,400. We deeply regret the error.]