With the coronavirus pandemic, Americans from coast to coast face the real prospect of spending two weeks in hiding at home. This raises a pressing question: what supplies should you have on hand to take you during the fortnight?
Toilet paper and bottled water fly off store shelves, but the list of essentials is a little longer, said the UC Riverside epidemiologist Brandon Brown.
Before discussing what's in it, stop to consider when an extended stay at home is warranted. Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that certain people quarantine themselves for 14 days if they maintain close contact with someone they know is infected. In addition, people with symptoms of COVID-19 – including cough, fever and shortness of breath – should isolate themselves for 14 days, says the CDC.
For the moment, remember that people who feel good are invited to stay at home only if they meet very specific criteria for close contact with a confirmed patient with COVID-19 or have recently returned from some countries where the coronavirus is spreading widely.
Brown himself was quarantined for a few days in Singapore during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS]. He talked to the Los Angeles Times about how he would stock up on a possible repeat.
Do not accumulate
First, Brown emphasized that many people probably already have a lot of what they need at home, so there is no reason to open store shelves when more vulnerable consumers, such as the elderly or people with compromised immune systems, may actually need supplies. right now.
"We should also think about not only ourselves, but also others," he said. "Take what you need and leave the rest."
These will last a long time in your pantry, but are easy to throw in a pan and cook. Think beans, rice, cereals and pasta, he said. Nuts are also a good snack option.
Canned fruits and vegetables may not taste as good as fresh things, but they last much longer. And soups will be useful if you start to feel bad.
If you have a refrigerator, there is no reason not to have at least some fresh produce and meat, which can be kept cold or frozen. Try to choose fruits and vegetables that last a while so that you can share them during your stay.
Easy meals that you can put in the microwave can be a good idea if you have a freezer and are not willing to cook every day.
Just because you're quarantined, it doesn't mean you have to eat like the apocalypse is upon us. French fries, sweets and other snacks are a good idea in moderation, said Brown.
If you need a daily dose of caffeine to feel human and usually get it out of the house, it's a good idea to make sure you have coffee or tea to prepare at home, he added.
You probably have access to clean drinking water through the tap, so there is no need to stock this, said Brown. But if for some reason you don't have drinking water at home, getting a two-week supply from the store may make sense.
Specifically, the type of soap you would use to wash your hands. This is the key, as you can kill the coronavirus with a thorough cleaning that lasts at least 20 seconds.
Oh, and don't worry about running out of hand sanitizer when you're at home. If you have been quarantined or isolated, you are not moving to shared public spaces and therefore do not need it. Also, washing your hands is almost always a better option, as long as there is soap and water.
"It's important to have soap, it's important to have water – and if you have these two things, you don't need hand sanitizer," said Brown.
Other cleaning and hygiene products
Don't forget to have two weeks of washing powder, laundry detergent and, of course, toilet paper.
"It's important to have enough laundry detergent so that you don't get stuck in the same dirty underwear for two weeks," he said.
Make sure the prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you use regularly are met for at least the two weeks that you will be out of service.
The good news for young people is that they seem to be less vulnerable to COVID-19 than older people. But if they are at home with you, you still need to make sure you have enough formula, baby food, diapers and other essentials.
The same goes for your pets! Make sure you have enough pet food, garbage and other supplies on hand.
Okay, so this is not something you buy at the supermarket. But, to pass the time, you'll probably want access to streaming entertainment and the outside world.
Stay social: Make sure you connect with friends and family. Video chat is a good option and phone calls are also good. Maintaining these connections when you are physically isolated from the larger community is essential.
"This is super important because, as human beings, we are social animals," said Brown.
Exercise: If you find the space, try to exercise a little. Getting stuck in one place can make you depressed, and endorphins are great mood stimulants.
Have a routine: If you usually wake up, have breakfast, shower and get dressed for work, do these things even if you are working from home. Maintaining a sense of normality is important when the rhythms of your daily life are disrupted, said Brown.
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