The messaging from North American government authorities about the global SARS-CoV-2 virus outbreak (and the disease it causes, COVID-19) has taken a noticeable change in tone in the past few days.
Today, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported in a story titled Canadians being told to prepare for a possible novel coronavirus pandemic:
In a shift from previous messages, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged Monday that Canada may no longer be able to contain and limit the virus if it continues to spread around the world. She said governments, businesses and individuals should prepare for an outbreak or pandemic.
“We are coming to similar conclusions,” agreed Dr. Vera Etches, the City of Ottawa’s top health officer, on Monday. “It looks like it is going to be more and more difficult to contain this virus and it may well evolve into a pandemic. That would change the efforts to contain every last case and contact.”
Etches said people can take steps now, at home and at work, to prepare.
Some of those steps include stocking up on needed prescriptions ahead of time so there is no need to do so during a possible pandemic. She also recommended people stock up on non-perishable food.
“Imagine if someone was ill for a week. What would you need?”
Note that the Canadian authorities are now warning people to stock up on their prescriptions and on non-perishable food, in preparation for implementation of social distancing policies and possible quarantines.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also waning people to prepare themselves for significant disruption to society and daily life. Dr. Nancy Messonnier said:
I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming, and that disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things things that people need to start thinking about now. I had a conversation with my family over breakfast this morning, and I told my children that, while I didn’t think that they were at risk right now, we as a family need to be preparing for significant disruption of our lives.— Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a press briefing today
Here is the complete CDC press briefing (it’s about 35 minutes long):
What this means for you, reading this now, is that you need to prepare yourself and your family for the possibility that you will need to stay in your homes for a period of several weeks, avoiding contact with as many other people as possible, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools, businesses, and public transportation and public gathering places like movie theatres and shopping malls to close (as we already seen in Wuhan and many other cities in China). The time to prepare for this is NOW.
That means that you need to prepare by stocking up on food and other supplies to last you at least two or three weeks. Start by reviewing the Personal Health Preparedness lists provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here and the Pandemic Preparations list by Ready, an official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
You will need to have on hand:
- At least two weeks of food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.). There are already reports of panic buying in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Italy. You do not want to leave it to the last minute!
- Refills of all your presecription medications, plus a stock of over-the-counter medicines (talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medication).
- Power sources (flashlights, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, etc.).
UPDATE 7:40 p.m.: Two other excellent sources of information on what to buy in order to prepare for a pandemic can be found here (via FluTrackers.com) and the excellent Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) page maintained by the website ThePrepared.com.
Other things that you should do:
- Sign up for any local alerts from your city, state/province, or federal government (or know where to find the information on the Internet). Find out what plans your employer is making (and if they’re not making them now, they should be).
- If you haven’t yet, get your seasonal flu shot. It can’t hurt, and it will help to figure out whether or not you do have SARS-CoV-2 if/when you do become sick. Many areas now give out the flu shot for free.
- Train yourself NOT to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth! The SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain viable on hard surfaces anywhere from 2 hours to 9 days (scientific journal article source), and you can transfer the virus from your infected hands to your mouth, nose, and eyes by touching or rubbing them.
- Watch the following video from the World Health Organization on how wash your hands! Yes, I know I have posted it before. You may think you already know how to wash your hands properly, but you still might learn something you didn’t know before. Proper hand hygiene will also help you avoid catching regular seasonal colds and influenza, so there’s a net benefit to society.
Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):
- the United Nations World Health Organization
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Personal Health Preparedness information from the U.S. CDC
- Health Canada, including an FAQ and a fact sheet
- Public Health Canada
- Information for the Public from the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England (U.K.)
- the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (new!)
- Public Health Ontario (Canada)
- Coronavirus Information for the Public (British Columbia Centre for Disease Control; see also this series of tweets)
- University of Chicago Medicine
- 2019-2020 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak (Wikipedia)
- Dr. Roger Seheult is posting short videos to his YouTube channel, explaining the medical concepts behind the Wuhan coronavirus in an easy-to-understand way
- Another instructive YouTuber to watch is Dr. John Campbell, a British nurse educator who very clearly explains what you need to know
- If you prefer to get your informtion via audio, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has started a weekly half-hour podcast on SoundCloud, called COVID-19: What’s Happening Now.
- If you want a credible list of people to follow on Twitter, epidemiologist Dr. Ellie Murray has compiled a curated list of coronavirus experts that you can subscribe to.
If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are three good places to check:
- 2019-nCoV Global Cases (by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University); other good statistics dashboards can be found here and here.
- Tracking coronavirus: Map, Data and Timeline by BNO News
- the Wikipedia article on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is constantly updated by an army of volunteer editors, and provides a good overall summary of the situation
Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!