Well, pandemic panic shopping has hit Winnipeg…here is a picture of the toilet paper aisle at a local Costco:
However, Winnipeggers are not without their signature sense of humour (we need it because of our long, cold winters). One Salisbury House restaurant in Winnipeg (a popular local chain well known for its “Nips” hamburgers and its claw machine games filled with stuffed animals) has set up the following claw machine:
So, if we do go into lockdown, at least I will be in good company! Winnipeg is well versed in dealing with emergencies such as blizzards; we will cope and we will adapt!
The following animated GIF is available here via Wikimedia (Creative Commons license CC-BY-SA), so please be sure to share it widely! It explains WHY we need to use social distancing, self-isolation, proper hand hygiene, and other tactics to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic, in order to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system with a surge of COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization.
Once again, I am going to repeat the following information in an effort to reach as many people as I can who have not yet prepared for a pandemic:
How to Prepare for a Potential Pandemic
Here, once again, is an updated reminder of what you should be doing to prepare: mentally, emotionally, and physically/logistically.
You will probably need to prepare to stay isolated 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 SARS-CoV-2 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, as well as places such as South Korea, Iran, and Italy). The elderly (those over 60) and those with hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease (e.g. asthma), cancer, and those who have compromised immune systems (e.g. HIV+) are particularly at risk of a severe reaction to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The time to prepare for the imposition of quarantines and social distancing policies by local governments is NOW.
If you need lists of how to prepare and what to buy in order to get your household ready for a potential pandemic, here are seven suggestions to help you get started:
- Personal Health Preparedness information from the U.S. CDC
- Pandemic information from Ready.gov (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Being prepared (Government of Canada)
- One-page layperson’s guide to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) by ThePrepared.com website
- So you think you’re about to be in a pandemic? by Dr. Ian M. Mackay of the Virology Down Under blog
- Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus: the third page of this 3-page guide provides guidance in how to prepare and what to buy (New!)
- Basic Preps List for One – 30 Days: a discussion thread with links to many useful shopping lists, from the FluTrackers.com forum
You will need to have on hand:
- AT LEAST two weeks of non-perishable food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.). There are already reports of panic buying in many places around the world, including North America. You do not want to leave it to the last minute! If you cannot find any hand sanitizer, you can make your own (see the recipe below).
- 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.). The power probably won’t go out, but it’s better to be prepared than sorry. Water, power, and sewer services are unlikely to go out, but the internet may go down from time to time due to so many more people working from home.
Other things that you should do:
- Please consider making a donation to your local food bank: the people who will be hardest hit by a coronavirus pandemic are the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, the homeless, people with addictions, women escaping abusive relationships, etc. These people don’t have the luxury of buying two weeks of food as you do, and by donating to food banks, you help support them as well.
- 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 videos from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on how wash your hands properly! Yes, I know I have posted these videos numerous times 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.
How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
There have been reports of panic shopping in various countries around the world, including in North America. In particular, hand sanitizer is in short supply, with many stores being sold out of stock. Fortunately, if you cannot find sanitizer to buy, you can make your own. Here’s the recipe:
2/3-cup rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol, not 70%)
1/3-cup aloe vera gel (GEL, not liquid)
Directions: Add the alcohol to the aloe vera gel and stir. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a pump bottle; you can use cleaned soap bottles for instance, or you can find inexpensive pump bottles at dollar stores. If you have empty store-bought hand sanitizer bottles, you can use those.
If you wish, you can add 8-10 drops of essential oils. Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint and orange oils, which have been shown to have some antibacterial properties (source), would be a good choice.
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 (WHO)
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- 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
- UPDATE March 18th, 2020: Coronavirus COVID-19 Information from Shared Health Manitoba (includes an online screening tool)
- UPDATE March 18th, 2020: COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus Information from the government of Manitoba
- 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
- Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus
- Coronavirus FAQ’s by Dr. Megan Murray (Harvard Infectious Disease specialist)
- PSA Regarding COVID-19: A Warning (from the r/Canada subReddit)
- 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 information 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.
- A brand-new, excellent podcast to follow is EPIDEMIC, with co-hosts Dr. Celine Gounder and Ronald Klain (the former United States Ebola response coordinator under President Barack Obama)
- 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.
- Watch the following video from the World Health Organization:
If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are some good places to check:
- Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases (by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University); sometimes this website goes down, so some 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!