EDGE's disaster response expert, Nicole Errett, weighs in with advice about what to do and not to do in the face of the current novel coronavirus outbreak.
Multilingual messages and resources now available from Public Health – Seattle & King County: STAY HOME – STAY HEALTHY.
Thanks to our partners Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and ECOSS, video messages about the novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) are now available from the UW EDGE Center in *nine* languages:
Vietnamese: Giải mã những lời đồn – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Khmer (Cambodian): ការបំភ្លឺភាពអកំបាំងពីជំងឺខូរ៉ូនណាវៃរឺស – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Cantonese: 拆解新冠肺炎的謬誤 – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Mandarin: 拆解新冠肺炎的謬誤 : Coronavirus (COVID-19)
+ ASL: Visit Public Health Insider (Public Health of Seattle & King County)
*UPDATES: (1) CDC NOW RECOMMENDS THAT ALL PEOPLE WEAR CLOTH MASKS WHEN IN PUBLIC.
What should I do to protect myself from coronavirus, or COVID-19?
More handwashing, less face touching. Your best defense against COVID-19 is to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching doorknobs or other shared surfaces. If soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. And avoid touching your face.
You should keep at least six feet away from others. Replace your handshake with a friendly smile or wave.
Talk to your employer about sick leave policies and work from home options. Talk with your friends, family, and neighbors about how you can support each other in case you or people who depend on you get sick. For example, can someone pick up your kids if you are at work during an early dismissal from school?
If you feel ill or have fever, cough, or trouble breathing, stay home from work or school and call your doctor to ask if you should get tested. Most people with COVID-19 will have a mild version of the disease and not need health care. It’s important that you stay away from the hospital unless absolutely necessary so that doctors can focus on those who need them most.
And remember to always cough and sneeze into your sleeve, not your hand.
These recommendations will continue to change and will be different depending on where you live and work. You can stay informed by checking your local public health agency’s website early and often.
Should I wear a FACEMASK?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or “CDC”) does not currently recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from COVID-19. *UPDATES: (1) CDC NOW RECOMMENDS THAT ALL PEOPLE WEAR CLOTH MASKS WHEN IN PUBLIC.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you should use a facemask to help prevent spreading the virus to others. You should also use facemasks if you are taking care of infected people at home or in a health care facility. If you have a weakened immune system or underlying health conditions, please discuss your need to wear a facemask with your healthcare provider.
Stockpiling facemasks will not prevent you from getting COVID-19. Leave the supply for healthcare workers who could risk their own health while taking care of others.
Should I stockpile other supplies?
There's no need to panic stockpile. But, it is important to be prepared to stay home in case public health officials ask you to, if you are exposed, or if you get sick. For all emergencies, from pandemics to earthquakes, officials recommend having two weeks worth of food, water, prescription medications, and other supplies you use in your household. For example, your family may need diapers or pet supplies. Check with your insurance company to see if you can refill your prescriptions early, and if there are mail order options for refills.
Specific to COVID-19, you can also add things to your emergency kit that you would need in case you do get sick. For example, fever-reducing medicines such as Tylenol and cough and cold medicines. While we don’t currently expect COVID-19 to impact our water system, you might consider getting some fluids with electrolytes, like Gatorade, in case you do get sick.
Two weeks’ worth of groceries and other essentials can be expensive! If you are unable to afford this upfront, consider making a plan with friends or neighbors. Can they pick up groceries for you and leave them at your doorstep if you get sick or are asked to stay home?
Should I wipe down everything with bleach?
COVID-19 may stay viable for hours or days on some surfaces. You can be exposed by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face. The CDC recommends cleaning surfaces and using disinfectants as a best practice for preventing illnesses in homes and at community gatherings. You should also make a plan to isolate family members at home, if possible, in case they do get sick.
Effective disinfectants include bleach, Lysol, and Clorox products. Always read the label for safe and effective use of the product. You may need to wear gloves and have good ventilation while using it.
Never use bleach on your skin and never, ever drink it.
Should I avoid Chinese restaurants or people of Chinese descent?
Nothing about being of Asian descent makes one more likely to carry the virus.
Here's what Dr. Mary Foote at the New York City Department of Health has to say about that:
“There has been horrible misinformation stigmatizing Asian communities in general. This creates a lack of trust among different communities, which can make things worse.” How? “Stigma can prevent people from seeking proper care. It can essentially make people go ‘underground’ when they do have a problem.”
To summarize, diseases don’t discriminate, and neither should we.
For updated information about the COVID19 outbreak in Seattle visit the Public Health Seattle-King County's website.
For more general information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.