Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is in my community now. After a man returning from Italy and his son were diagnosed and subsequently isolated, there were more than a handful of cases of the virus reported with several more unconfirmed and awaiting testing in the first two weeks.
Now a month from that initial report, our number of confirmed cases has skyrocketed to more than 250 with 6 deaths.
Schools across the state are now closed through the end of the school year.
As a mom of 4, my first instinct is to do everything I can to protect my children. My youngest are 2 years and 10 months old, and all but the baby are in public school or childcare.
Any outbreak makes me nervous—whether that’s an outbreak of the flu, measles, or a stomach bug.
But after the initial shock and fear fades, and I brainstorm a way to convince our nanny not to quit in the event of school closures, I realize I’m actually in quite a bit of control here.
In the midst of mass media panic, here is what I know about Coronavirus.
- It is a respiratory virus first detected in China and now confirmed in over 100 locations internationally.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” on January 30, 2020.
- What began as person-to-person spread is now becoming community spread in some areas, meaning a member of the community tested positive for the virus without any apparent contact with an infected person.
- Reports show symptoms can be mild to severe, and a report from China states that up to 16% of cases are more severe. This virus can cause death.
- The most at risk populations are seniors and those with “severe underlying health conditions,” says the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
- The current risk to the community at large is considered low.
Source updated March 9, 2020: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html
That last bit is where I’m focusing my attention.
The CDC considered the risk to the general population of the United States to be low. This makes my attention on this virus’ evolution and spread one of awareness and not complacency.
Here is What I’m NOT Doing About COVID-19
I’m not panicking, stocking up on food, or hoarding medical supplies that would better serve healthcare workers and other at-risk people.
I don’t fear that my water will stop working or that we’ll suddenly move into a state of World War II rationing.
I do understand that there are heavily impacted parts of the world that may restrict my access to imported goods, so I’m staying aware of that.
I’m also not watching mass media. I do enjoy my satire news shows, but I’m even limiting how often I tune in, and I refuse to watch mainstream news who already amp up the fear and panic for everyday events.
My job right now is to protect my mental health as much as I protect my family.
What My Family is Doing About COVID-19
To be clear, I’m not brushing this off as something that shouldn’t be taken seriously.
The CDC states, “At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it.”
So while some individuals who contract COVID-19 may experience mild symptoms, there are others who will need treatment that is not currently available.
So what is my family doing to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and, frankly, other viruses like it? And what can you do to protect yourself against COVID-19?
Wash Your Hands
Seriously, people. Wash your hands.
20 seconds under warm water with vigorous scrubbing, paying attention to between your fingers, under your fingernails, and around your thumb.
I ask my kids to wash their hands when coming home from playing outside and again before eating.
We’re also keeping everyone’s fingernails nice and short to reduce the places germs can hide and make hand washing more effective.
Avoid Contact with the Sick
Any illness comes with an incubation period, and then there is always time between when someone begins feeling ill to when they feel ill enough to get tested.
Avoid contact with anyone who seems sick.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and its symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath.
Here is the link to the CDC’s COVID-19 symptoms page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html
We’re avoiding contact with everyone right now—our state currently has a shelter-in-place order—but we were doing that before the order was enacted and will continue to practice this long after it is lifted.
Reduce Takeout Ordering
Anyone who works hourly with little to no paid time off, including food service workers, is likely at risk for being infected and not being able to take adequate time off.
While I hope to see more companies providing paid sick time as a measure against the spread of COVID-19, I’m limiting our takeout ordering.
The plus side of this is that it’s something I should be doing anyway.
It’s embarrassing how often we order out right now, and that’s absolutely something I can fix.
Reschedule Travel Plans and Large Gatherings
The CDC is recommending all non-essential travel be cancelled or rescheduled along with any large gatherings.
Not only do these activities put you at greater risk, they dramatically increase the potential for the virus to spread and gain a toe hold in otherwise unaffected communities.
Regularly Sanitize Common Surfaces
Even if your contact with the outside world is limited, it’s still important to regularly sanitize common surfaces in your home.
We’re opting for contact-free delivery of our groceries, wiping down items as they come into our home, and wiping down surfaces more often in the common areas of our home.
Remove Shoes Upon Arrival
This one is a pet peeve of mine, so my kids already know the drill!
Your shoes go in some nasty places throughout your day.
From bathroom floors to parking lots to yards filled with animal droppings… yeah, shoes are gross, y’all.
We take our shoes off upon arrival and store them in the bench seat of our hall tree. Anyone removing their shoes then immediately goes and washes their hands.
Treat Symptoms of Other illnesses + Update Vaccinations
One of the most dangerous aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the strain it is putting on hospital resources. I don’t want to be a patient showing up to a hospital that’s run out of ventilators.
Equally, I don’t want me or my family to put an additional strain on hospitals to treat other illness that I can prevent.
As best I can, I’m making sure my family stays up to date on our routine vaccinations and takes proper precautions against other seasonal illnesses like the flu.
While these won’t necessarily stop COVID-19 specifically, they will keep the burden on our hospitals lower and prevent us from coming in contact with an infected population.
Overall, what we’re doing is being smart about where we focus our energy and the steps we’re taking to stop the spread of any virus.
These are all common sense steps to take to prevent the transmission of any illness, so if anything else, this outbreak is teaching my kids that basic hygiene like hand washing is actually as important as I say it is.
There’s a Plus Side?
On a positive note, between general social distancing and a shelter-in-place order, we’re essentially locked down together. In that time, I’ve noticed some positives.
- My oldest daughter has a hilarious sense of humor that’s really blossomed this year. She and I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to sit and talk since middle school started, but we do now, and she’s pretty funny.
- My younger daughter struggles in school but gets a ton of 1:1 instruction right now that’s fairly distraction-free, and she’s thriving!
- All of my daughters are bonding in new and unique ways, and I get to watch it happen.
- More and more moms like me are turning to the internet to help provide for their families. In addition to my marketing agency, I’ve even launched #WAHM Life, a subscription box aimed at helping these moms succeed.
COVID-19 is changing life as we know it, but I’m a survivor, and I intend for my family to thrive.