Ultimate Guide for Preparing to Shelter at Home
Sitting at home for two weeks is no fun as much as you like being home, the country is functionally in quarantine. Only essential stores remain open, and there are limits on how many people can be inside them at once. Other stores are closed, and many delivery services have shut down.
If this sounds crazy it is the reality right now, it’s a description of where Italy is, right now, in the coronavirus pandemic. And by some measures, we look to be following Italy’s outcome from the two-week quarantine, with about a two-week lag. So now isn‘t a time for panic, but it is a time for preparation — to be ready for weeks or even months when much is shut down. Even if you’re in a location of the world where stores are staying open, many of us won’t want to go into the crowded public spaces we typically frequent without another thought.
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert urged Americans on Sunday to hunker down as the U.S. scrambles to avoid an explosion of coronavirus cases that could kill hundreds of thousands, or even a million, people here.
“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”
So what do you need? How should you think about preparing? While store shelves are emptier than usual and lots of items are out of stock, many people still haven’t really thought about what the weeks and months ahead will hold — it may well be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Here’s a guide to the essentials and later we will give some Covid-19 symptoms.
How to prepare to stay at home guide:
Many can’t afford to respond by stocking up on necessities because they already live from paycheck to paycheck. For many people living on tight budgets, the virus has already disrupted paychecks they count on weekly and livelihoods, and more disruptions are coming. But if you can afford to make some purchases now that will make the outbreak easier to weather, you will be helping to protect your fellow citizens who can’t.
We need to take steps to flatten the curve of spreading the coronavirus. Every additional person in a store increases the odds of coronavirus spread, and many people can unknowingly be carriers. If on average they spread it to fewer than one additional person, case numbers will decrease. And even just delaying the growth in case numbers can save lives by buying us more time to prepare.
So preparing for the isolation yourself and your family may soon be facing isn’t selfish; it’s one way to help protect people who don’t have the resources to prepare themselves. It lets you avoid excursions that might get them sick. It also lets you weather problems at home, instead of clogging an urgent care center or the emergency room when both are likely to be overwhelmed.
If you can afford to buy some things that will enable you to ride out social distancing, local supply shocks, school closings, and potentially getting sick, it’s a sensible thing to do. That said, don’t horde quantities of things you won’t need. Making it harder for other people to get those things actually puts you in greater danger!
Here is an expanded version of the guide above on some purchases that might make an unnerving few weeks go a little more smoothly.
Cleaning Products for the Coronavirus
Soap and Water
Just the friction from scrubbing with soap and water can break the coronavirus’s protective envelope. “Scrub like you’ve got sticky stuff on the surface and you really need to get it off,” says Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and member of the American Chemical Society. Discard the towel or leave it in a bowl of soapy water for a while to destroy any virus particles that may have survived.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a diluted bleach solution (⅓ cup bleach per 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per 1 quart of water) for virus disinfection. Wear gloves while using bleach, and never mix it with ammonia or anything, in fact, except water. (The only exception is when doing laundry with detergent.) Once mixed, don’t keep the solution for longer than a day because bleach will degrade certain plastic containers.
“Always clean the surface with water and detergent first, since many materials can react with bleach and deactivate it,” Sachleben says. “Dry the surface then apply the bleach solution and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before wiping it off.”
Bleach can corrode metal over time, so Sachleben recommends that people not get into the habit of cleaning their faucets and stainless steel products with it. Because bleach is harsh for many countertops as well, you should rinse surfaces with water after disinfecting to prevent discoloration or damage to the surface.
Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are effective against coronavirus on hard surfaces. First, clean the surface with water and detergent. Apply the alcohol solution (do not dilute it) and let it sit on the surface for at least 30 seconds to disinfect. Alcohol is generally safe for all surfaces but can discolor some plastics, Sachleben says.
According to the CDC, household (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide is effective in deactivating rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure. Rhinovirus is more difficult to destroy than coronaviruses, so hydrogen peroxide should be able to break down coronavirus in less time. Pour it undiluted into a spray bottle and spray it on the surface to be cleaned, but let it sit on the surface for at least 1 minute.
Hydrogen peroxide is not corrosive, so it’s okay to use it on metal surfaces. But similar to bleach, it can discolor fabrics if you accidentally get in on your clothes. “It’s great for getting into hard-to-reach crevices,” Sachleben says. “You can pour it on the area and you don’t have to wipe it off because it essentially decomposes into oxygen and water.”
What Not to Use Against Coronavirus
Homemade Hand Sanitizer
You’re probably seeing all sorts of hand sanitizer recipes floating around your social media and the internet, but Thomas, at Upstate Medical in Syracuse, advises against making your own. “People don’t know the right ratios to use, and the internet won’t give you the right answer,” he warns. “Not only can you hurt yourself, but it could give you a false sense of security.”
Sachleben seconds that advice. “I’m a professional chemist, and I don’t mix my own disinfectant products at home,” he says. “Companies spend a bunch of time and money to pay chemists specifically to formulate hand sanitizers that work and that are safe. If you make it yourself, how can you know if it’s stable or if it works?”
There are widely circulated recipes on the internet using vodka to combat coronavirus. A couple of vodka makers, including Tito’s, have already come out with statements telling their customers that their 80-proof product does not contain enough ethyl alcohol (40 percent compared with the 70 percent required) to kill the coronavirus.
Distilled White Vinegar
Disinfection recommendations using vinegar are popular online, but there is no evidence that they are effective against coronavirus.
Food, Groceries, Essentials
The food supply chain is not going to break down. and hoarding can cause problems, but “people might want to slowly start to stock up on enough nonperishable food to last their households through several weeks of social distancing at home. You should be planning for interruptions and inconveniences, but needn’t fear a famine.
Looking at how the coronavirus has played out in other countries, it seems likely that people will need to plan for less frequent access to grocery stores, and if they get sick, they might not want to go out shopping at all. It’s also possible many communities might be home for a long time, potentially months, so boredom is a real concern as many public activities are limited. Consider buying:
Supplies of shelf-stable food if access to grocery stores is limited for a while. For example, your city or county might start limiting how many people can be in the store at a time, creating long lines, as some areas of Italy have done. The cheapest way to make sure you stay fed is probably some big bags of rice and dry beans, but keep in mind that food is important to your morale, too — snacks you actually like may make long periods of restricted movement more bearable. My home has stocked up on chocolate and popcorn as well as flour, butter, lentils, and rice.
Coffee or tea is good to have on hand, especially if you have a caffeine habit. You will be much less happy stuck at home without them, and as things get worse a run out to the local coffee shop may not be a good idea (or your city or county may close all nonessential businesses).
A first aid kit: Hospitals in parts of the US are likely to be overwhelmed. Already, many are canceling non-emergency surgeries. That means it will be harder to access hospitals for injuries and illnesses that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. Emergencies have much longer than normal wait times.
So be prepared to treat everything from home: Do you have rehydration fluids? bandages? Over-the-counter meds? Antiseptic wipes? Cold packs?
When Will Retailers Get More Supplies
Wondering when you’ll be able to get your hands on hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, Clorox sprays, etc., at your local store? CR spoke to major chains, including Costco, CVS, Kroger, Stop & Shop, and Walgreens. They said that they are seeing temporary shortages and are restocking as quickly as their suppliers allow (though CVS says it is not seeing a shortage of disinfectant wipes and sprays). Kroger and Stop & Shop have instituted purchase limits.
They have their own distribution warehouses and constantly replenish their stock. He adds that Walmart has one of the best distribution chains in the country and is prepared for natural disasters like tornadoes or hurricanes. In other words, their system is already in place, so they don’t have to scramble to meet demand.
I’ve found out the best time to shop is 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., because the shelves are typically restocked overnight. He anticipates that supplies from Clorox, 3M, and Procter & Gamble will be replenished the soonest.
Fighting Cabin Fever from Self-Quarantine
Many states initially announced shutdowns for a few weeks. But experts say we should expect things to be closed for much longer than that. “I think we will continue to see an expansion of the epidemic here in the US,” Rivers told me. “I think we will also see corresponding mitigation measures.” So you should expect that it may be months before you can return to your normal life. Plan what you’ll need to keep yourself and your family entertained at home.
- Hobbies: Have you been considering taking up embroidery? Knitting? Miniature furniture making? Baking? It’s a good time to dive into an activity you can do at home. Morale matters!
- Things for working-from-home: If your job is possible to do remotely, you should prepare for being encouraged or asked to work from home for the next few months. Make sure you have a desk and a chair that’s comfortable and consider other contingencies like a prepaid wifi hotspot for if your internet’s being unreliable.
- Electronics and, potentially, spare parts: If your phone or computer breaks, it’s an inconvenience in the best of times. Right now, it might be more than that, if you’re relying on your connected devices for work or interactions with the outside world and stores aren’t open to get a replacement. If you can afford a backup phone, a spare battery, or replacement parts for the devices you rely on, then you’re not one unfortunate spill from disaster.
- Things for quality time: Face it, you might be stuck with family, roommates, or partners for a while (and experts do not recommend even small gatherings with other families, which can still transmit the virus). So have on hand some things you can do together: board games, video games, sheet music for sing-alongs, popcorn for movie nights. If you can’t afford to purchase much, keep in mind that many activities that can make the long days go by faster are basically free: My family is planning a D&D game, which can be run with free online materials and a set of dice (if the dice are too pricy, your phone will do the trick).
What to do if You Get Sick During This Pandemic
According to data from China, for around 80 percent of people that contract coronavirus, the symptoms are mild. “Mild,” though, doesn’t mean that it’ll just be a cold — it just means that you won’t require hospitalization. It may still feel like the worst flu of your life.
So stock up on things that help you get through a bad fever and a bad cough, plus some other unpleasant symptoms. That probably includes:
- Medication for reducing fever, like acetaminophen (Tylenol). There’s nothing like trying to figure out dosing instructions for medications, while miserable and sick, so look that information up now! If you can’t manage your fever with over the counter medication, seek medical attention.
- A thermometer for monitoring your fever. This can help you notice that you’re sick in the first place (fever is the most common symptom and often the first) and help you notice if your fever is dangerously high or if medication is failing to manage it.
- Medication for managing cough, including cough drops and lozenges, and cough syrups like Dayquil/Nyquil. Stuffy/runny nose seems to be rare among Covid-19 patients, but for illnesses in general, decongestants like Sudafed can be helpful.
- A humidifier can also help a lot with a cough that makes it tough to sleep. if you don’t own a humidifier, sitting in a steamy room (like one where the shower is running) can help.
- Rehydration solutions. You can buy these in the form of something like Pedialyte or Gatorade, or make one at home with a liter of drinking water, a scoop of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Staying hydrated while you’re sick can help you recover faster and ensure you don’t need medical attention — which may only be available to the very ill. I ordered Gatorade because I prefer the taste: The best rehydration solution is one you’ll actually want to drink. (But don’t get the sugar-free kind — sugar is what your body needs!)
- I also purchased a finger pulse oximeter — which costs about $20 — the last time I had a respiratory illness. When it feels like you’re having trouble breathing, it can be hard to know if it’s just anxiety or if you’re really having trouble getting enough air. The oximeter measures whether you’re actually short of breath. In healthy people, blood oxygen levels are usually 96-100.
But for me, the oximeter was mostly useful for anxiety — I could slip it on my finger and be reassured that I was likely not very sick and didn’t need a doctor at all.
With all this said make sure you consult a doctor if you are unsure or go to the CDC website here.