Updated: Mar 8
Since the middle of January, I have been getting my family ready for the Coronavirus, otherwise named as COVID-19. As I observed the spread of the disease in China, I came to realize that the potential for a pandemic this time, was very real. So I checked on supplies and shifted my normal preps to include biohazard. I was already prepared for supply chain issues.
Supply chain disruptions
Economic slowdown and downturn of corporate earnings
High-risk family members inside the home
I made a decision a couple of years ago to take care of my grandmother-in-law "Aurora" as well as my mother-in-law "Margie." Aurora will be 90 this year, in April. Margie will be 65 this year. This virus is very serious to me and my family, because of the virus's history and its statistics with the elderly, and those with underlying issues.
Specifically, people are 50% likely to die if they have a history of diabetes, hypertension and pulmonary issues, and are elderly. Aurora has all four, with Margie having a couple herself. Even worse, Aurora had a fall right before things started getting bad in China, and she had to go to a rehabilitation center, so she is not in our home right now, so I am not able to control her environment.
Update: Aurora gets to come home on Monday March 9, just a couple of days from now. Yay!
Aurora being in the facility has been bad for all sorts of reasons. Underlying health issues. Age. Residing in a facility with close contact with likely sick people.
In China, as well as on the Diamond Princess, and even now in Washington State with the elderly home, evidence shows that people who are in close quarters are much more likely to get sick. In China prisons were mass infected, the cruise ships are spreading like wildfire, and in living facilities like dormitories and elderly living facilities, it spreads very easily because the staff has close contact with each patient. This means that visitors, nurses and other medical personnel are likely to bring the virus into Aurora's surroundings.
I have been educating my family in my home. There are five of us. Education and habit changing are the MOST important thing we can do to avoid bringing this virus into the home.
We normally take precautions for influenza, but our precautions for this virus are much more serious given the likelihood of death among some family members if we catch it and spread it. Right now I am trying to reinforce habits as much as possibly with my family so we can prevent infecting the two elderly people living with us. So here is what my family is doing:
Social Distancing. We have full stocks of food, water, medical supplies, medicine, etc. Some of the family members do have to go to the doctor once a month to get certain medications, but for the most part many of the family members have 90-day supplies of medicine. The medicine issue is concerning because as our supply chain becomes seriously compromised, many of our medications will be unavailable. Up to 95% of our antibiotics, for example, are made in China and India. And India has already made announcements that it is banning the export of key ingredients needed for many medications, because they are anticipating supply chain issues around the world.
For the most part, we have everything we need, and we can survive without any additional shopping or going outdoors for up to 6-8 months for 5 people. We even have 1,500 gallons of purified water. As a family, we normally prepare for things like long-term power outages, disruptions to supply chain, and simple things like that. So we had a head start on getting prepared for this virus. So we will rarely need to go out, and when we absolutely have to go out, we will be very diligent in our safety. As of February 28th, we also pulled our daughter out of school, this way she didn't bring the virus home. Children are low risk for the infection itself, but children are proven carriers of the virus. Also, I can do most of my job remotely, so I am not worried about work.
We also distance inside our home with each other. Instead of giving a kiss to my daughter, I will hug her instead. Family physical closeness is distant, but we still express our love for one another in other ways. And I will never sneeze or cough around any of them. If its an emergency sneeze or something like that, we do it inside our shirt, then we decontaminate immediately.
No masks, unless pandemic. Masks just are not practical for our entire family. While we do have some 3M N95 masks, we only have them for things like doing yard work where there is a lot of dust, painting, etc. We have a pack of about 20, but they are not fit tested for all of our family members. So they are basically useless for a virus of about 5 nanoparticles, except for a couple of us which do have a proper fit with the type of mask we have. I think when this is all over, I will fit test each family member and make sure we have enough on hand for the next time this happens. There will be a next time.
We do have two full-face respirators with better filtration than N95 though, at P100. If things get really bad, like a pandemic bad, and we must leave the house, we have the option to completely protect our eyes, nose, and mouth without having to worry about the mask not having a proper seal. We are using the 3M FF-402. For the cartridges, we are using the 3M Multi Gas/Vapor Cartridge/Filter 60926, P100 canisters. We also have adapters for N95 filtration. But we use these for special projects and just happen to have them. All in all, we only plan to wear masks if the virus gets to pandemic levels. Why are we waiting till it gets more extreme? Because it's just not practical to wear a mask all the time. Not only that, right now, it's not very common to come across a sick person. However, if this thing gets more severe, it will be much more common to run across someone who is sick that is likely to get us sick, and then we get our family members sick who are high risk.
Our hands are the enemy. It is more practical to train ourselves not to touch our faces at all. Even when we are at home, we do not touch our faces, unless it is right after we wash our hands thoroughly and need to put on lotion or something like that. Otherwise, everyone in the home has been trained to not touch the face. This is important even as we try not to get the flu, which we have yet to get in decades. The moment we are done washing and we do ANYTHING, we treat our hands as unsanitary. This means frequent hand washing and using hand sanitizer when washing is not available. If we want to touch our faces, we wash first. And we sanitize the containers that have the cleaner as well. We keep Clorox wipes next to every door that may be opened or closed. And the moment someone uses a door or opens and closes something, we clean it right away. We keep them also at every toilet and the moment someone uses the toilet, the person is required to clean the toilet.
A toilet is a very common way to spread a corona type of virus. Before we prepare food, we wash our hands and we put on latex gloves and then handle food. We do everything possible to avoid cross-contamination. This way, if someone in the home does get sick and we don't know it, we are less likely to pass it around to each other. But we are constantly sanitizing surfaces, handles for turning on the water for the sink, knobs for drawers, or doors, dishwasher, microwave, fridge, etc. Anything we touch gets sanitized and sanitized often - basically every time we use it.
Touch with your elbow. If you must use an elevator button or open a door or do anything which you would normally do with your hands, try to use your elbow, if at all possible. Elevator buttons are more disgusting than many toilets. So whenever possible, use something other than your hand, while out in public, to do whatever task is needed.
Decontaminate everything. Anything a person touches, we treat as possible contamination. A typical coronavirus can live on various surfaces for up to 9 days. This means that if we go shopping, sick people are potentially handling things we just pulled off the store shelf and if we then touch our faces, we will get sick too. I was just at the store recently, and went into the soup isle and there was a lady coughing, with a dry cough, and obviously sick, all over the canned food with a fist in front of her face. Not only are her respiratory droplets getting all over the canned food, but her hand is touching all the food as well that she just coughed with.
So when we bring things home from the store, we clean each item to disinfect any possible coronavirus, flu, etc. Influenza only stays on surfaces for a couple of days, so we can usually just isolate the items, but coronavirus is very concerning because it stays alive on the surface for so long.
We even decontaminate packages from UPS as well as the mail, including its contents. Imagine your mail carrier not feeling well, wiping their nose or coughing into their hand and then handling the mail and putting it in your mailbox. Or the picker at a warehouse who is ill stuffing the box with that cool new item you bought from Amazon with contaminated hands. In Washington State, they have already identified a postal worker, spreading the virus while he worked. All those packages he touched, possible infections. Community spread everywhere. So we treat everything as contaminated if a person was likely to have touched it in the last two weeks.
This might seem excessive, and it probably is. But when you have family members who would have a most certain death sentence if they catch this thing, we decided as a family to take this very seriously. The virus itself has a death rate of up to 3-4% compared to influenza which is below 0.1 of a percent. But the coronavirus number might be coming down. Time will tell.
We have also set up the garage for when Aurora gets home, or if the virus goes pandemic, whichever first. If she is not sick by the time we are able to bring her home, we plan on using the garage as a decontamination area. We have a washbasin, scrub brushes, Clorox hydrogen peroxide cleaner, Clorox wipes and 100 shop towels we can use to dry with. We also have red bags so we can put our clothes and shop towels in them before we go into the house. Everything in the red bags must be washed in a sanitizing wash. It might seem excessive, but we cannot bring this virus into the home, or possibly two of our family members could, and are likely to die based their medical history and the virus's history with other patients thus far. Right now, things are not so bad that we need to do this, but we are ready in case we must.
The most important thing. I think out of everything we are doing, the most important thing is our sanitary habits. Cleaning our phones a lot. Our hands. Every surface we touch. Practice hands away from the face not only in public but at home and with each other as well. They say that there is evidence of transmission from asymptomatic people, so we may not know if someone is sick. But there is a lot we can do, just with our habits to stay healthy and keep the cold, influenza and this novel coronavirus outside our home.
If you haven't begun to prepare yet, gauge the risk to your family based on medical issues. Any family members with underlying medical issues are extremely problematic with this virus. It is demonstrated that diabetes, hypertension and any existing or history of respiratory issues put you at great risk of death if you get this thing. Also, any immune depressed person, such as those battling cancer are also at risk.
Every family must make a decision for themselves of what they should do. Don't listen to the political rhetoric or think its silly to prepare. It's entirely possible that you don't have to just worry about the virus. Our entire supply chain is at risk. So prepare not only for the virus but prepare in case the store shelves go bare for a couple of weeks. Make sure you can be comfortable without any restocking of supplies for a little while. CDC and others recommend having at least 2 weeks of stock. That's good advice. But if you can afford it, I would at least double that.
The reality is, many families do not need to worry, except for making sure you have supplies in case the supply chain gets slow. Most families don't have at risk people in their household, who even if they get sick, it will just be like having a bad case of the flu. But make sure you have medicine, as most of our medicine (generic) is made in China and India. Make sure you have OTC medicine to make you feel better in case you do get sick. And don't wait until you’re in the situation to go out and try to remedy it. You might find yourself in a position where you will be out of luck.
No matter what though, we may still get infected, even after all this. I just hope to not spread it to Aurora and Margie if I get sick.
I wish you and your family good health. And if you do have high risk family members, I hope you have success keeping this virus away from them.
If you are low risk, please, for everyone’s sake — take precautions for the sake of those around you. You may be low risk, but those around you and the people they love may be high risk. So when you hear talking heads say that people are overreacting, think about the 4% of the population that can and might die.
I hope my story will help someone prepare better, or be more proactive instead of reactive.
Time will tell. Good luck to you all!