19 Ways to Protect Your Family & Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic

So, COVID-19 is here, and we are all freaking out. I happen to have just had a baby two weeks ago and spend countless hours through the day and night on my phone while pumping and breastfeeding. Countless hours – that means – reading the news and on social media consuming the fears of this virus sweeping across the entire world. This.is.so.crazy. I am in total fear with a newborn, two toddlers, older parents, and as asthmatic husband. That being said – that isn’t so bad to compared to hundreds of thousands of other people in much worse situations!

I have summed up 19 ways to help protect your family and your community based on the news, CDC guidelines, and recommendations from Stanford Hospital and UCSF Hospital – some of the best and brightest in this country. Below is my summary – and in no way perfect. Continue to follow the recommendations put forth by the experts and stay up to date with the latest! Stay safe and healthy, friends!

1. Wash Up

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Find a great article here about Why Soap Works from NYT. In our house – we are singing songs like Happy Birthday or repeat the ABCs while washing up to make sure our kids are soaping up long enough to be effective. At this point, we are past containment.  Containment is futile. Our containment efforts won’t reduce the number who get infected in America – we’re just trying to slow the spread to help healthcare providers deal with the demand peak. Hand washing helps, a lot! 

2. Use Sanitizer (with alcohol)

When you don’t have access to soap – use hand sanitizer. 

3. Wipe It

Use Lysol/Clorox wipes or other germ killing sprays on hard surfaces like door handles, faucets, PHONES, keys, steering wheels, light switches, and other high touch places often! These are all Corona Killers.

I repeat, clean.your.phones! Phones, phones, phones! The germ block we carry with us everywhere are literally disgusting portable corona islands.

4. Don’t be Polite

Ensure friends, family, babysitters, coming into your home wash-up; this is not a time to be polite. If they don’t head straight to your sink on their own, ask them to do so.  Avoid handshakes, kissing hugging or sitting too close to anyone else. If possible, just don’t have anyone over. Every single person you have enter your home/environment is another link to the outside world of interconnected people. One person means ten, hundreds or thousands of direct connections.

5. Clip Your Nails. Seriously.

Keep your fingernails SHORT. Yes, goodbye to the trendy long painted nails, for now. Fingernails are disgusting germ paradises that you touch everything with – including your children, your own face, etc. Don’t believe me that this one is important? Read this, this, this or this

6. Drink Up!

Keep your mouth and throat moist at all times, never dry! Drinking warm water is effective for all viruses. Try not to drink liquids with ice. Take a few sips of water every 15 minutes at least. Why? Even if the virus gets into your mouth, drinking water or other liquids will wash them down through your throat and into the stomach. Once there, your stomach acid will kill all the virus. Hopefully you drink enough liquids that the virus does not have time to travel from your mouth to your lungs. This obviously doesn’t apply so well through the eyes or nose…

You should also gargle as a prevention. A simple solution of salt in warm water will work. 

If you don’t drink enough water more regularly, the virus can enter your windpipe and into the lungs. That’s very dangerous.

7. Cover Your Cough and Change ya’ Clothing

If you cough or sneeze, avoid your hands and use your elbow. Then maybe consider changing your outfit, because, gross. Honestly, I have been changing my clothes and the kids clothing more often than not – there is no harm in taking extra precautions to keep everyone clean and your home environment free from germs that maybe piggy back inside on those sweatshirt sleeves… 

8. Just Stay home.

If you have the opportunity to avoid crowds, schools, gyms, extracurricular activities, parties, packed commutes – do it. Read books, do art projects, watch more movies than you would otherwise, work from home, talk to friends and family by Facetime, play in your backyard…. Just, stay freaking home. Flatten the damn curve. Your actions matter here. For families with young kids (like us!) – I highly recommend purchasing Busy Toddler’s two amazing activities booklets. They are thoughtful, well planned out, and helpful in so many ways. 

9. Self-Quarantine

If you are sick, self-isolate at home and try to not get the rest of your family sick. This is likely impossible for most, but when feasible, do it. The bottom line is that there is not enough testing capacity to be broadly useful for COVID-19 so just assume if you have the symptoms, that you have it, and should just stay the f- home. Do not go to the hospital or your doctor’s office without calling ahead first! You may jeopardize the health and safety of many other people on your way.  There is very little you can do at a hospital that you couldn’t do at home. Most cases are mild. But if the patient is old or has lung or cardio-vascular problems, call immediately for professional guidance. 

10. Breastfeed Your Babe

Breastfeed your baby, if you are already on that path. This is not the time to wean. Breastfeeding helps protect against SO many things. Read this CDC post here for more detailed guidance on expressed milk and breastfeeding during the Corona pandemic. 

11. Keep Your Distance

Stay away from elderly like grandparents and older neighbors and friends. Your “social distancing” might be tough, especially in the case of family, but this could save their lives. Skip the grandparents coming over for Sunday night dinner, as hard as that can be. I realize a lot of folks also depend on their parents for childcare, but do your best to distance your family unit from anyone you can.

12. Buy Your Meds Now

Stockpile your critical prescription medications.  Don’t hoard anything unnecessary – someone else might depend on it! Many pharma supply chains run through China – which means ugh right now.  Pharma companies usually hold 2-3 months of raw materials, so may run out given the disruption in China’s manufacturing. Be prepared. 

13. Shots, shots, shots.

The pneumonia shot might be helpful, though not preventative of COVID-19, it reduces your chance of being weakened, which makes COVID-19 more dangerous. Talk to your doctor directly about this. 

Get the f*cking flu shot next fall for pete sakes!  This is not preventative of COVID-19, but reduces your chance of being weakened, which makes COVID-19 more dangerous. And ya know, everyone else’s too. Also, keeping yourself generally healthy will help our overall healthcare system survive this pandemic.

14. Stock Up

Have canned goods and shelf stable foods to support your family’s isolation for 14-20 days. This isn’t going to be a 4 month lockdown (eerrr… I don’t think!)- don’t fill up your entire garage with cans! Depending on where you live, this “stocking up” may or may not include water. If you live somewhere with clean drinking water (and no risk of earthquakes, etc.), skip the bottled water and stick to tap water. Put your money towards more useful items like canned corn, pasta, potatoes, soups, frozen veggies and frozen chicken breast! (Or whatever floats your boat).

15. For the Love of God, Put Down the Toilet Paper!

Stop with the toilet paper! What the heck is up with the toilet paper frenzy?!! Like, come ON. At most, we will be in “lock down” (or individualized self-isolation) for roughly 14 days. And if you are just on self-isolation – do you have NO ONE in your life to drop off some toilet paper if you truly run out? Really? I mean, let’s be rational here. Say your family goes through 1.5 rolls of toilet paper per day in that time period (that might even be an over exaggeration), that is only 21 rolls! Even if we locked down the entire country for a month, that would still only be 45 rolls of toilet paper MAX. And toilet paper isn’t even essential! Ever heard of peeing the shower or drip drying? I mean, I get people want to wipe their butts but there are plenty of countries who use water or other products to get clean between the cheeks. Trevor Noah did a funny segment about growing up without toilet paper if you need a reason to laugh during this craziness. Let’s not all hoard toilet paper for no freaking reason, preventing normal hygiene of our friends and neighbors. It is out of control.  

16. Do Not Hoard What You Do Not Need

Do not take masks, gloves, and other essential products from the hospital or doctor’s office. A friend’s friend is a nurse at a hospital and said 4 boxes of latex gloves were taken from their hospital in one hour! That is literally thousands of essential products they NEED to their jobs right now. I am sure this is not unique. Their manager then had to start rationing gloves to nurses and doctors who are trying to SAVE LIVES! 

Do not hoard these items buying them online or taking them unncessarily. This is a huge one, friends! Our health care providers NEED these products to keep us ALL safe – including you and your family. We need doctors, nurses and other hospital staff to be safe and healthy, most of all! No doctors? We are screwed. And guess what? They are running short

This same message can be applied for daycares, schools, and workplaces that cannot get enough soaps, lysol/clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. People are hoarding these items at home, leaving the schools and daycares with our children, the nursing homes with our aging parents, and the workplaces we all go to everyday super vulnerable! They can’t clean, they can’t sanitize, and they cannot control the spread of germs on a basic level, nonetheless, step up their game! Offer to donate clorox wipes and hand sanitizers you might have an abundance of to your local schools, daycares or nursing homes. 

17. Have Realistic Expectations, this is not your average flu season…

Manage your own expectations. This isn’t going away next week or next month. Summer isn’t going to resume as normal. Sorry to break this news if it hasn’t already crossed your mind. Things are definitely going to get much worse before anything gets better.  We’ll be dealing with this for the next year at least. Expectations are everything, it is time to realize that our lives are going to look very different for the next year or so. There, I said it. This is going to suck. 

18. Consider Donating

This is a really, really hard time for a lot of people. Not only are small businesses suffering from the lack of customers, but individuals are suffering for numerous reasons. Whether it is loss of business, loss of hourly wages, it is also people who will be fired when they cannot go to work (caring for their sick family members, are sick themselves, etc.), and there is little to no protection for a lot of folks in terms of unemployment, disability, family leave, etc. There are a lot of families and children who will go hungry and/or will get very, very sick during this time. There are medications that will run dry. My heart breaks for all the children who depended on going to school for their only reliable meal for the day. There are sick homeless to consider, the elderly, those with autoimmune disorders, the list goes on. Basically, this is a horrible time for millions of people. If you have the money to spare – consider this time for donations. Consider paying your people whether you use them or not (housekeepers, babysitters, daycares, etc.). Whatever you can do, people need it.

19. Flatten the Curve

Remember, there is no accepted treatment for COVID-19.  The hospital will give supportive care like IV fluids and oxygen to help you stay alive while your body fights the disease and to prevent sepsis. However, there is no cure. Right now, it is all about prevention, care and flattening the curve! Your actions today matter. A lot. Take this seriously.