It’s Time to Make a Family COVID-19 Plan
Last week, I wrote about responding to the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Since that blog was published, as you are most likely aware, this virus has continued to spread, and it has in one way or another started to impact most of us.
When I wrote that blog, it seemed like there was a solid chance we might not have any Covid cases in our area. But today, it is starting to look more like that “just in case” is moving closer to “inevitable.”
I believe it’s absolutely critical that we, the parents of the world, don’t allow ourselves to become driven by fear. But it’s also very important that we don’t make the mistake of underestimating what is to come.
The great Catch-22 of prevention is that if it’s working well, it may not seem like anything is happening. But in the case of virus mitigation, if you wait until things get terrible, it’s too late.
I felt very conflicted about writing about this topic twice in such a short time because I know we’re all getting bombarded with information, so much of which is just all over the place as far as what it’s saying. But at the end of the day, the chance that I could help even one family is too important. So to make things sting a bit less, I’m including cute animal pics throughout the blog.
First, I want to answer a few questions I’ve come across in combing through the recommendations of virologists and epidemiologists:
1. Is it true that I’m not at risk if I am young?
A common comment floating around social media is that people shouldn’t worry if they aren’t elderly or immunocompromised. I know Boomer jokes are hitting their peak, but hopefully, we’re still as a community generally concerned about their well-being. And it’s hard to completely overlook the Gattacan quality of a statement that dismisses the aging and disabled.
And importantly, while the statement seems to be mostly true, it’s not the entire truth. In Italy, high numbers of deaths occurred in seemingly healthy people in their forties and fifties, and we know there are people of all ages who have become very sick. This is partly attributed to a lack of services because the system became overwhelmed.
The last thing I want to do is to scare you, my readers, who are beautiful souls in a weird and trippy universe. I do, however, want to empower you with knowledge. The CDC’s Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission includes some groups many of us don’t think of us at-risk in their list of “Underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of serious COVID-19 for individuals of any age”:
- People who are on blood thinners
- Women who are currently or were recently pregnant
- Asthma sufferers
- Individuals with hypertension
- Patients with neurological conditions
If you or someone you care about falls into those categories, it’s important to be extra cautious in the coming weeks.
2. Why is this virus such a big deal? Isn’t it just a regular coronavirus?
You’ve probably heard some version of this or thought it yourself. I totally understand where you’re coming from. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch the whole world descend into a frenzy over something that the back of the Lysol can says can be killed with a little spray.
Think of the word coronavirus as a category. COVID-19 is a specific type of coronavirus. Kind of like there are all kinds of cereals, but Lucky Charms is not the same as sugar-free bran flakes. One of those is much healthier, while the other is a delight that instantly transports you to your childhood of Saturday cartoons before a day of riding your sparkly peach bicycle up and down the street. One tastes like basically sugar and will cause your children to get completely wound up and bounce off the walls, while the other tastes like existential melancholy and makes you more regular.
The same is true for COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. There are a few things that make this bug in particular much worse than a common cold and worse than most strains of flu:
- We don’t really know very much about it yet because it has only existed for a few months.
- According to the CDC, you can give it to people for up to two weeks before you ever show any symptoms. That means when you’re creeping near the QT fountain, you could be spreading it all over the Big Qs.
- Kids might not seem like they have it at all, but they can still be carriers, which means they can spread it to you and your parents.
- It spreads at a much higher rate than other coronaviruses.
- It’s not just about the mortality rate. The complications for COVID-19 can lead to lifelong health problems.
3. Is it overreacting to cancel everything when the deaths are still so much lower than the flu?
The reason everything is getting canceled isn’t due to media frenzy or panic. It’s a viral mitigation technique called “flattening the curve.”
The idea is that if we can slow progression enough that our healthcare system can keep up, more people will be okay and the overall mortality rate will be much lower. This Forbes article goes into great detail about why this approach is so important and how it works.
4. All the soap is gone. Are people just now starting to wash their hands for the first time? Ew!
I imagine there are always going to be hygienically disinclined people in the world. I mean, we’ve all been to the state fair and seen things that haunt us in our coldest nightmares while standing in line for a corn dog and then realizing we don’t need that corn dog and in fact, we will probably never eat a corn dog ever again, for the love of all that is holy. Unless you’re my husband.
But I imagine, and here this is purely hypothetical, that most people didn’t wash their hands obsessively for twenty full seconds after touching every single surface they come in contact with. I’m pretty pro-hand hygiene from working in restaurants for the formative years of my adulthood, but the level of hygiene we’re adopting at this point is really the kind of thing most of us might have associated with borderline mysophobia in the past.
Think of it like this. We touch dozens of objects all day long between handwashing and most of us don’t touch the table, then wash, touch our pen, then wash. That’s why it’s important to have sanitizer for the in-between times.
From Cautiously Optimistic to Pragmatic Caution
Okay, so now to the point of this post. I want to give you guys some things you can do today to prepare. I had previously stated that if COVID-19 should move into your area, you should stay at home and take some other important steps to protect your family.
However, it became clear this past week that widespread testing is not available in most areas at this time. COVID patients in Washington have stated that many are assuming they are positive due to exposure but that few tests were available.
The unfortunate side of that is that if COVID is in our area, we may not realize it until many people have been potentially exposed. For this reason, if your family member or loved one falls into the high-risk category, it’s probably a good idea to think about implementing social distancing sooner than later.
That is what our family is choosing to do. Justin and Arthur both suffer from asthma, and both of them have faced serious respiratory illness with the flu in the past. Their safety is not something I am willing to risk under any circumstances, so our family is taking the opportunity to step back for now and take that spring break vacay when this all blows over.
There are millions of Americans who won’t be able to stay home if the virus heats up, which is another reason staying home is a good idea if you don’t have to go anywhere due to work or another necessity.
Again, don’t panic. It’s not the zombie apocalypse. It’s just important to be smart right now.
According to these CDC guidelines, all people in any risk group should do the following:
- Create a household plan of action in case of illness in the household or disruption of daily activities due to COVID-19 in the community.
- Consider 2-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, food and other essentials.
- Know how to get food delivered if possible.
- Establish ways to communicate with others (e.g., family, friends, co-workers).
- Establish plans to telework, what to do about childcare needs, how to adapt to cancellation of events.
- Know about emergency operations plans for schools/workplaces of household members.
The supplies aren’t just about a possible lockdown. They’re also about keeping you from going in public if you end up with symptoms or are possibly exposed.
If you even think you may have been exposed, you absolutely must self-quarantine for the recommended period.
If you aren’t sure what to pick up, you don’t have to buy enough toilet paper for a fort, although a toilet paper fort does sound kind of awesome.
But it is a good idea to pick up a few things. And if you’re having trouble finding what you need, I recommend shopping around in places you might not normally go. Our neighborhood stores on the east side have been pretty consistently stocked on most of the essentials.
Don’t forget to pick up anything that would cause you to have to go out if you were under quarantine or lockdown.
- Pet food
- Your favorite comfort snacks because snacks are amazing
- Feminine products
- Baby needs
- Regular toiletries
- Your favorite beverages, in our case a little extra coffee
- Something to keep the kids occupied like art supplies
Concerns About School
Although I believe we should still try to be positive, I think it’s important to realize the full reality of the situation in front of us. There’s a good chance that people are going to be traveling this week and bringing more than just souvenirs back from spring break. It is reasonable to be concerned about children coming to school after the break without symptoms and spreading the virus to your family.
Many colleges across the country, including Harvard, MIT, and TU, are beginning to move to online classrooms after spring break, and many public schools are extending spring break. If your child’s school hasn’t taken those steps, it’s reasonable to be concerned about their exposure after break. Scuttlebutt tells me that the Oklahoma State Department of Education is already having conversations about whether to extend spring break, but don’t quote me on that because it is absolutely a rumor at this juncture. This is a very tricky situation because so many working and struggling families don’t have a backup plan and a cancellation of school could lead to a hardship or even job loss for them.
Ultimately, my heart goes out to everyone who is affected by this. At the same time, we have to do what we must to keep everyone safe. That’s why I believe we have to work together to get through this as a community and find ways to help our neighbors.
I believe it’s important for the Department of Education to understand all sides of this issue so they can best help us through this time while keeping families and the community safe. If you want to let the Department of Education know your thoughts on coming back or extending break, here is the contact info.
Before I go, I want to remind you guys that this is going to be over soon. We know from the way that viruses work that eventually, enough of us are most likely going to become immune that this will stop being a pandemic and likely become a seasonal bug or endemic. Eventually, it may just be another vaccine we all get.
The positive side is that the world is learning from this event, and if history serves as an indicator, we will make some important changes to help us better manage such a crisis in the future.
In the meantime, I have myself been feeling a bit overwhelmed not by the virus, but by people’s reactions to it. Some folks are saying it’s a hoax. Others are sharing some pretty hairy conspiracy theories. Then there are the folks who are absolutely terrified and buying up water and TP in fear of armageddon. And then there are those mocking people for buying up supplies.
Until today, I felt frustrated and even angry at the mean-spiritedness and the way people weren’t taking it seriously enough, but then it hit me.
Hoaxers are in denial.
Stockers are bargaining.
Conspiracy theorists are angry.
The fearful are showing signs of depression.
As a community, we’re working through the Five Stages of Grief. Our sense of the world has been tilted, and like Alice in Wonderland, we’re in a world where up is down, down is up. Small things, like handwashing and toilet paper, are big, and big things, like school and vacations, are small.
But someday very soon this is going to seem like a dream, and we’ll have time to process what it all meant and how it changed our understanding of the world.
My hope is that until then, we all try a little harder to be magnanimous with each other and help each other get through it in the spirit of community. In the meantime, there’s never been a better reason to spend some unplugged time every day with your fam or take up Dungeons and Dragons via Skype.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope I was able to give you some degree of comfort. I am sending you all my good health wishes, and I hope that despite everything, you have a beautiful week in your nebula.