Countdown to Prepare for COVID-19

Despite what they say, I do think those in positions of authority are highly concerned, especially given the actions they’ve taken. Then, of course, there’s this nugget of news: WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People []

Technically, this coronavirus has been named, “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” or SARS-CoV-2 for short. The disease is causes is Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The big issue with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is we don’t know enough about it yet and what we do know is mostly coming from China. Most people assume the number of infected and deaths are vastly under-reported and because of this, we don’t know the transmissibility or severity of this virus yet. Not to mention those countries that report no cases when we know full well they have to have some. 

However, as each day passes, we’re having more and more COVID-19 events. This seems like a good site to keep tabs on, specifically this page looks like they’re keeping it updated: []

The US has top-rate medical care, so there’s a good chance this virus won’t become much of an issue in this country. But this depends on how fast the health care system becomes overloaded. Currently, with most hospitals running at near capacity on any given day, it won’t take much to burden the system. And like your favorite grocery store who uses Just-in-Time inventory, so do hospitals, which will certainly affect our ability to respond to a disaster such as a pandemic [].

Based on the SITREP 23 report from WHO [], it appears about 18% of those infected are considered severe cases, which require extra medical care (admission to ICU, mechanical ventilation, etc.) []. There are only so many beds in hospitals that can provide this extra care; once we reach saturation, the mortality is likely to increase dramatically. Granted, it will likely take thousands of people needing ICU-level care across the country before we may reach saturation, but imagine hundreds to thousands of people flocking to their closest ER because they think they’re infected with SARS-CoV-2?.

We’re already seeing a massive shortage of N95 masks, as they’re almost impossible to find and we only have (as of this writing) only 15 cases of infections here in the US. To make matters worse, there is only one company that makes N95 masks here in the US []. What will happen during an epidemic turned pandemic is the countries where these masks are made will keep the inventory for themselves and not allow exports (it’s already happening []. This will leave the US with a huge shortage of masks capable of protecting health care workers (and the public). This is why the best time to prepare for a pandemic is when there is no pandemic!

What Can You Do?

First, don’t panic. It’s unproductive and you’re likely to do something foolish. What I recommend is to start thinking about what you’re going to do if they started telling people to keep children home from school and telecommute where possible. What will you need for an extended shelter-at-home scenario? Once they make an announcement like that, people are likely to panic and grocery store shelves will be quickly stripped bare. We see this reaction from people when a water main breaks or when a Nor’easter is forecasted, so I can’t imagine people not reacting in this way.

While everyone else isn’t thinking of this, now is a good time to stock up on enough supplies to stay at home for a few months: food, water, cold and flu medicines, needed prescription drugs, etc. If the virus dies out and nothing happens, you’ll be able to use these things anyway, but if you do need to stay at home, you’ll be ahead of the curve and not find yourself out among the *potentially infected public* trying to get supplies.

The other thing you can do is start planning how you’re going to take care of your sick family members. If anyone in your family becomes sick, you’ll need to isolate them from the rest of your family, but also still be able to take care of them. This will require setting up a room in your home where you can set them up and provide care for them. While providing care, you’ll also need to protect yourself from becoming infected. [ – check out the PDFs at the bottom of the page, too]

Hopefully, SARS-CoV-2 will only be a close call (though this is looking less likely every day). If it is, the worst thing you could do would be to assume it won’t happen again. The Spanish Flu [] occurred 102 years ago and many virologists think we’re overdue for another global pandemic like that one. Another possible scenario is we keep this staved off until summer and the virus dies back naturally, only to return again in the fall. 

Get Prepared, Be Prepared.

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