As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world and more people are being advised to self-isolate or to quarantine, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention has advised people to create a household plan in case there's an outbreak in their community. Keep in mind that while the virus is a serious health concern, especially for older adults or people who have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, it's important not to panic (as of March 20, there have been 255,305 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the globe, with 87,351 recoveries).
What you should do, however, is make some preparations. That means having basic essentials on hand such as food, medicine, and cleaning supplies. But being prepared does not mean stockpiling or hoarding. While the CDC states that people should have sufficient quantities of household items and groceries in the event that they need to stay home "for a period of time," the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is recommending two weeks' worth of supplies.
It's also important to remember that while you may want to keep a supply of bottled water in your house, water supply should not be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, Dr. Keith Roach, an internist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, told Men's Health.
You also probably do not need to stock up on face masks, as health professionals and people who are already sick should be the only ones wearing them, says Dr. Jonathan Fielding, M.D., a professor of health policy and management at the University of California Los Angeles' Schools of Public Health and Medicine. Face masks are not thought to provide any additional benefits for healthy people in the general population, according to the Mayo Clinic. Health workers need access to face masks and other medical supplies, and a shortage could pose an even greater health risk to communities
We know this is a lot of information, and that can feel overwhelming, so we've complied a list of what to do and buy if you think you may be stuck at home due to the coronavirus.
First, you'll want to scan your pantry.
Take a quick look at what you already have on hand to make sure you don't overbuy. You don't need to go crazy with purchasing canned goods if you already have the recommended two-weeks' worth. The same goes for cleaning supplies.
Then add non-perishables, long-lasting perishables, frozen fruits and canned vegetables to your grocery list.
If you have fresh produce in your home, use that up first to minimize any waste. Then, look for canned, boxed, and shelf-stable items to have on hand. When it comes to canned goods, it's always preferable to look for low-sodium versions, and cans that say they don't have BPA lining, if you can find them. Frozen foods are excellent to have on hand, as well.
When it comes to perishables, don't be afraid to add some fresh produce to your list; just try to choose items that are longer-lasting (we've listed them out for you below) or foods you can freeze. Try to choose whole produce when possible instead of pre-cut (for example, whole mushrooms keep longer than sliced). If you accidentally buy too much fresh produce, know that you can freeze just about any fruit or vegetable (except items like celery, lettuce, and cucumbers that have a high water content and can get very soggy). Bananas another good purchase — if they get too ripe, simply peel and cut them, then freeze and add to smoothies.
Below are some items to use as a starting point for your shopping list, but keep in mind you should be buying foods you would normally eat. And of course, pick up food and drinks you just plain enjoy, such as coffee, tea, and dark chocolate. Also, if you have a baby or toddler in the house, you're going to want to add the essentials they need to your list as well.
Applesauce and other fruit purees
Canned fruit in water
Long-lasting fresh fruit (i.e., apples, oranges, pomegranates, lemons, limes)
Canned vegetables (i.e., green beans, carrots, peas, diced tomatoes, pumpkin puree), low-sodium if possible
Canned vegetable-based soups and chilis, low-sodium if possible
Frozen vegetables (i.e, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus)
Jarred tomato sauce
Long-lasting fresh vegetables (i.e., potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash such as spaghetti or butternut, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, whole mushrooms)
Tuna or salmon, canned or in a pouch
Chicken or turkey, canned or in a pouch
Frozen fish, such as shrimp or individually portioned pieces of salmon
Shelf-stable silken tofu
Lentils, canned or vacuum-sealed
Eggs and egg beaters
Nuts and seeds
Dry or canned beans
Whole wheat pasta or chickpea pasta
Ancient grains (i.e., quinoa, farro)
Instant oatmeal packets/cups
Whole wheat or seed crackers
Whole wheat or sprouted bread (can keep in freezer and toast when ready to eat)
Shelf-stable boxes of milk (shelf-stable varieties are available for regular and non-dairy milks)
Hard cheeses, such as parmesan or pecorino, last the longest
Unsalted grassfed butter (store in the freezer)
Water (if you're unable to or prefer not to drink tap)
Low-sugar electrolyte drinks
Pre-made protein-shakes or meal-replacement shakes (in case you get sick and lose your appetite)
Canned or boxed low-sodium broth
Take note of what toiletries and cleaning supplies you need.
Basic toiletries include toothpaste, floss, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Extra laundry detergent and hand soap are also important to have at home. As for household disinfectants, the CDC recommends diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants.
It also says: "Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted."
Prepare a bleach solution by mixing:
5 tablespoons (1/3 of a cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
Be sure to check your medicine cabinet.
For those on prescription medications, consider calling ahead for an extra month or two of medicine just in case. The American Red Cross recommends having at least a 30-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. (CVS is now delivering prescribed medications to customers for free.) They also advise at least a one month's supply of over-the-counter medicines such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, and throat lozenges. A daily multivitamin is also a good idea to stock up on so you're able to get those essential vitamins and minerals if your food choices are limited.
And don't forget about your pets.
Pick up extra animal supplies, including medications and food. Wee-wee absorbent pads can come in handy as well if you can't get out to walk your dog. Remember: Having a pet is like having another human being inside the house — they require just as much care and supplies as any of us do, if not more.
Other helpful resources regarding coronavirus
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Coronavirus Disease 2019 fact page
The National Association of County and City Health Officials' directory of local health departments
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