It feels surreal that in our lifetime we are experiencing what public health professionals would define as a pandemic. Many people around the world are being flooded with information from public health experts like the WHO and CDC, but what is concerning is the volume of misinformation that is shared through traditional and social media, including but not limited to news outlets perpetuating racist associations with the disease through stock photos and labeling the virus “Wuhan” or “Chinese”.
Due to misinformation and fear, there has been a rise of racism-fueled acts of violence against the Asian community, unnecessary deaths due to the circulation of false cures, and people flocking to their supermarkets and big box stores to stockpile as a means of preparing for the worst.
Can we all pause for a moment and take a deep breath? You have agency to reduce your chances of getting sick! The WHO and CDC shared basic hygiene behaviors and practices that you can do to protect yourself. So what can you do?
- Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Here’s a helpful tutorial on proper hand hygiene, and if you are bored of singing Happy Birthday, this was a fun article with alternative songs! (Please remember that soap and water is always preferred over hand sanitizer, but if you will not have access to either, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol)
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or with the inner crook of your elbow. I can not stress this enough! Your hands touch huuundreds of surfaces, so you should avoid touching your face as much as possible too.
- Practice social distancing. This basically means to avoid close contact with others if you can help it (avoid traveling during peak rush hours, going to a crowded venue, etc.). One of my colleagues shared this article that provides some suggested guidelines based on different scenarios you may run into. Another benefit of social distancing is to reduce the burden of your healthcare system, especially if there is limited capacity.
- Keep your distance from people who are visibly showing symptoms of illness like coughing or sneezing. The coronavirus disease is transmitted via person to person contact (like the common cold), so if someone does not cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze, you can be exposed.
- And if you are sick, stay home! I know this is not feasible for everyone, especially if your place of employment does not provide paid sick leave, but if you do have PTO, you should do this for your colleagues’ safety and health.
It might be tempting to follow the masses and stockpile as if you will not leave your home for months, but this disproportionately hurts communities who need these supplies the most (think: due to limited supply, surgical face masks should be reserved for people with symptoms and healthcare workers who are treating patients with infectious disease; senior citizens and people who rely on food banks for meals are left with limited to no shelf-stable foods in grocery stores because of panic buying behavior, etc.). Please only buy what you need and save some for others!
Let us all be considerate and kind to others around us, stay calm, and follow guidelines from reliable sources like the CDC and WHO.