First principles: It is currently impossible to know how many people are infected, where they are or who they are. The safest and most cautious thing to do is to assume that any person with whom you have contact may be capable of passing the illness to you. It is vital to understand that the point of these precautions is not only to safeguard you and your family members, but equally important is the need to “flatten the curve” to slow the epidemic so that everyone (including the most vulnerable) are protected and so the health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed with sick patients.
Here are ten basic things that everyone should be doing all the time, starting today:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, rubbing all parts of your hands for 20 seconds (especially after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose). When you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you can’t find any hand sanitizer in stores, make your own using this recipe.
- Put alcohol-based hand sanitizer by the front door of your home and in your car. Try to make it a regular habit to have each person in your household use it each time they go in or out of the house or car.
- Bump knuckles or elbows in public instead of shaking hands.
- Avoid contact with high-touch surfaces in public places, such as doorknobs and handles, handrails, shopping cart handles, elevator buttons, light switches, and public transport seats. Use your elbow (or a gloved hand) to open doors.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, your sleeve or your elbow.
- Try not to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth (unless you wash your hands first).
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick (especially if they are sneezing, coughing, or have runny noses).
- Avoid crowds, especially in closed, indoor spaces. Limit unnecessary travel and contact.
- Regularly clean and disinfect your home to remove germs, especially on high-touch surfaces with disinfecting wipes or a solution of bleach and water. Wiping surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, handles, toilets, faucets, cell phones, countertops and steering wheels once a day is recommended (more if someone in your household is sick).
- If you feel sick, take your temperature with a thermometer and stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Call your doctor, report your symptoms and ask for advice. Do not go to the emergency room or urgent care center unless it is an emergency. If you find you are having trouble breathing, have chest pain or have sudden confusion, don’t wait, call for help and dial 9-1-1.