When there’s a threat, it’s tempting for each of us to think only of ourselves. But if a COVID-19 outbreak reaches your city, it’s possible that many of your neighbours and relatives will have a worse time of it than you will. Here’s how to prepare to keep everyone safe, not just yourself.
Some supplies are getting hard to find. These include hand sanitiser and surgical and respirator masks. If you have more than you truly need, consider sharing.
If you’ve stocked up on medical supplies like surgical masks, remember that hospitals and people with chronic illnesses need them more than you do. Check in with your friends, and contact your local hospital, nursing home, or disability advocacy group to ask if they need donations.
In addition to those groups, people who work in jobs where they can’t often wash their hands are particularly in need of hand sanitiser. This includes teachers and people who work customer service jobs. If you have a stash, consider sharing.
Support people who can’t work
If people have to stay home from work, either because of quarantines or because they themselves are sick, many won’t be able to get paid. Charities will likely see increased demand, so now is a good time to support them. A donation of money, rather than food, is recommended, since they can buy more food per dollar than you can, and they have a better sense of their own needs.
Check in with your own neighbours and network as well. If a person is self-quarantining because they may have been exposed to the virus, they’ll need help shopping and running errands. If kids need to stay home from school, you could provide babysitting help. Just be mindful of your own potential exposure to the virus, and read the health guidance if you care for somebody who may be infected.
Reduce risk for the older people in your community
People who are under 50 years old have very low rates of complications if they are infected with COVID-19, but the risks of severe disease and death can be extremely high for the elderly. People of any age who have chronic diseases, including respiratory disorders, are also at higher risk.
It may be smart to avoid unnecessary contact with older folks, to lessen the risk of passing the disease to them if you would happen to contract it. That said, nobody likes to feel alone. If you have to cancel a visit, this could be a great time for phone calls and Skype sessions.
The U.S. health authority recommends checking on your older family members and making sure they have a plan for reducing their risk and for what to do if they get sick. You can help them arrange to stock up on medications, medical supplies, and non-perishable food. If they’re in a care facility, ask the facility how they are planning for COVID-19. (You can share this list of recommendations with them.)
Keep things clean and don’t spread germs
You already know you should be washing your hands often and correctly. Consider all the things you touch, and all the things other people touch, and do your best to stop the spread of germs. For example, some librarians in my community were discussing on Facebook what they’re doing in their children’s areas. Many are putting away toys that are hard to clean, and being more vigilant about disinfecting the ones that remain.
If you’re part of a group that organizes gatherings, don’t be afraid to be the first to suggest cancelling or changing plans (for example, by providing remote or online options). Even if it doesn’t make sense to start cancelling things yet, make plans for what you’ll do if that changes. How will you notify people, for example? The CDC has guidance for community and faith organisations here that may help.