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It’s time to prepare for a US coronavirus pandemic

Published Feb 28th, 2020 10:30AM EST
coronavirus preparing

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The coronavirus outbreak has the entire world on edge. Countries like China and its neighbors have been particularly hard-hit, but the illness COVID-19 has popped up all over the globe. The United States has been particularly lucky over the past two months, with only 14 confirmed cases of the virus from coast to coast, and the vast majority of those linked to travelers arriving from China.

Nobody wants to incite panic — this is often cited as a reason for the World Health Organization delaying its declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic — but there’s a fine line between protecting against an overreaction and keeping people in the dark. The truth is that preparing for a widescale outbreak of the virus here in the United States is something that should be on everyone’s mind, even if it doesn’t eventually materialize.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it clear that it believes the United States hasn’t seen the worst of the virus, and that we’ll eventually be dealing with it on a much wider scale. Health officials believe that significant disruption to daily life may be inevitable, just as it’s been in China and more recently Japan, where schools are closed and lockdowns are in place.

The virus has proven to be particularly difficult to contain due to a combination of factors. For one, it can jump from person-to-person fairly rapidly, as has been demonstrated in China. Additionally, it can spread between individuals even when no symptoms are present, meaning that one seemingly healthy person could infect many others before any obvious symptoms present themselves.

Knowing how to prepare for a nationwide pandemic or even a localized outbreak can be difficult, and it’s easy to be afraid of “overdoing it.” You probably don’t need to bury a shipping container in your backyard like someone from the Doomsday Preppers TV series, but having extra supplies on hand is always a good idea.

At the bare minimum, taking stock of your current supplies and knowing how long you could live comfortably under a semi-lockdown scenario is important. That means having extra of various things, including vitals like bottled water and any medications you or your family needs to take on a daily basis. Nonperishable food is always a good thing to keep on hand as well. Multiply your backup supplies based on how large your household is.

These are the bare-bones basics that a person would need in order to remain largely unaffected by a temporary lockdown or mandate from the government that people remain home while an outbreak is dealt with. This doesn’t mean you have to become a hoarder. In fact, far from it. Having as little as a few weeks’ worth of extra food and supplies on hand to ensure you wouldn’t have to leave your home often is a great start.

You can easily walk the line between preparedness and panic, and remain on the right side by applying a bit of common sense. If the worst happens, you’re prepared. If it doesn’t, you have a couple of cases of extra bottled water and food for hot summer road trips. It’s a win/win.