A month ago I wrote about disaster preparedness, and while the current coronavirus outbreak had started it wasn't something I knew about yet. Now that there's a real possibility that it will spread globally, it's worth preparing for this specific disaster.
The ideal time to start thinking about how to respond was probably several weeks ago: some supplies like masks are already hard to find or very expensive. On the other hand, paying enough attention to potential issues that you catch them early is pretty unpleasant unless you enjoy it as a hobby. This is a strong advantage of preparing in advance when there's no particular issue of the day.
Still, there's time now, so what should we be thinking through? A good way to predict here is to look at how this has gone where the outbreak has already been at its most severe, and what you see is a long period of quarantine. They shut down public transit, within cities and between regions, cancelled school, and told people to work remotely if possible and cancelled most other work. In some cases people aren't allowed to leave their houses, and even when people are allowed to they mostly don't want to risk it.
So the question is, if at some point in the next few weeks to next few months you needed to stay home for several weeks, how would that go? Are there things you could do now that would make that go better? Especially, if you didn't want to risk going out at all, couldn't count on stores being stocked in things you need, and delivery wasn't running, would you be ok?
Things to consider buying a lot of in advance:
- medications you're dependent on
- tissues, toilet paper, menstrual stuff
- soap, hand sanitizer
- anything that you buy regularly and would be hard to do without
Since we could be talking about something months from now, it makes sense to stock up on non-perishable versions of things. If this all ends up being a big nothing you can just work through them over time, and it's not a major inconvenience.
We have a lot of food in the house, generally cans of beans, tomatoes, and other things we use in our cooking. But we don't have much in terms of food that's ready to be eaten with minimal preparation, so yesterday we got some extra crackers and canned soup.
Other things that would be good to have on hand:
- plain bleach
- masks, or respirators (a bit more expensive normally, but they fit better, last longer, and aren't currently sold out)
- disposable gloves
I'm less worried about non-stuff aspects of preparation because these are easier to deal with if and when it becomes apparent there's a problem. Quarantine could lead to severe supply chain disruptions, but things like "talk to the other people in your house and get on the same page about how much to avoid going out" can wait until there'a a clearer picture of the risks.
At this point I do still think "everything in my community will be fine" is the most likely outcome. Taking some steps now is not very hard or costly, however, and if things do go poorly we'll be glad we did.
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