The outbreak of COVID-19 or Coronavirus means it’s a time for precautions and not panic. When an outbreak of any disease reaches the point where it is actively spreading in a community, individual community members need to take actions too. By taking proper actions, community members can help reduce the chances of getting sick and reduce demands on the health care sector, so the most seriously ill people get the supportive care they need. People with disabilities who have compromised immune systems must be extra-vigilant.
Take the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu:
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
• Stay home when sick.
• Cover a cough and sneeze or cough into an elbow or shoulder, not hands.
Stay informed by visiting the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) websites often. Information is posted for everything from at-home preparations to travel. At this time the CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel or practicing enhanced precautions.
While having a huge stock of items at home isn’t recommended, it’s best to have a few weeks’ worth of foods for a family and for pets. Gradually build up a supply of non-perishable food if possible. Have a supply of fever and pain relievers on hand, as well as a supply of prescription medication (check refill dates), toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Having these items on hand is helpful to be able to stay at home if an illness occurs, and to avoid being out in public. Make plans for what would happen if a school or workplace must close down, or if a backup is needed for childcare. Both MDH and CDC websites offer helpful advice for these situations, along with information on how to reduce stress in event of a disease outbreak.
Anyone who recently returned from an area with a COVID-19 outbreak and feels sick, should call a health care provider.
The illness is not tied to ethnicity, so the MHD asks that everyone avoid showing prejudice to Minnesotans of Asian descent or assuming that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have COVID-19.
At this point, the CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks as a preventive measure for the general public. Facemasks are typically used in clinical settings to prevent spread of diseases from ill patients to health care workers who are in close contact with them. Facemasks are in short supply and are needed by health care professionals.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Research is underway.