Richland Public Health building

Richland Public Health is located at 555 Lexington Ave. in Mansfield. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD – Are you feeling like the news about COVID-2019 is overwhelming and there’s nothing you can do about it? Start feeling more in control by planning.

Let’s break this into two main categories.

1. Reducing our risk of being infected

2. Reducing the chance we will run out of essential foods and goods

1) Reducing our risk of being infected

You can do a few things and you’ve probably heard them all before. They won’t guarantee to protect us from infection, but they can reduce our risk of infection. These are just as useful for avoiding influenza (flu) virus infection during flu season and for dodging COVID-2019, if our local community is ever known to have it circulating.

These are things we can do to reduce our risk of COVID-2019 infection: 

• Stay at least six feet away from obviously sick people.

We’re trying to avoid receiving a cough/sneeze in the face, shaking hands, or being in the range of droplet splatter and the “drop zone”

• Wash your hands for 20 seconds & more frequently than you do now.

• Soap and water and then dry, or an alcohol-based hand rub, and air dry

• Try not to touch your face.

There is a chance your unwashed fingers will have a virus on them and if you touch/rub your mouth, nose or eyes, you may introduce the virus and accidentally infect yourself. Practice this; get others to call you out when you forget. Make it a game.

• Replace handshakes with elbow-bumps or practice no-touch greetings like “namaste” (Namaste is a traditional greeting in India said with a hand gesture, in which the palms are pressed together at the chest or head accompanied by a slight bow or arm raise).

• Start building harm-reduction habits like pushing elevator buttons with a knuckle instead of a fingertip.

While a mask seems like a good idea, it can actually give inexperienced users a false sense of security. There is no good evidence that shows a mask to reliably prevent infection when worn by the public at large. They are useful to put on a sick person to reduce their spreading of the virus.

If you or a loved one becomes sick, call ahead before going to a doctor, urgent care or hospital and get advice on what to do. Hopefully, this message is already out there and we’ll see it more if the transmission of the virus becomes widespread.

Here are some other things to consider immediately:

• Think through now how you will take care of sick family members while trying not to get infected.

• Businesses should cross-train key staff at work so one person’s absence won’t derail our organization’s ability to function.

2) Reducing your risk of running short of food and important goods: The 2-week list

What we’re looking at here is trying to minimize the impact of any shortages of goods we rely on having at the grocery store or at the end of an online ordering system.

Don’t panic buy and don’t hoard!

• Most of the world is not seeing any widespread ongoing transmission of COVID-19, so now is a great time to make a list, label a “Pandemic Stash” box, and begin to slowly fill it with items that won’t expire anytime soon and that you won’t touch unless needed. Buy a few of the things each weekly shop.

• Don’t buy things you won’t eat later, don’t hoard and don’t buy more than you’ll need for a 2-week period. We’re not talking zombie apocalypse and we very probably won’t see power or water interruptions either.

• Your household is trying to get food that fulfill a need for carbohydrate, protein, and fiber. We also want supplies for caring for the sick (or for when sick yourself) and cleaning supplies to try to reduce the spread.

Below we list things we’ll need to have in case of a more major interruption to supply; a stock that will last 2 weeks. Some of these things will last much longer and include items that may not be a top priority for authorities to keep stocked:

• Extra prescription medications, asthma relief inhalers. Try to get a few extra months’ worth of prescription meds, if possible. Some of these may be a problem, so talk to your doctor soon.

• Over-the-counter anti-fever and pain medications (acetaminophen and ibuprofen can go a long way to making us feel less sick)

• Feminine hygiene products

• Family pack of toilet paper

• Vitamins (In case food shortages limit the variety in your diet)

• Alcohol-containing hand rub

• Soap

• Household cleaning agents

• Bleach, floor cleaner, toilet cleaner, surface cleaning spray, laundry detergent

• Tissues, paper towel

• Cereals, grains, beans, lentils, pasta

• Tinned food – fish, vegetables, fruit

• Oil, spices and flavors

• Dried fruit and nuts

• Ultra-heat treated or powdered milk

• Soft drink or candy/chocolate for treats

Be sure to think about others you care for that may not be able to care for themselves:

• Think about elderly relative’s needs

Their medications, plans for care, their food supplies

• And don’t forget about pet food and pet care

Dry and tinned food, litter tray liners, medicines, anti-flea drops

The last-minute fresh list

In a more severe pandemic, supply chain issues may mean fresh food becomes harder to get. So this list is an add-on to the one above, and its items should be the last things to buy if you have a hint of when supplies might slow or stop for a (hopefully short) time.

• Bread, wraps

• Meat for freezing

• Milk

• Eggs

• Yogurt

• Vegetables, fruit

• Fuel for your car

REMEMBER: As long as the virus circulates, and as long as you have never been infected, you are susceptible to infection resulting in COVID-19. This will be the case for the rest of your life until you have been infected which should protect you from severe disease. COVID-19 is mostly a mild illness but can cause severe pneumonia in approximately 20% of cases, leading to hospitalization for weeks and in a portion of these cases, to death.

The CDC says the risk level for COVID-19 in the U.S. is low. Richland Public Health prepares scenarios like COVID-19 should begin to expand. You should prepare too.

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