Local Coronavirus Preparedness

Read the original message sent to the Coastside CERT community here.

By now you are aware of the novel coronavirus and its potential impacts on the Bay Area including San Mateo County. While this may be anxiety-producing for many, as with any potential emergency situation, staying calm and taking steps to be prepared are the best course of action.

The most important thing to remember is that PREPARATION for Coronavirus is extremely similar to what CERT is consistently suggesting people on the Coastside do in preparation for earthquakes and other conditions causing prolonged isolation - which is what we prepare for all the time. The preparations do differ slightly but the differences actually make a potential Coronavirus shelter in place situation easier to manage than an emergency involving fire, building collapse and loss of conventional utilities. Here are some things to know in that vein:

Prepare Yourself and Your Family

  • There is no indication at this time that utilities will be disrupted, so water, phones, appliances and toilets should continue to function. Stored food can be frozen, refrigerated and cooked even if you can't leave your home/farm/ranch for fresh food. So you just have to have enough food on hand to not run out although it does not, in this case, have to be all non-perishable. Same for your pets & livestock.

  • In addition to food and regular dry goods, extra disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and extra laundry detergent will be helpful.

  • Ask your doctors for 30-90 day supplies of prescription medicine in case medical supply chains are disrupted even after the epidemic has dissipated. Same for your pets and livestock.

  • Have what you need at home to telecommute from work and school.

Coronavirus Public Etiquette 101

  • There is a special emphasis on preventing disease spread so wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wash your clothes more frequently. Disinfect surfaces more often.

  • Stay calm and carry on but limit unnecessary contact with others. When you are with others be respectful of their Coronavirus concerns and conduct yourself accordingly. Don't hug or shake hands. Sanitize shared surfaces you touch.

  • If you are sick stay home except to see your doctor. Call/see your doctor if you have Coronavirus symptoms. Because our access to medical care is so limited on the Coastside don't wait until it is an emergency to seek help if you need it.

Neighbor to Neighbor Outreach

Although CERT is not officially activated (a disaster qualifying for local CERT activation has not been declared by San Mateo County authorities) many of our 1,300 members across 32 local neighborhoods are asking what they can do to help. As caring residents you can voluntarily start checking in on neighbors - especially vulnerable neighbors -- those with health issues, elderly, mobility-challenged, people with disabilities, language differences, and/or limited means -- to see if they will need assistance getting ready to withstand a potential 14-30 isolation period.

At the risk of being redundant, we provide some additional information related to this virus below.

What to do to keep healthy

While taking precautions to stay healthy are warranted and necessary, using common sense will be your best ally. The most important information we can give you here is to routinely and comprehensively WASH YOUR HANDS and AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE. Beyond that, you will know your own medical situation best and can seek guidance from medical professionals if you feel you are particularly at risk. More in-depth strategies are outlined above and below.

What to do if you must stay home (quarantine)

From a preparedness perspective, knowing that quarantine may be one strategy used to keep the population safe will guide you in your readiness efforts. Being quarantined is very similar to “sheltering in place” after an earthquake or other major event. Being prepared for either is wise and worth working on starting today. Just as you plan for any natural disaster, be sure you have an action plan, needed supplies and reliable means of communication. If schools and businesses close temporarily, think about what you would need to work remotely or attend classes online. The typical quarantine will likely be two weeks but having supplies for longer would be useful in the event of any kind of disaster or a longer isolation event.

Other thoughts on how to stay healthy

1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.

2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.

3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important for bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home's entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can't immediately wash your hands.

7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

Some thoughts on what to stock (aside from food)

1) A supply of any prescription medications (ideally a 90 day supply should be on hand in case of an emergency such as an earthquake).

2) General first aid items and analgesics.

3) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Please remember that once you touch a surface these gloves should be replaced to avoid spreading infection to the next surface you touch.

4) Extra laundry detergent, toilet paper, and tissues.

5) Masks should only be worn if you are sick to keep you from spreading germs through coughing or sneezing. Having them on hand is good but we want health care professionals to get them first so “no excessive stockpiling”.

6) Bandana or other face covering to help you remember to “Stop touching your face”.