The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is in St Johns county and according to the CDC, community spread is inevitable. In light of this pandemic, grocery stores struggle to supply demand, there are tense interactions between strangers, and a financial crisis is looming. What can a caregiver do to keep her family safe? Should we be worried? Here are the main things you should consider.
Why is Coronavirus a big deal?
COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. While symptoms can be mild, it is dangerous for vulnerable populations (like the sick and elderly). Health officials and scientists have said the spread is inevitable, so wash your hands and stay home if you don’t feel well. Lots of comparisons are being drawn between COVID-19 and other diseases, and stats are changing by the minute. Still, the World Health Organization’s best estimate is that this disease is more likely to be fatal than your average flu.
Do I have enough food and supplies to be isolated for 14 days with my family??
Supplies necessary for isolation are food, medicine, and cleaning products. Food is a simple task because Floridians know how to prepare for a hurricane. With the exception of fighting large crowds and empty shelves, preparing for two weeks of isolation is easy. We aren’t expecting the power to go out, so we can stock our freezers and fill our refrigerators with food. Please don’t panic if you haven’t found bread or produce in the grocery store. Stores are getting supplies daily and are being restocked each morning. We aren’t going to starve as a result of empty shelves. Please have patience with the employees and other customers as you prepare your family. The grocery stores aren’t planning to close any time soon.
You should have a 30 day supply of over-the-counter medicine. For us, this was allergy medicine and Advil. If you want to be proactive, purchase your favorite over-the-counter cold and flu medicine. Coronavirus is a common pathogen responsible for colds and upper respiratory infections. While COVID-19 is a new strain, and we don’t have immunity, most healthy people that catch it will have mild symptoms. You will heal with rest, fluids, and sleep during your two-week isolation.
How can we help stop the spread of the disease?
Have disinfecting products and soap on hand. As reported by the CDC, the virus is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets and close contact (defined as six feet). It is not yet apparent if the transmission can occur through surfaces contaminated with the virus, but we should take precautions as if they are. A recent study has identified that the virus can survive in the air for up to three hours, on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. Please note that virus stability and decay make these figures academic and precautionary rather than proving the viability of contact transmission.
Disinfect surfaces that are touched often like light switches, door handles, keyboards, remote controls, and cell phones. If you can’t find disinfectant wipes or Lysol, bleach diluted in water will work just fine (1/3 cup of bleach to a gallon of water). To clean your hands, soap and water work best. If you haven’t heard this already, teach your kids to scrub for about as long as it takes them to sing the ABCs – about 20 seconds.
What do I do if someone in my family gets sick and I think it’s COVID-19?
If someone gets sick and you suspect they have COVID-19, isolate the individual. The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Our state has not yet been identified as a location with community spread so you may have difficulty getting tested. If symptoms get worse or your family member starts to have trouble breathing, CALL YOUR DOCTOR. Do not go to the emergency room or call an ambulance unless they are experiencing life-threatening symptoms. You must inform healthcare workers that you suspect the patient has COVID-19 so that they can take necessary precautions.
Most patients can be safely cared for at home. According to the CDC, the sick family member should be confined to one room, and if possible, their own bathroom. They should eat in their confinement space and have designated plates and cups that are sanitized carefully. Keep all pets away from your sick family member. They should sneeze or cough into a tissue and immediately throw away the used kleenex in a trashcan. Open windows in common areas if possible and ask the sick person to wear a mask when you are in close proximity. Wash linens and clothing in warm water. And of course, wash your hands and don’t touch your face. I would also suggest cutting your nails per CDC guidelines.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding there isn’t much information on COVID-19 other than abiding by the same preventative suggestions offered to the general public. The CDC doesn’t know yet if pregnant women are more susceptible to the virus. To date, no babies born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus. Many hospitals, including Flagler, Baptist, and St. Vincent’s, have limited the number of visitors in the labor and delivery rooms and implemented careful protocols to ensure the highest safety for mothers and newborns. The CDC currently reports that in a limited study, women with coronavirus did not have the virus in their breastmilk. Contact your healthcare provider for the most up to date information and precautions.
Do I have enough money to survive the financial uncertainty created by COVID-19?
It appears that we are headed into a recession. Local businesses are suffering and many households are experiencing pay cuts and lost jobs. As a result of closures and cancellations, many people are hurting financially. If you need help acquiring food or paying your bills there are many local resources available to assist you.
If you have lost your job as a result of COVID-19 it would be wise to apply for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. Unemployment will give you a percentage of your previous wages while you search for a new position. Apply for Medicaid if you lost your employer-provided medical insurance using the Access Florida Portal.
If you are having trouble feeding your family, apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) through Access Florida. These programs will provide you with money for food. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consider applying for the Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. WIC is designed to provide adequate nutrition for families with low to moderate-income. You will receive a card that allows you to purchase certain approved food items such as cereal, milk, bread, yogurt, peanut butter, and produce.
Local community programs are also in place if you are having difficulty with rent or paying your utilities. Contact the Social Services Division at the St Johns County Health and Human Services Department at (904) 209‐6140 for further assistance.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
I hope we can look back and laugh at the extent to which we prepared. I want this to pass over our community with no ill effects. I’m worried about the weak among us, but I also know that I’m doing my part to flatten the curve.