UPDATED May 11, 2020: Please note, that CDC guidelines have changed since our original publication date of March 17, 2020. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth face covering or mask anytime you are out in public, including trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. However, as always, there is no need for a surgical mask or N-95 respirator. Save these critical supplies for patients and health care workers.
If you’ve been to any grocery or convenience store in the last week—and even days—they are looking a little bleak.
On the heels of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, many Americans are hastily rushing to their local stores and clearing shelves of food, medicine, and of course for some strange reason, toilet paper.
You may wonder if this is just an overreaction or a smart move.
Why It’s a Good Idea to be Prepared … But Not Panicked
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidance on how to prepare for a pandemic, including practicing good health and hygiene habits and considering members of your household who may be at greatest risk, such as older adults and those with chronic illnesses.
The federal government has also advised Americans to keep at least a two-week supply of food and water. But this doesn’t mean hoarding.
If your community has announced school and business closures and recommendations for social distancing, our Banner Health experts share these tips for what to buy and what to skip so you are best prepared for the coronavirus.
Get These Items
“It is generally prudent for individuals to always have a store of nonperishable items, because you never know when there will be a disruption that could impact our normal, daily routines, whether a utility outage, an act of terrorism, natural disaster or outbreak of an infectious disease,” says Gordon Carr, chief medical officer of clinical outcomes at Banner - University Medical Center Tucson. “Same should be true for other critical items, medications or other healthcare products and healthcare supplies, pet food and baby care items.”
It is important to be prepared but not panic. Here are some items to include on your list so you are shopping wisely and not overstocking.
What If You Can’t Find Some of These Items?
“Many of the above food items can be found in various forms if they cannot be found fresh,” says Aarikha D’Souza, Arizona community division regional infection prevention director at Banner Health. “Hardy fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, celery, apples and bananas, can stay fresh for a long time in your fridge. When the bananas start to turn, you can freeze them or make banana bread. Sliced bread is another item that can be frozen for future use.”
Skip These Items
Water. Unless the water from your faucet is not safe, there is no need to purchase bottled water. Many homes have reverse osmosis (R/O) or water filtration systems in place. Leave the bottled water for those who really do need it.
Hand sanitizer and wipes. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is in short supply. In the absence, of hand sanitizer, hand washing with soap and water frequently is very effective.
For cleaning surfaces, use detergent or soap and warm water first before disinfecting. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. If you can’t find any, you can use bleach or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. For disinfecting, dilute roughly 5 tablespoons of bleach or alcohol solution per one gallon of water. Before using, however, make sure it’s safe to use on certain materials.
Masks. As of now, masks are not recommended to protect against COVID-19. Masks should only be worn by some health care professionals and patients being screened and receiving care for COVID-19, to protect other patients and health care workers.
Alcohol. The COVID-19 pandemic may be stressful for some people. Fear and anxiety and stress may cause changes in behaviors, sleep and eating patterns, concentration and increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
Instead of reaching for these substances, try some of the following coping strategies:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced meal
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Share your concerns with friends/family members,
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news and social media.
“If you are used to being physically active, it is really important to maintain physical activity to keep yourself healthy,” Dr. Carr says. “Even if you are stuck at home, there are so many options now, whether you have workout equipment at home or can stream options. Even meditation and yoga can help you not only physically, but mentally as well.”
D’Souza adds, “Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks. Seek help if you are beginning to feel anxious, stressed or distressed.”
It’s important to be responsible and prepared during a pandemic but also respectful of others. Purchase only what you need to cover you for 2-3 weeks and remember these basic prevention strategies:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay home when you are sick and limit contact with others
- Get your flu shot
Thank you for your continued support during these challenging times.
For the latest regarding COVID-19, visit BannerHealth.com.