Covid-19: How My Family Is Preparing for the Coronavirus
I’m waffling on the topic of COVID-19, also known as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Part of me believes the media is creating a false sense of panic, that this virus probably isn’t really any worse than the flu, and that if we weren’t stockpiling before flu season, why would we freak out now?
The other part believes there’s a lot we don’t know about this virus, and as is the case with most unknowns, it’s best to proceed cautiously.
My husband travels constantly, so I’m not exactly thrilled about the idea of him being crammed next to people on an airplane and/or in busy airports across the country. I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about his health and safety.
My mom is a school teacher, surrounded by hundreds of coughing kids every single day, and as much as I’d to believe otherwise, she isn’t young anymore. I worry about her ability to fight off a catastrophic virus if it came to that.
But I realize that my fears aren’t rooted in science either. The odds of either of them contracting the coronavirus and suffering serious health consequences, are still remote. I’m trying not to let my mind plague me with “what ifs?”
What I am worried about, however, is that mass hysteria over the coronavirus will lead to panicked purchasing, creating shortages of necessary items like Motrin, Clorox, and toilet paper. As a mom who solo parents often while her husband travels, I want to avoid getting caught up in freak-outs over supplies or food if at all possible—and the best way for me to do that is to prepare now.
Foods and Items We're Making Sure to Keep in Stock
My family decided to take stock of what we already had in our pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and replenish any food items or supplies that were getting low, in anticipation of being potentially stranded at home for two or three weeks if it came to that. We bought a few things in bulk, like toilet paper, chicken breasts, and Tylenol, and then battled the Sunday crowds at our local grocery store, but really, the hardest part was figuring out what we would truly need if push came to shove.
Nonperishable(-ish) food to store in our pantry:
Pasta—and lots of it
Canned fruits and vegetables
Bisquick (or whatever pancake mix you prefer)
Cake mix (three out of four of our birthdays take place in the next six weeks, and on the off chance that we're stuck at home, I’ll be damned if we don’t have birthday cake, even if we have to make it ourselves!)
Canned icing, for said birthday cakes
Powdered milk (Note: if you prefer it, lactose-free milk will keep for almost a month in the fridge, whereas almond milk will stay good for about two months.)
Food to store in our fridge/freezer:
Chicken breasts, divided up into meal-sized servings
Stew meat, divided up into meal-sized servings
Pork butt, for pulled pork sandwiches
Frozen fruit and veggies
Large tub of butter
A decent supply of beer and wine (I mean, if we end up stuck inside the house with our kids for two or three weeks, this will be required for our sanity’s sake)
Supplies to store in the garage:
An extra bag of dry dog food
Supplies for bathroom/medicine cabinet:
Tylenol/Motrin for adults
Tylenol/Motrin for kids
Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash/soap
I don’t know if we will experience school closures or home curfews or panic-induced shortages of the above items as this virus continues to spread, but I like knowing that if we do, we now have enough food in our pantry, freezer, and fridge and supplies in our garage to cover our family of four for roughly a month. Because if I’m going to stand in a mile-long line outside of Sam’s Club, I’d better be coming home with a Black Friday deal on a flat screen TV rather than just some TP and Tylenol.
Other Ways We’re Preparing
Although I don’t want to worry my children, I also want to be open with them about what’s going on without creating panic. When talking with my preschooler, I’ve kept the conversation simple. I’ve offered a basic understanding of germs (“good germs are the good guys in your body that fight to keep you well, and bad germs are the bad guys in your body that make you sick”), explained that there are a lot of bad germs out there right now, and emphasized the importance of washing hands well, covering our mouths when we cough, not licking the counters at Old Navy, etc. The tween, however, is more attuned to what’s going on. She knows a scary virus is affecting the global population. She knows people have died from it. And she knows that it will likely spread. When it’s hard for me, a grownup, to not be concerned about those unknowns, I know it must be hard for a 10-year-old. To keep her anxieties at bay, I’ve stuck to key facts about the virus. While I’m honest with her if she asks specific questions, I have kept my own fears and worries out of our conversation. I’ve prepared her that our lives may need to change somewhat over the next few months—and that that’s OK—and that our family will be taking the following precautions until the outbreaks are under control:
Minimizing our exposure to crowds or large groups of people. We live in San Antonio, the seventh-largest city in the U.S. In a city with 1.5 million people, crowds are the norm, and we usually spend our Spring Break bouncing from one crowded activity to the next. This year, we will be more mindful of where we visit and avoid large gatherings of people.
Holding off on travel plans until the virus slows. We’d been planning a fun family weekend away at the end of March, but I’m hesitant. If cases continue to multiply across the United States, and if there is evidence of community transmission in Texas, I will insist that we hold off on voluntary travel plans until a later date.
Spending more time at home. While I doubt my family will spend every waking moment at home over the next few weeks or months, we will be eating out less, avoiding unnecessary reasons to be out and about, and hanging out at home together more than usual.
Above all, I’ve assured my kids that I will be doing everything necessary to keep us all safe. Because I will. Because that’s my job.