We are not doctors or health experts, so what do we do when faced with constantly evolving news reports about the COVID-19 pandemic -- We keep educating ourselves and staying on top of the news, and we make our own hand sanitizer when store shelves are empty. And we are New Yorkers, so we do not panic or buy into hysteria.
First, be informed. This is an evolving situation. From the backstory to up-to-the-minute information, go to the Centers for Disease Control and New York State Department of Health websites. You can also call 1-888-364-3065 for coronavirus information from the New York State Department of Health. Listen to local news channels for updates.
Background. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the new coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 (“COVID-19”), first detected in China, has now also been found to be in more than 100 other international locations, including in the United States, with at least 173 confirmed cases in New York State (over 100 in Westchester County) as of March 11, 2020. New York State is currently the second hardest hit state in the U.S. after Washington State.
According to the CDC, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).
“The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.”
This virus infects your lungs, so the path to infection is believed to be through your nose or mouth via your hands or between people within about six feet of each other through respiratory droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing that can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or could be inhaled into the lungs. All surfaces where such droplets land are believed infectious for about a week. Everything associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious.
Though current projects for expansion of COVID-19 are only probable, given insufficient global data available, the virus is expected most likely to be widespread in the U.S. by mid- to late March and April.
Symptoms. Appearing 2 - 14 days after exposure, the symptoms, which range from mild to severe and, in some cases fatal, include:
- cough, and
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
If you have symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately.
If you are sick, stay home except to get medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public places. Do not take public transportation, including subways, buses, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Isolate yourself from other people and animals in your home. For example, to the extent possible, stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom apart from other people in your home.
Avoid contact with pets and other animals while sick, including feeding, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. (It is not yet known whether COVID-19 can be transmitted to pets or other animals, though no cases have been reported.)
If you must be around people or pets, wash your hands before and after any interaction and wear a face mask.
At least one expert who shared advice with us suggests that zinc lozenges have been proven effective in blocking coronavirus and most other viruses from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of the throat and nasopharynx.
Steps to Avoid Transmission. Follow these steps to avoid getting sick:
- Wash 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 involving locations where others have been. (Keep bottles of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances, as well as in your car to use after pumping gas or touching other contaminated objects when you cannot immediately wash your hands.)
- Cover your mouth when you cough and nose when you sneeze. If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Only use your elbow if you have to. (If the clothing on your elbow contains infectious virus, it can be passed on for a week or more.)
- Don’t visit people who are sick, particularly if you are older or have underlying health conditions.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, eyes, and face.
- Avoid public transportation; work from home and telecommute, if possible.
- Avoid cruises.
- Avoid public or other large events or gatherings of people.
- No handshaking, instead use fist or elbow bump, etc.
- Use only your knuckle to touch light switches, elevator buttons, etc.
- Lift gasoline pump with a paper towel or disposable glove.
- Open doors with closed fist or hip; do not hold handle with your hand unless that is your only option -- especially in bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
- Use disinfectant wipes when in stores, if available, and wipe handles and child seats in grocery carts.
- Use latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves when shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when coming into contact with potentially contaminated areas.
- Wearing disposable surgical masks can prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth. (It will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting in your nose or mouth.)
Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer. When you cannot find hand sanitizer in a store, do not panic. This easy to make recipe is better than some over-the-counter brands because it calls for 99% rubbing alcohol and some store brands use percentage alcohol.
- 2/3 cup 99% rubbing alcohol
- 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
- Optional: 8-10 drops essential oil for smell
- Bowl and spoon.
- Empty liquid soap or hand sanitizer bottle.
- Optional: Gloves.
Mix the first three items -- the rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oil drops -- together in the bowl and stir with spoon. Use the funnel to transfer the mixture to the empty liquid soap or hand sanitizer bottle.