With the coronavirus pandemic upon us, Americans from coast to coast are facing the very real prospect of having to spend two weeks holed up at home. That raises a pressing question: What supplies should you have on hand to carry you through the fortnight?
Toilet paper and bottled water have been flying off store shelves, but the list of essentials is quite a bit longer, said UC Riverside epidemiologist Brandon Brown.
Before discussing what’s on it, let’s pause to consider when an extended home stay is warranted. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that certain people self-quarantine for 14 days if they’ve been in close contact with someone they know is infected. In addition, people with COVID-19 symptoms — including a cough, fever and shortness of breath — should self-isolate for 14 days, the CDC says.
Keep in mind that people who feel well are currently asked to stay home only if they meet very specific criteria of close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, or if they’ve recently returned from certain countries where the coronavirus is spreading widely.
Brown himself was quarantined for a few days in Singapore during the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. He spoke with the Los Angeles Times about how he’d stock up for a potential repeat.
First off, Brown stressed that many people probably have much of what they might need at home already, and so there’s no reason to clear out store shelves when more vulnerable consumers, such as the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, may actually need supplies right now.
“We should also be thinking of not just ourselves but also others,” he said. “Take what you need and leave the rest.”
These will last a long time in your pantry, but are easy to throw into a pot and cook. Think beans, rice, cereal and pasta, he said. Nuts are a good snacking option, too.
Canned fruit and vegetables may not taste as good as the fresh stuff, but they’ll last a lot longer. And soups will come in handy if you happen to start feeling under the weather.
If you have a fridge, there’s no reason not to have at least some fresh produce and meat, which can be kept cold or even frozen. Try to pick fruits and vegetables that will last a while so you can parcel them out over your stay.
Easy meals you can pop into the microwave might be a good idea if you have a freezer and don’t feel up to cooking every day.
Just because you’re on self-quarantine doesn’t mean you have to eat like the apocalypse is upon us. Chips, sweets and other snacks are a fine idea in moderation, Brown said.
If you need a daily caffeine fix to feel human and usually grab it outside the house, it’s a good idea to make sure you have some coffee or tea on hand to brew at home, he added.
You probably have access to clean drinking water through your tap, so it’s not imperative to stock up on that, Brown said. But if for some reason you don’t have safe drinkable running water at home, getting a two-week supply from the store might make sense.
Specifically, the kind of soap you’d use to wash your hands. This one is key, since you can kill the coronavirus with a thorough scrub that lasts at least 20 seconds.
Oh, and don’t get worked up about the hand sanitizer shortage when you’re at home. If you’ve quarantined or isolated yourself, you aren’t moving in shared public spaces and so don’t really need it. Plus, washing your hands is almost always a better option, as long as soap and water are available.
“It’s important to have soap, it’s important to have water — and if you have those two things, you don’t need hand sanitizer,” Brown said.
Other cleaning and hygiene supplies
Don’t forget to make sure you have a couple weeks’ worth of dish soap, laundry detergent and, of course, toilet paper.
“Having enough laundry detergent so you’re not stuck wearing the same dirty underwear for two weeks is important,” he pointed out.
Make sure any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you use regularly are filled up for at least the two weeks you’ll be out of commission.
The good news for youngsters is that they seem to be less vulnerable to COVID-19 than their elders. But if they’re home with you, you still have to make sure you have enough formula, baby food, diapers and other essentials.
Same goes for your pets! Make sure you have sufficient pet food, litter and other supplies on hand.
All right, so this is not something you pick up at the grocery store. But to pass the time, you’re probably going to want access to streaming entertainment and the outside world.
Stay social: Make sure to connect with friends and family. Video chat is a good option, and phone calls are fine too. Maintaining those connections when you’re physically isolated from the larger community is key.
“This is super important because as humans we’re social animals,” Brown said.
Exercise: If you can find the space, try to get in a little workout. Being cooped up in one place can get you down, and endorphins are great mood boosters.
Have a routine: If you usually get up, make breakfast, take a shower and get dressed for work, then do those things even if you’re working from home. Maintaining a sense of normalcy is important when the rhythms of your daily life have been disrupted, Brown said.