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The rapid spread of the virus means more of us will choose -- or be forced to -- minimize our time outside of home with a quarantine or extreme social distancing. As the CDC explains, "The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person to person." As officials address the public health emergency, social distancing and self-quarantine measures are encouraged to prevent the rapid spread of coronavirus cases and as experts call it, "flatten the curve."
What's the difference between quarantine, isolation and social distancing?
Social distancing, isolation and quarantine each have different goals, but all of these protocols are designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease that results from the novel coronavirus, and other communicable diseases.
Quarantine: To be quarantined (or self-quarantined) is when a person who is well -- not sick or exhibiting symptoms -- separates themselves or drastically restricts their movement. It's used when a person has come in contact (or is suspected to have done so) with an infected person and needs to monitor their symptoms. Quarantine is also used with individuals who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and need to limit their exposure to potentially ill people.
Isolation: Isolation is used when a person that's ill or displaying presumptive coronavirus symptoms is separated from those who are healthy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In some cases, people might be isolated in a hospital, while those with manageable symptoms are isolated at home.
Who should follow these protocols?
Many US cities are already exercising social distancing protocols and declaring the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency, enabling health officials to implement measures that protect the public.
But the question many people are asking is: Should I self-quarantine to prevent exposure to the coronavirus?
The CDC advises all people over the age of 60 as well as the immunocompromised to practice strict social distancing and suggests they "stay home as much as possible." Even still, individuals (like me) who are immunocompromised may choose to self-quarantine or practice some kind of hybrid of social distancing and quarantine while the virus takes hold in their communities.
However, we may all find ourselves in some version of a quarantine or extreme social distancing.
Watch this: Coronavirus and COVID-19: Everything you need to know
How to prepare for a coronavirus quarantine
There's a lot more to preparing for a coronavirus quarantine than hoarding toilet paper and bottled water. Drawing from the advice of the CDC, HHS, World Health Organization and experts CNET spoke with, this quarantine checklist will get you and your family prepared for spending a lot of time at home.
Note that we aren't providing exact quantities -- that'll vary depending on the size of your family. Quantities will also be influenced by how much quarantine time you want to be ready for (two weeks is a good minimum, but one month is better).
Finally, note that hoarding and preparation are two very different things -- we're not advocating for emptying Costco's shelves of toilet paper and those delicious little potstickers. The recommendation is to get enough necessary supplies for a potential quarantine.
1. Get a flu shot
It needs to be said: If you or any family members have not gotten a flu shot and you're still healthy, go get one. The flu shot does not prevent people from contracting COVID-19, but it does help in a few important ways.
Getting a flu shot dramatically reduces the likelihood of getting the flu, which means fewer admittances to hospitals, freeing up health care providers to address patients with COVID-19 (and other illnesses). By avoiding the flu, you're also helping your body's immune system stay strong, so it can fight off other communicable diseases, like COVID-19.
Many of us who work an eight-hour workday spend at least that much time outside of our homes. And during that time, we're relying on our employers or other businesses for essentials like toilet paper and meals.
After you've determined the amount of quarantine time you want to prepare for, grab the appropriate quantity of these items, as outlined by Ready.gov. This is certainly not an exhaustive list -- your needs will vary depending on the things you rely on every day.
Bath and hygiene
30-day supply of medication, including over-the-counter pain relievers, cough and cold medicine and electrolytes
Toilet paper (which you'll use more of while being at home full-time)
Diapers, formula, baby wipes and other infant needs
Body wash, shampoo, conditioner and skincare needs
Hand soap and cleaning supplies
Food and kitchen
There is no definitive list of food items, but there are some food items that work better than others. You might also want to audit your kitchen toolkit, in case you find yourself prepping more meals from scratch while stuck indoors.
If you're lucky enough to continue working remotely during the outbreak, you'll want to make sure you have everything you need to work effectively. CNET's Justin Jaffe compiled this helpful list of work-from-home essentials, including standing desk and monitor recommendations. Also consider some of these best practices, based on my experience working remotely so far:
Get dressed and ready for work each day. Doing so will get you into a productive mindset help you look presentable on video conferences and maintain some kind of routine.
Avoidhousework. This is a tough one, but working from home doesn't mean doing the laundry, washing the dishes and cleaning up throughout the day. To avoid any housework, make sure to clean up before you start the day or before bed.
Coordinate meeting schedules. If you're quarantined with someone else working remotely, you'll want to coordinate meetings so that you're not disrupting each other. Simply share calendars or connect briefly before the day begins. If you each have an office or designated area, this wouldn't apply to you.
Take breaks and stop working. The hardest thing about working from home is setting boundaries. Be sure to schedule breaks when you can stretch, do an at-home workout, or eat. Also make sure you're "clocking out" at some point and putting your laptop away for the day. This will help you stay sane while working from home.
Medical appointments: If you need medical support that doesn't require immediate admittance, get to know your insurance provider's telemedicine -- or video appointment -- services. For instance, my insurance provider supports Doctor on Demand visits for a $10 co-pay. Depending on you or your family members' needs, the physician can prescribe medications, which you can often choose to have delivered.
Keep your spirits up. As the outbreak spreads and the death toll increases, many people may find themselves deeply worried -- or even panicked. During these times, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Amanda Capritto spoke to a psychotherapist who offered some practical tips for staying sane during the outbreak.
When you return home -- or in the event someone visits your home -- be sure to sanitize your house. This means using disinfecting products to wipe down frequently used surfaces, including countertops, doorknobs, faucets and tables. Many retailers are currently sold out of disinfecting products, like Lysol, online and in stores. So, here are some alternatives to wipes and sprays.
A word on face masks
Though the initial response to the novel coronavirus in the US was to go out and buy face masks, health officials have since asked the public to stop buying them, unless someone is sick and needs to reduce the chances of transmitting COVID-19 to others. So, no, you don't need to stock up on face masks -- save them for healthcare workers and those who are ill.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.