Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
Panic over the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China is becoming more widespread and people are frantically getting prepared in case this thing goes bad. Things like N95 masks and other PPE are pretty much sold out in stores across the nation and also on Amazon. (Here are some places you may still be able to find masks and PPE that are not yet sold out.)
In light of this, the most common question I’ve been asked lately by readers is, “What do I need to buy?”
Here’s what we know about the novel Coronavirus.
First things first, more important than purchasing a whole bunch of stuff is understanding the virus itself. You need to know how it spreads, what the incubation period is, and who is the most at risk. This article has information about what we know right now to be true.
Now, keep in mind that what we currently “know” is being filtered by the Chinese government. We have a lot of reasons to believe that they aren’t being fully open with the rest of the world. For example, the numbers they’re reporting don’t really align with the complicated and expensive steps that China has taken to quarantine people and restrict their travel. But – we do have a small set of facts to work with and as we get more information, we’ll be able to add it to our plan and adjust our preparedness strategies accordingly.
Here’s what appears to be true:
- Most of the people who are dying are elderly or had pre-existing health conditions.
- The symptoms are flu-like, but what kills people is when it turns into pneumonia.
- It is spread person-to-person – it can be airborne on droplets from coughing and sneezing.
- It has been transmitted to at least one person who has not been to Wuhan.
- The incubation period is anywhere from 2-14 days and people are contagious before they show symptoms.
- The death rate is around 3% if what we’re being told is accurate.
There’s a lot of information we can glean from the facts above, assuming they’re accurate.
The most important thing is that the best method to avoid becoming ill is social isolation, also called “lockdown” or “self-quarantine.” There’s a lot of information about that in this book written by best-selling author Cat Ellis specifically about this particular pandemic. You can also check out this article. The other most important thing is to wash your hands, thoroughly and often.
So, how do we prep for this? How do we get ready to go into lockdown?
What does it mean to go into lockdown?
If you are self-quarantining or going into lockdown, what does that mean exactly? It means no one goes out and no one comes in. Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote during the Ebola scare of 2014 that explains the rules of lockdown.
Avoiding contact with people who have the illness is the only way to prevent getting it. Isolating yourselves is the best way to stay safe and healthy.
This is the tricky part: How do you know that the time has come to get the family inside and lock the doors behind you?
Lizzie Bennett, a retired medical professional, wrote an incredibly helpful article over on her website Underground Medic, which unfortunately is no longer up and running. Bennett recommends social distancing as the only effective way to protect yourself and your family from an outbreak of disease.
How long you should remain isolated depends primarily on where you live. For those in towns and cities it will be for much longer than those living in rural retreats where human contact is minimal. Though those fortunate enough to live in such surroundings should remember that if the situation is dire enough, people will leave the cities looking for safety in less populated areas. In large centres of population there will be more people moving around, legally or otherwise, each of these individuals represents a possible uptick in the disease rates, allowing the spread to continue longer than it would have they stayed indoors and/or out of circulation. Even when the initial phase is on the wane, or has passed through an area, people travelling into that area can bring it back with them triggering a second wave of disease as people are now emerging from their isolation…
One hundred miles is my buffer zone for disease, of course it could already be in my city, but practicalities dictate that I will not stay away from people because hundreds in Europe are dropping like flies. Maps of disease spread look like a locust swarm moving across the country and this allows disease spread to be tracked on an hour by hour basis. One of the few instances where mainstream media will be useful.
Once you’ve gone into lockdown, how long you must stay there is dependent on the spread of the illness. Times will vary. Bennett suggests these guidelines:
Once the doors were locked we would stay there for at least two weeks after the last case within 100 miles is reported. A government all clear would be weighed against how long it had been since the last case was reported in the area I have designated as my buffer zone. There is of course still the chance that someone from outside the area will bring the disease in with them causing a second wave of illness. You cannot seal off cities to prevent this. Going out after self-imposed isolation should be kept to a minimum for as long as possible, and if you don’t have to, then don’t do it. Far better to let those that are comfortable being out and about get on with it and see if any new cases emerge before exposing yourself and your family to that possibility.
If the situation hits close enough to home that you decide to go it’s time to isolate yourselves, the rules to this are intractable.
No one goes out. No one comes in.
I know this sounds harsh, but there are to be no exceptions. If you make exceptions, you might as well go wrestle with runny-nosed strangers at the local Wal-Mart and then come home and hug your children, because it’s the same thing.
Once you have gone into lockdown mode, that means that the supplies you have on hand are the supplies you have to see you through. You can’t run out to the store and get something you’ve forgotten.
That means if a family member shows up, they have to go into quarantine for at least 2 weeks, during which time they are not allowed access to the home or family, nor are they allowed to go out in public. Set up an area on your property that is far from your home for them to hang out for their month of quarantine. If at the end of the two weeks they are presenting no symptoms, then they can come in.
Now is the time to plan with your preparedness group how you intend to handle the situation. Will you shelter together, in the same location, and reserve a secondary location to retreat to if the situation worsens further or if someone becomes ill? Will you shelter separately because of the nature of the emergency?
Decide together on what event and proximity will trigger you to go into lockdown mode. Make your plan and stick to it, regardless of pressure from those who think you are over-reacting, the school that your children have stopped attending, and any other external influences. If you’ve decided that there is a great enough risk that you need to go into lockdown, you must adhere to your plan.
A shopping trip to prep for the Coronavirus
I’m currently visiting one of my daughters and we went out to shop for a potential pandemic. In the area where she lives, the coronavirus isn’t really on most people’s radar yet, so we had our choice of supplies.
Here are the things you may need and the items we purchased ourselves. You probably have a lot of these things already, so check your inventory before going shopping.
While you want to have some personal protection equipment supplies, I recommend that instead of spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on PPE, you focus the majority of your money on other things. PPE is only necessary for two reasons:
- If you have to leave the house in the midst of an outbreak, you’ll want PPE. (But your goal should be not to leave the house)
- If someone in the family becomes ill, you’ll want PPE for taking care of them.
If you prep carefully enough and manage to avoid contracting the virus, your need for PPE will be limited. That being said, having at least a few masks and gloves is a good idea in the event that you must leave the house or if you have a sick family member.
As far as PPE goes, obviously you want the best quality you can get your hands on, but remember that some protection is better than no protection. That isn’t to say you’ll be totally protected with a bandana – you won’t – but it’s better than going to some germ-laden place completely unprotected. Again, many places are sold out, but here are some places that still have PPE and masks available as of 2/3/20.
We did not purchase any additional PPE because we were already pretty well-set with pandemic supplies like gloves and masks. (We stocked up heavily during the Ebola scare back in 2014.)
There are other medical supplies you may want to stock up on. We particularly focused on things that boost the immune system and medicine cabinet basics.
- Vitamins (a good multivitamin, B-complex, C, D3, and Zinc lozenges. Emergen-C is also a worthwhile purchase)
- Cold and flu meds – if someone gets sick, you’ll be able to treat the symptoms at home
- Cough drops or lozenges
- Peppermint tea and other herbal teas
- Basic OTC medications you might need over the period of a month without going to the store – think about what your family uses regularly (heartburn meds, ibuprofen, antidiarrheals, etc.)
- Wound care supplies – if it’s reasonable to do so, you’ll want to treat wounds at home instead of sitting in a germ-filled emergency room. Here’s an article about building your first aid kit.
- A couple of months’ worth of essential prescription medications.
So, you get the idea – things to keep you healthy and things to make you feel better if you do get sick. One of the things Selco noted in his article about pandemics is the breakdown in services and the system that can occur during a panic, and the scenes we’re seeing from China certainly back up what he had to say. Having the supplies to treat your own medical issues is very important.
We also picked up some cleaning and sanitation supplies.
- Lysol spray
- Lysol wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Antibacterial soap
Even if you never use things like bleach or Lysol, this might be the time that you’ll want to do so. Sometimes situations call for natural remedies, but sometimes they call for chemical ones or a combination of the two.
Particularly if a family member becomes ill, you’re going to want products that kill 99% or more of viruses and bacteria. During the outbreak, focus on wiping commonly touched surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, drawer pulls, and the refrigerator handle multiple times per day.
Food and other supplies
The next things you’ll want are the food and supplies that will allow you to stay home for one to two months if things go totally sideways here in the US. Longer is always better, but at a minimum, be prepared for 30-60 days. It’s most likely you’ll have power and water throughout this crisis, but be prepared for the possibility that essential services might not be available, just in case.
Choose things that are easy to prepare for several reasons.
- If you get sick, you aren’t going to want to slave over a hot stove for 4 hours before you have something to eat.
- If the power goes out, you’ll use less fuel if you cook items that just need some boiling water.
Choose items with a lot of nutritional bang for their buck. Remember, your goal is to stay healthy and keep your immune system ticking along. Make sure to include plenty of produce options to give yourself lots of nutrients. A few of the things we got (and this list is general – go with what your family will actually eat):
- Canned goods
- Peanut butter
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Dehydrated soups
- Meat for the freezer
- Powdered milk
- Dried fruit
- 100% fruit juices
- V-8 or other vegetable juices (use these instead of water to rehydrate your dehydrated soups)
- Sweet potatoes
Again, this is a starting point. Check out my PDF book, The Stockpile Cafe for more ideas on meals you can create with shelf-stable foods. We also have buckets of freeze-dried food to fall back on if we were to go through all of these supplies. If you’ve waited too long and the shelves are nearly bare, here are some ideas for the last-minute shopper.
Keep plenty of water on hand, too, just in case. If you go into lockdown, as you use up water, refill the container from the tap.
If you have pets, don’t forget to get at least a one-month supply of goods for them, also.
- Pet medications
- Pet food
- Kitty litter or other sanitation supplies they’ll need
If you have livestock, you’ll want to do a big run to the feed store for them too. Include bedding, food, hay, and any meds you might need for them.
And be sure to have any personal hygiene supplies you might need over the course of a couple of months. It would be awful to have to go out in the middle of a pandemic because you ran out of shampoo.
- Feminine hygiene supplies
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Lotion and skincare products
- Toilet paper
- Shaving cream
- Baby supplies
And of course, add whatever other products your family uses on a regular basis.
How are you prepping for the Coronavirus?
The most important thing that I can express right now is how essential it is NOT to panic. This is the time to calmly prepare, to top up your supplies, and to be watchful.
Think of it like a hurricane watch. We first get informed it may be coming while it’s still safely out at sea. This gives us time to stock up, get the supplies for boarding up our windows, and prepare our property for a potential onslaught. Then, sometimes that hurricane turns out to sea or hits someplace else instead of us. And sometimes it comes straight for us. The thing is, we can’t know this soon which it will be.
So pay attention but try not to fall for the hype and the drama. When you’re scared, you can become paralyzed or make poor spending decisions. Find some reliable sources and focus on those. Zero Hedge has been my number one source for information on this outbreak.
What are you purchasing to prepare for the Wuhan Coronavirus? What do you recommend to people who are just getting started? Share your ideas, thoughts, and questions in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.