What Do We Do in a Pandemic?

March 19, 2020

How do we keep our families safe and sane? Here’s a starter list from Healthy Babies Bright Futures to add to the important WHO, CDC and other health professionals’ advice about washing your hands, not touching your face and keeping your distance from other people.

  1. Recognize that the current federal advice on how to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is based on limited scientific information. Just isolating people because they’ve traveled outside of the US or knowingly been exposed isn’t nearly enough. If, as the newest research shows, people can transmit the virus when they don’t have any symptoms, we need to treat everyone as a potential carrier. So, stay away from everyone you can stay away from.  Treat everything that other people touch as potentially contaminated. Handwashing with regular soap always matters, but it matters even more now. And make sure that the towels and sponges you are using to clean surfaces, faucets and door handles aren’t putting virus back on your hands from the surfaces you just worked so hard to clean. Every time you use a dishwasher or washing machine, your bath and dish towels and your sponges, scrubbers and dishrags should be included in the hottest water you can use in the load.
  2. While we don’t know everything we need to know, early indicators are that pregnant women aren’t at increased risk from COVID-19. And while children are being infected, the early news is that most kids don’t get very sick. Still, everything we can do to keep pregnant women and children eating and sleeping well and getting plenty of healthy fluids every day will make a difference. Eating and sleeping well matters for non-pregnant women and men too.​​​​​
  3. Remember the role that stress plays in disease. The more stressed we are, the weaker our immune systems. And working at home while working to help kids with their schoolwork is stressful.  So, build stress-reducing activities into the schedule for your family and yourself – actions that calm or release spent-up energy or make you laugh. Or all of the above.
  4. Feeling helpless is bad for your health.  Staying active helps. This could be the most weed-pulled year your garden has ever seen. Book share, grocery share, joke share. Go outside! Encourage kids to climb trees and play on the grass. But avoid the playground structures and practice social distancing.
  5. Feeling helpless is also bad for our collective future. Your community, your state and the federal government need to be doing everything they can be doing to protect the health of the women and men who are providing all of us with health care and groceries and other essential services. And while all of us can be carriers of the coronavirus, the impact of the disease will be worst for low income and people of color—those of us with less adequate health care access and more underlying health issues that increase vulnerability. Any bail-out to the cruise ship or airline industry has to be accompanied by programs that alleviate the suffering of workers without paid sick leave for individual or family illness or without coverage that will pay for COVID-19 testing or treatment. And then there are all the people who are losing their monthly paychecks but not losing the monthly bills for their mortgage or utilities or food. Reach out to the people who represent you to tell them that we need new emergency policies that show that we really are all in this together.

One day this pandemic will be a story we tell our children and grandchildren. Let's make this a story with millions of heroes who overcame great obstacles and made things better for everyone.  And let’s do whatever we can do so the millions of heroes story includes a small paragraph or two about you and me.