The number of novel coronavirus, or COVID-2019, cases in the United States have seen an uptick in recent weeks. While the numbers remain low, individuals, families and organizations have taken preventative measures and developed preparedness plans in response to the disease.
Lisa Baker, professor and chair of the Department of Social Work in Samford University’s School of Public Health, applauds these efforts—for much of her academic research has focused on emergency preparedness and response.
“Preparedness goes a long way in helping people through an emergency because it provides structure and a sense of control,” she said. “When you create a plan in advance, the situation can feel less scary; for when you are faced with it, you simply implement the plan you have created.”
General principles of emergency preparedness typically come to mind when thinking about natural disasters, but they are just as applicable in disease outbreak. Because of this, the three basic steps to preparedness planning can easily be applied to the coronavirus pandemic: Be aware. Make a plan. Assemble a kit.
While a lot of information is being circulated in the news and on social media, it is important that you seek information from reliable sources. “The risk for misinformation is high because there is still much about this novel disease that is unknown,” Baker said. “Try to not place value in rumors, but instead, seek out the facts.”
As information becomes available, organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization publish the latest developments. In addition, Samford students, employees and campus visitors should be aware of the messages coming from the university. “Check your email, and be sure to read all announcements,” she said.
In addition, be aware of preventive steps you can take to stay healthy, like frequently washing your hands, disinfecting common surfaces and staying home if you feel sick.
Make a Plan
When making a plan, it is important to consider your daily routine and responsibilities. If that routine was interrupted, could you continue to handle your responsibilities? Your plan should consider any special circumstances or challenges, like communication, caring for others and dealing with chronic medical issues.
Be sure to think about everyone who may have a stake in the planning. For students, this includes roommates and family members. For others, it may involve spouses, children and neighbors. “I recommend going as far as writing it down. Share your plan with others,” Baker said. “The more specific your plan can be, the better.”
Websites for organizations like the CDC and the Center for Emergency Preparedness with the Alabama Department of Public Health have great resources for putting together a plan.
Assemble a Kit
As a part of your plan, think about what you would need—or want—if you were home sick. Be sure you have general medications for symptoms like coughing, headache and fever. Purchase a digital medical thermometer to use in case you think you have a fever, and stock your kitchen with food and drinks that can provide nutrients—as well as comfort. In addition, you may want to consider purchasing extra boxes of tissues, hand soap and disinfectant wipes. Have these items available in your home in case you need them.
To stay informed on the latest updates and measures taken by Samford University, go to samford.edu/emergency/information/coronavirus.