Hey, how are you doing? Really doing? I know this is a crazy time and things seem intense with COVID-19. Here are a few of the things i'm doing to protect myself and others. What are yours?
If someone told us all as we crafted our sparkly New Year Goals for the year 2020, that it was going to start with a flu that shocked the world, we probably would not believe it. Here we are, in March of this glorious year with a rapidly spreading disease, shut borders, halted flights, and a more compelling case for personal hygiene.
Coronavirus, specifically the strain COVID-19 has in just a few months ravaged economies, triggering business continuity plans. They lay previously as compliance checklists and now they have seen more action than ever before. Let’s be honest, everyone is winging this, there is no pre-designed plan for how you or your business will thrive or survive in the an event like this. We think of it as we go.
Although the virus has lower mortality rates than other pandemics at around 2%, compared with 0.1% of the common flu, and 50% of Ebola, 15% of SARS. Do not let that seemingly harmless statistic fool you. This disease is seeing unprecedented spread across the world, at a rate that is simply hard to predict, or plan for. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, is more harmful to older people, and anyone with a compromised immune system; usually folks with pre-existing conditions.
Italy remains an example of how NOT to approach the virus. Word on the street is that the country was lackluster about the virus and didn’t take preventive measures. Even with the virus spreading, many still visited public places, and continued their normal lives, unknowingly spreading the virus. The eventuality of their collective actions is a burdened health care sector, fatality rates of 8%, and counting, and a halted country, no exits or entries and no movements encouraged.
What to do?
I’m not a doctor, or a qualified professional to advise in the area (now that’s out the way), but here is what makes sense to me, after reading significant amount of advice from global health professionals.
Wash Your Hands Often: This is basic, right? Uhm. No. Washing your hands as frequently as you need to protect yourself from this virus isn’t basic. It’s washing your hands every time you leave your home and are back, when you touch a high-risk surface, basically as frequently as possible. It is not natural and only a few people do this normally.
Secondly, washing it right is not as easy as you think. Experts (World Health Organisation) say, wash your hands as frequently as possible and wash with soap, under running water for at least 20 seconds. In a very specific way, making sure to cover every bit of your hand, yes- even your nails.
One rule of thumb is to sing the popular happy birthday song as you wash and make sure to complete the song. Another says to wash your hand like you rubbed it in chili peppers and need to fix in your contacts. In the event there is no water around, use Sanitizer. Duh? Nope again, you need not just any sanitizer but one with at least 60% alcohol. Read your labels people, some sanitizers do not have up to 60% alcohol in it. Methylated Spirit is a great substitute for hand sanitizers as it has a very high alcohol content, usually around 90%.
Here is the WHO-approved method on how to properly wash your hands.
Social Distancing: The hypothesis is, if more people move around, the more people come in contact with one another, the more the virus spreads. If fewer people move around, the less it spreads, simple. So, this concept is one of limiting your social interaction and consequently limiting your chances of both spreading and getting the disease. Which is inconvenient for a bit, but worth it, and better for everyone, including you.
There are a few popular ways people are doing this:
Work from Home: If your company offers this or has instituted this. That’s great. We spend most of our time at work and most folks have lots of employees. Lots of surfaces that are touched by multiple people, high risk of spreading or contracting the virus. Working from home limits that. The hypothesis is, if we work from home for a period, we limit our social interaction and can then significantly stall the spread of the disease, which is great for everyone!
Non-Essential Travel: Traveling increases your risk of increased human contact, and consequently increased the chances of contracting or spreading the virus. So, if you have a fun non-important trip planned. A great time to reschedule that trip till this all settles is now. This helps you, and others around you. It's inconvenient, but remember, it’s not permanent, only till we can evaluate the next couple of weeks.
Limited Social Interaction: Beyond work from home, this includes instituting a temporary policy of choosing virtual events over physical events, limiting your public visits – restaurants, parties, events, etc. A lot of high-profile events have been postponed for this reason, a key example being the recent Golden Warriors Game where fans were not able to watch the game at the stadium due to the virus. The players played in an empty arena, and the game broadcasted for people to watch from home. Win-Win!
Be Kind: I know you’re a good person. But now is the time to be an extra good person. Leave a tip. A generous one. Try not to haggle with small traders who depend on daily wages of their sales. Know that mom whose kids have to stop school tomorrow because the government has announced they have to? Send her some money for foodstuff. Give a little more to the less privileged. And of course, be kind to yourself too.
Practice self care, don't be too tough on yourself. Remove anxiety triggers and be deliberate about your mental health. Call your friends, have long conversations. I saw this quote from one of the Fortune Newsletters I like to read: “As the business world shifts to work from home policies because of the coronavirus outbreak, many of us will discover the hard way how much we love our jobs and being around our colleagues”
As we practice social distancing, we will begin to see that human interaction is a deep need, and during this time people might feel lonelier than normal. Reach out to your friends and family over the telephone, tell your family you love them.
What NOT to do
Freak Out: Panic heightens the perception of urgency and throws a hammer into your ability to make sound decisions. Panic buying, making rash decisions is likely going to do more harm than good and creates this weird construct where we all act in selfish interest to the detriment of everyone else. At scale, this isn't sustainable. It can be very difficult to stay Zen amidst the flood of information coming through the news of rising cases. But Breathe (literally, try Headspace, or Calm for guided meditation sessions), and make logical and calm decisions. It is better for you and everybody.
On an unrelated note: Anyone know why Americans are panic buying toilet paper? I need to know because that matter genuinely confuses me
Over-analyze Every Symptom: The mind is a powerful thing, and while we are all hyper-aware to take note of any symptoms to take precautions. See above. Freaking out alters your perception. So, if you feel a little itchy in your throat, this doesn’t mean you have the virus. Watch how your symptoms progress and make sure your perception is sharp and clear so you can adequately make decisions on if you need to escalate and not, create a false alarm that puts the burden on your country's health care system, and those around you. Here are the actual symptoms of the virus and what to do when you think you have it.
Circulate Misinformation: There are a LOT of links, broadcasts, and texts from our friends and family who mean very well. They love you and want to protect you, but this is the time to fact check those links. Look for corroborating sources from platforms you trust, and make sure to check across several platforms. In times of high anxiety, misinformation spreads like wildfire, and it can be dangerous. No, drinking saltwater will not protect you from coronavirus, but it will increase your sodium levels and can lead to salt poisoning that can kill. So, before you broadcast that WhatsApp message, or email to a thousand of your contacts.
Ask yourself? How can I confirm this is true, and then go ahead and do that before making a call on if you should share.
Anything not on the list that should be? Share, share!
Stay safe people, wash your hands, eat vegetables, don't touch your face, hydrate. This too will pass.