How to Help Others and Protect Yourself During Coronavirus


A few weeks ago, when you thought about what you’d be doing in the middle of March, it probably wasn’t dealing with what’s now been declared a global pandemic. But amidst COVID-19 outbreaks across the country, we’re now navigating a new reality consuming our day-to-day lives.

Every day, new information—and consequently, more misinformation—is being spread about coronavirus, just how bad it is, and what we should be doing to prevent it from getting worse. 

Amidst offices closing down, schools and colleges initiating temporary shutdowns, and the media being completely consumed with COVID-19, there’s a lot to comprehend—but the most important thing is to protect yourself for the time being. Here are things you can do to help yourself and others during the coronavirus outbreak:


1. Don’t panic

Fear is natural and completely understandable during this time; but it’s also important to slow down, take a deep breath, and remain calm. While people running to Targets and grocery stores and doomsday-prepping this week didn’t help, it’s important to remember that the new epicenter of the pandemic is Europe when immersing yourself in all of the global statistics and facts. It’s important to be aware and vigilant, but it’s not yet time to panic. And if you’re in a position where you can help support those in Europe (whether by supporting a business or sharing information), try to help. 


2. Pay attention to the source of information you’re trusting

In that same breath, it’s important to take all of the talk about COVID-19 with a grain of salt. Should you take the news that’s being covered with interviews from doctors and other credible sources seriously? Absolutely. But when your friend’s cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s sister’s roommate posts on Twitter that hospitals are running out of tests, pause and decide if it’s a valid concern from a valid source. When your roommate is panicking about losing his job within the next month and coming up with a plan for his unemployment, it doesn’t mean you need to go down that road too. It’s hard to pause and separate what’s real with what’s only possibly real, but it’s vital to staying sane.


3. Wash your hands—really, really well

One of the best ways to prevent spread of coronavirus? Washing your hands—but not in the way you’re probably used to.

According to the CDC, you should be following these five specific steps to effectively wash your hands:

  1. “Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.”

You should also avoid touching public surfaces and whenever possible, avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth in any way.


4. Social distancing

The CDC has issued an Implementation of Mitigation Strategies to aid in preventing spread of COVID-19, which includes guidelines for “social distancing.”

What exactly is social distancing? It depends. All-in-all, it refers to an effort to stop the spread of a highly-contagious disease by staying away from others. But how extreme this has to be depends on a number of factors. Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast set of rules for how you should go about your life from here on out, like if you should cancel your date tomorrow or if walking to your boyfriend’s for a break from isolation is safe.

The CDC has provided a list of factors to consider for what needs to be done to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as the characteristics of your community (its size, access to healthcare, etc.), healthcare capacity, and how many people have contracted the disease thus far.

The CDC also recommends keeping six feet of distance between you and others. You should also avoid large gatherings of people, though this slightly varies depending on where you live. In areas like California, the governor ordered events where more than 250 people will be present be canceled or postponed. In Chicago, groups larger than 1,000 will be broken up, but it’s still suggested to not attend anything with more than 250 people. Research what the guidelines are for your area, and follow accordingly.


5. Remember that while you might not be afraid of coronavirus, it could affect those around you if you contract it.

It’s important to remember that while catching COVID-19 might not be detrimental to you personally, you getting it can also mean you have the potential of spreading it to a higher risk individual.

According to the CDC, some individuals are considered “higher risk” than others. This includes older adults, and those with chronic medical conditions or a compromised immune system. Consider higher-risk individuals that you come in contact with frequently and plan accordingly. If you still are going to work or frequently leaving your home, consider that you might be coming in contact with them indirectly through objects you touch and transportation you’re taking. (Remember: since COVID-19’s incubation period can be up to 14 days, you could still have it and be spreading it regardless of if you’re showing symptoms.)


6. Have a plan in the event that you get sick

While panic isn’t conducive to any pandemic, being prepared for what you should do if you do contract COVID-19 is essential—especially if you live with others.

According to the CDC, your plan should include the following:

  1. “Talk with the people who need to be included in your plan. Meet with household members, other relatives, and friends to discuss what to do if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in your community and what the needs of each person will be.
  2. Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications. If you or your household members are at increased risk for COVID-19 complications, consult with your health care provider for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  3. Identify aid organizations in your community: Create a list of local organizations that you and your household can contact in the event you need access to information, health care services, support, and resources. 
  4. Practice preventative actions: Remind everyone in your household of the importance of practicing everyday preventive actions that can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay at home when you’re sick (except to get medical care), and cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  5. Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. Identify a separate bathroom for the sick person to use, if possible. Plan to clean these rooms, as needed, when someone is sick.”

Remember that in the event that you get sick, it’s important that you stay at home—except to get medical care—to avoid spreading it to others.


7. Keep yourself busy

If your work has already been called off and you’re getting used to the idea of being at home for some time, come up with things to keep you busy. Make time for things you ordinarily wouldn’t, like cleaning, signing up for an online course, or finding a good at-home workout. While being stuck at home for an unknown amount of time is scary, it can still be made the most of.


8. Continue shopping local

Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, local businesses are amongst those most at risk of financial danger. As much as possible, continue to shop local to help stores and other businesses who will likely see less foot traffic. In some cities (like Chicago!), Grubhub has announced that they will waive the fees that some independent restaurants pay the company to help them stay afloat during social distancing, so if you’re healthy and able, support your local restaurants.


9. Be kind

There’s a post going around the Internet today that’s along the lines of “viruses spread, but so does panic, kindness, and joy—choose wisely.” Remember that you aren’t alone in your anxiety, and to be patient and kind to others feeling the same way. Check in on your friends, family, and neighbors and be there for them—even if that means just talking on the phone while you’re both staying at home.