The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is spreading
In this blog, I will cover tips on how to prepare for social isolation and quarantine due to the coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Yesterday, the World Health Organization decided that the virus is officially a global public health emergency. This declaration acknowledges the spread of the virus from China to 27 countries worldwide.
The number of countries will likely grow over the coming days. By making this official announcement, the WHO’s emergency committee empowers the organization to coordinate efforts worldwide. It enables greater cooperation between countries and assists those with weaker health systems. Today, the US declared a public health emergency, taking action to limit the spread of the virus. Other nations will likely do the same.
What a coronavirus is
A coronavirus is a commonly occurring virus in many animals. It rarely impacts us unless a virus strain makes the jump from animals to humans. This class of viruses can cause cold-like symptoms or more severe illnesses like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
What makes the current coronavirus a concern is that it is new or “novel,” meaning scientists have not seen it before. Because it has not impacted humans previously, we are not sure what the impacts are or how it affects us. The uncertainty about the virus makes it challenging to diagnose and treat.
What is social isolation
Social isolation or the loneliness that is experienced by a growing number of people in our modern society, especially by older adults, has been growing. Humans are hardwired to be social animals. We generally do not do well if we have limited contact with others. Due to this, the public health measure to impose quarantine as a response to infectious disease can be challenging.
The typical length of quarantine is 14 days. Social isolation of individuals or families at home is one way to decrease illness transmission. These methods are being implemented in China to control the coronavirus’ spread as well as by some global companies. This practice will become more widespread as the impacts of the virus grow.
How to prepare for and survive social isolation
All of us know ourselves well enough by adulthood to realize if we are more introverted or extroverted. In reality, most of us are more one or the other depending on the social situation. However, some of us have a higher comfort level than others with being alone. I project that for those of us that work service jobs, many of us will be asked or empowered to work from home. Some of us may be unlucky enough to contract the coronavirus. Working from home may also happen if the virus spreads near where we live or as a precaution.
I don’t want to panic but be real with you. If you have followed my blogs, you know how important I think planning is. Regardless, you should be preparing yourself both emotionally and physically. What I mean by physical is that if you do not already have a disaster kit, I suggest you stock up on two weeks worth of supplies. I hope that in this situation, that power and network services stay on. But, you should prepare for worst-case scenarios where you lose power or network access.
What companies should be doing now
If your company has not already, it should be communicating with you about the situation. The organization probably shared guidance and activated its communicable illness plan. An internal crisis management team is likely working to stay ahead of the evolving situation. If this has not occurred, they should do it now. Even small companies can do some basic preparedness and planning.
For some businesses like retail, it will be challenging to implement social distancing, but I urge them to do it in cases where employees are sick. Even if they only have a common cold, it will be better for staff to stay home for the well being of themselves and others. For others, telecommuting can be relied upon, but make sure everyone has a remote connection. If your team(s) are working from home for an extended period to time, I suggest using video conferencing. Using this technology encourages in-person style engagement and connectedness.
What you can do for yourself
For some, like Ben Kavanagh, the Irish teacher quarantined in Wuhan his experience with quarantine was not too bad. The key is that he can communicate with others, and he is maintaining a positive attitude. If you have to isolate yourself in your home, you will want to make sure you keep your mind and your body busy. You should exercise. If you do not have home gym equipment, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises routines you can engage in. Yoga is another excellent exercise for flexibility and mindfulness. My favorite activity right now is jumping rope using crossrope!
Use video chat to call friends and family members regularly. Stay working if you can. Maintain good self-care daily, meditate, or start a gratitude practice. Keep a journal and read. Do anything that keeps you positive and maintains your resilience. If it helps, think of it as a staycation or way to reconnect with yourself or others in your home. Prepare a disaster kit for two weeks. It may seem like I am oversimplifying, but all of these things are well studied to elevate your mental health positively.
Try to keep positive and healthy
I believe that knowledge is power. However, I acknowledge that with crisis events inundating yourself with too much information can be detrimental to your emotional health. I have listed additional resources below but caution you not to let yourself get overwhelmed. When it comes to crisis events, subjecting yourself nonstop to news is not a good thing. It is helpful to be informed but shut off the news media or stop scouring the internet if you start feeling depressed or too anxious.
- Learn more about the difference between social isolation and quarantine at Health and Human Services (HHS.gov).
- Johns Hopkins’s online dashboard is tracking the coronavirus’ worldwide spread, developed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering: 2019-nCov Global Cases.
- To learn more about keeping healthy during a crisis, see my recent blog, called What is Disaster Resilience?
- 5 Exercises for the Perfect Beginner Bodyweight Workout to keep your body fit without a gym.
- Coping with Public Health Emergencies – This excellent video is by a colleague of mine, Steve Crimando, and the team at TheNJDHS.