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Updated March 24, 2020

Using information gathered from the CDC, National Institute of Health, and other health authorities, this post covers what you need to know about novel coronavirus 19 (COVID-19 / SARS-CoV2), as well as what steps you can take at home to prepare and protect yourself.

It is very important to avoid panicking and to make informed decisions. While COVID-19 may cause a temporary change of routine and carry risks for at-risk people, it has a low mortality rate and is not a life-threatening risk for most. Keeping perspective on COVID-19 and taking steps to protect yourself and the public will help address the disease and reduce its impact on you, your family, and our society in general.

None of the advice below circumvents the primary directive being shared by global health authorities: social distancing works and should be practiced by everyone. If you’re reading this, that means you!

What’s Here

Three Main Takeaways

Expect a Short to Medium Term Change of Routine

There is a possibility of a short to medium-term disruption of your personal and economic routine.

If an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in your community, you will likely see various levels of quarantine measures being put into effect. These disruptions will be inconvenient, but for the most part, they will be short-lived and easy enough to deal with.

Keep your cool, follow local authorities, and ensure your follow hygiene and cleaning best practices to protect yourself from the virus. Read more.

Both Canada and the United States have prepared economic stimulus packages designed to prevent financial distress. Read more about America’s steps and Canada’s steps.

Adjust Your Hygiene Habits & Cleaning Routine

The best way to prevent infection is to adopt excellent hygiene and cleaning habits.

COVID-19 is spread in similar ways as influenza – in tiny droplets, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Preventing the virus from entering the body, which is best accomplished via excellent hygiene, is the most effective way to protect yourself in the event of a community outbreak.

The chances are that a few minor adjustments to your hygiene habits could go a long way in keeping you free of infection. Read more.

Stock Up on Essential Supplies

The odds of a short-medium term disruption of daily activity are pretty good, so stocking up on essential supplies will ensure you don’t get caught unprepared. The reality is that shelter-in-place orders are coming, and soon.

There is a good chance that we will experience a short-term disruption of our normal routine. Having two weeks of food, water, medication, and other supplies will ensure that you are prepared to wait out a localized quarantine.

Read more.

COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 is spread among people that have close contact with each other (within 6 feet of proximity). 

Symptoms are similar to the cold or flu and may appear within 14 days; they include:

  • Fever
  • A dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Note: the above symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have coronavirus. 

What to Do if You Feel Sick

If you are feeling unwell and your symptoms are similar to COVID-19, call your doctor’s office or local telehealth number and ask them what to do next. More than 80% of the cases of COVID-19 are minor and do not require hospitalization.

If you feel unwell:

  • Stay at home and do not go out in public
  • Maintain excellent hygiene; wash your hands frequently
  • Cough into a towel or elbow
  • Clean surfaces regularly
  • Clean your mobile devices, keyboards, and computer mice regularly
  • Stay in a separate part of your home, and clean it regularly

Who is Most at Risk?

The overall mortality rate of COVID-19 is lower than other serious diseases, such as MERS or SARS, at approximately 2-3%. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the mortality rate for COVID-19 patients under age 60 is under 2%. 

Primary risk factors include underlying health conditions and age. 

woman cooking at home

What to Expect from Quarantine: Preparing for a Short to Medium-Term Disruption to Your Daily Routine

As of March 24, 2020, there are an estimated 380,000 cases globally, including more than 52,000 in the United States and 1,400 in Canada. The exponential growth of the infection is happening and we can expect this number to continue to rise.

As of the time of this update, most of Canada and the United States are in a localized quarantine of varying levels of severity. California, for example, has enacted “shelter-in-place” laws, while much of Canada is already practicing significant self-isolation/social distancing measures. 

The goal of these quarantine measures is not to prevent widespread infection. It is clear that such a feat is impossible; rather, the quarantine is meant to flatten the curve and allow medical systems to cope.

Here is what to expect:

Be Prepared for a Local Quarantine

Much of North America, and indeed the western world, is already enacting various forms of quarantine. If the disease starts to spread in your community, be prepared for a series of escalating quarantines to take place:

  • Public events and gatherings will be canceled or postponed
  • Additional screening at bus depots, airports, ports, and other methods of entry
  • Schools and public spaces may be shut down
  • Unlikely, but your entire town or city may go into self-isolation (AKA: you are confined to your home) for up to two weeks

While it is not likely that a total “house-arrest” style quarantine may take place in the United States or Canada, being prepared for this eventuality will ensure your comfort, safety, and health during this challenging time.

Stock Up

As described in greater detail below, stay stocked up on essential supplies. If a localized outbreak of coronavirus takes place, having some food, water, medicine, and fuel handy will help you get through quarantine.

Read more here.

Expect Clinics & Hospitals to Get Busy or Overloaded

The United States and Canada are fortunate in that both countries have modern, robust healthcare systems. However, it is also likely that an outbreak of COVID-19 will put significant strain on local healthcare resources.


  • Using the internet and social media to connect with local healthcare resources and stay up to date (note: ensure you follow official social accounts and avoid sharing unverified information from unofficial sources)
  • Using telehealth services where appropriate – if you are experiencing mild symptoms, avoid further taxing the healthcare system by visiting clinics and instead leverage telephone and online tools if appropriate

The best way to reduce your impact here is to stay home, even if you are not feeling unwell, and to only use local medical resources if needed (AKA: if you aren’t really sick, stay home).

Be Prepared to Work From Home if Possible

If an outbreak does occur in or near your community, working from home will help reduce the rate of infection and slow the spread of the disease. Schools and workplaces should have a plan in place to allow for as much remote work as possible. 

A few tips for working from home:

  • Take offline backups of any projects you are working on – while highly unlikely, there is a greater-than-zero chance that your access to the internet may be cut off for a short period of time
  • Put any communal files on cloud-based storage mediums – Google Drive, Microsoft Sharepoint, Microsoft One Drive, Dropbox, and other online file-sharing tools will allow you to place large volumes of data in cloud storage. While you will be unable to access these files if you lose access to the internet, in all other situations you will be able to access your files from any device or location.
  • Software, such as Zoom, Join.me, and Slack make it easier than ever to work remotely
    • Loom is excellent free webcam + screen recording software
    • Join.me is perfect for hosting/joining virtual meetings, conference calls, and screen sharing
    • Slack is excellent free chat and internet calling software
  • Leverage Google G-Suite or Microsoft Office 365 for cloud-based productivity toolsets, such as word processors and presentation software

Be Prepared for an Unexpected Loss of Power or Internet Service

While highly unlikely, there is a greater-than-zero chance that you may see short-term disruption to your power or internet service due to personnel shortages compounded by unexpected external factors. 

In other words, COVID-19 on its own isn’t going to be bringing down the electrical grid, but an environmental disaster – such as an earthquake in the middle of a quarantine – might do the trick.

Prepare yourself by:

  • Having adequate supplies for the weather you are facing – While we are now in March, much of North America is still dealing with the tail end of winter. 
  • Having batteries on-hand to power essential devices – Nobody ever regretted having some extra batteries for flashlights, radios, and other small electronics.
  • Having an external fuel source for cooking – Have an extra tank for your BBQ handy, for example. You’ll never regret having some extra fuel for cooking just in case.
  • Staying up to date with news – The only way to have any notice that power or internet might be going out is to stay informed. Keep up on what’s happening in the news (but don’t obsess over it).

Expect Cafes, Restaurants, & Other Non-Essential Services to Shut Down

The reality is that during an outbreak, reducing or preventing further spread of coronavirus is the top priority of local health services. As of the time of this update, most non-essential services across Canada and the United States have been shut down.

Local authorities may shut down roadways, public transportation, and mandate that non-essential businesses and services cease operating until the quarantine is lifted. 

how to properly wash your hands

Hygiene & Cleaning Techniques to Adopt

Stop Touching Your Face Unless You Have Just Washed Your Hands

This is harder than it sounds, but it’s also highly effective in preventing transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Wash Your Hands Like the Pros 

Doctors have a method to washing their hands with maximum effectiveness. The CDC has this great five-step guide for you to follow:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water. Temperature doesn’t matter as long as it’s comfortable.
  • Lather your hands with soap and rub them together. Lather the front, back, palms, and between your fingers.
  • Scrub your hands for 20 seconds and be thorough about it. Get some suds in every nook & cranny!
  • Rinse your hands with clean running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel. Do not reuse towels when possible.

YouTube video how-to:

Wash Your Hands & Every Time You Eat

Before you eat, give your hands a thorough wash before touching any food and immediately before sitting down to eat. 

  • Thoroughly wash cutlery and dishes
  • Clean surfaces before and after your meal
  • Do not use dirty towels; keep up with the laundry!

Wash Your Hands Every Time You Come Home

You can minimize what you bring into your home by washing up before you do anything else. Make a habit of coming home, kicking off your shoes, and then heading straight for the nearest sink to wash up.

Clean Your Mobile Devices Regularly

The best way to keep your phone clean is to keep your hands and face clean. However, despite your best intentions, your phone is going to get dirty, greasy, and smudged up with fingerprints. 

Clean your phone several times per day:

  • Wipe your smartphone down with a clean microfiber towel several times per day
  • Do not spray cleaning supplies directly on your phone
  • Do not rub rubbing alcohol or other types of commercial disinfectant on your phone

Wash Doorknobs & Surfaces Regularly

Giving certain surfaces, door handles, and other high-traffic parts of your home a once or twice-daily clean is a great way to prevent infection, especially if someone in your home is sick.

Use Hand Sanitizer in Public

If you are out in public and unable to get to a washroom, liberally apply hand sanitizer and follow proper technique. 

Youtube video how-to: 

supplies to stock up on

Essential Supplies to Stock Up On

It’s a good idea to have a small cache of supplies in your home just in case an outbreak takes place and you need to stay at home for a while. Stock up on essential food, medicines, and supplies to minimize discomfort and keep you nourished (and sane) up during a potential quarantine.

Aim for a two week supply of the basics- that should get you through most emergencies (including this one).


The odds are low that your water supply will be disrupted. However, preparation is about being prepared and not being “sorry” later.

  • Keep a large supply of potable water properly stored in sealed containers
  • Aim for about 3L of water per person per day; a single person will need about 45 L / 12 gallons of drinking water for a two week period
  • Commercially bottled water is the safest emergency supply
  • Ensure your water is properly stored, away from direct sunlight and in a clean, cool area


Keep a supply of foods rich in nutrition, focusing on protein and complex carbohydrates. Be sure to rotate through your food rations so that your supply is fresh and in-date.

  • Rice
  • Boxed pasta noodles
  • Canned or jarred pasta sauces
  • Oats
  • Whole-grain flour
  • Nuts, seeds (or mix ‘em up in a trail mix)
  • Cereals
  • Granola bars, power bars, protein bars, and sports bars
  • Canned vegetables and fruits
  • Canned proteins, such as tuna, salmon, chicken, and ham
  • Canned soups, chili, and stews
  • Condiments
  • Salt, paper, and other seasonings
  • Powdered/dehydrated milk
  • Popcorn (easy to make, helps keep people sane)
  • Juice powders/mixes

You should also keep a supply of long-lasting fresh foods, such as:

  • Apples
  • Lemons/limes
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes, squash, and yams


Keep a two-week of supply of prescription medication handy, as well as:

  • Pain relievers, such as Tylenol or Asiprin – Note, the WHO does not recommend Aspirin be used as a treatment for COVID-19 but also does not say not to use it either. There is not enough evidence to be sure.
  • Cough medicines and syrups
  • Medication for reducing fevers, such as acetaminophen
  • Cough suppressants (to help with sleeping)
  • Expectorants for reducing mucus, such as Mucinex

Some of the links I post on this site are affiliate links. If you go through them to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you). However, note that I’m recommending these products because of their quality and that I have good experience using them, not because of the commission to be made.

About Cameron Martel


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