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How to prepare your home for the coronavirus outbreak

The virus is spreading, but you shouldn't panic – just be prepared.

Health officials are advising residents make preparations for the inevitable arrival of the coronavirus in Minnesota.

While there have been no confirmed cases here, the Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on Friday that Minnesotans should take sensible precautions to be safer in the event of its spread.

You can find the Minnesota Department of Health's comprehensive guide to preparing for coronavirus (known as COVID-19) here.

Here's a look at some steps you can take: 

Personal hygiene to prevent the spread

Act in the same way you would to avoid getting a cold or flu:

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water.
  • If you're out and don't have access to hand-washing facilities, bring hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol content.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and throw it into the trash. If you don't have a tissue, do it into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Keep your hands off your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you fall sick yourself with cold and flu-like symptoms, stay at home to avoid infecting others.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using household cleaning spray or wipes.

Here's the CDC's guidance on when and how to thoroughly wash your hands.

What about face masks?

The CDC is advising that the majority of face masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19 anyway, and are typically only required for those in the medical industry (who have access to higher quality masks).

However, if you show symptoms of Coronavirus, you should wear a face mask when around other people to prevent the spread of it to others.

If you notice someone with symptoms, try and keep your distance from them. Coronavirus is most commonly spread person-to-person within a distance of 6 feet.

Be careful about touching shared surfaces as well, as you can get infected by droplets from a person's cough or sneeze (hence the "don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth" advice.)

Preparing your home

If one or more of you falls sick, or in the event of school or business closures that forces you to stay at home, you'll need some basic supplies so you don't need to go out that often.

DON'T PANIC BUY! The Department of Health advises you just gradually build up a decent stock of goods over the coming weeks so that you have enough to keep you fed, watered and medicated at home in the event of closures or sickness (if you fall sick and may have coronavirus, you're advised to stay at home for 14 days).

This should include non-perishable food items that can keep you and your family going. If you have young children, ensure you have plenty of infant formula, diapers and diaper wipes.

The same goes for medication, make sure your prescriptions are re-filled, and you have a plentiful supply of non-prescription meds – particularly fever-reducing medication like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, including children's versions.

Childcare

Get yourself prepared for a situation in which schools or daycares close down because of the virus, and have backup plans in place to ensure your children are looked after at home.

This may include asking your employer about working-from-home options. 

Reducing your stress and worry

The Minnesota Department of Health has some guidance on how to limit the emotional and psychological toll of a health scare. 

Here are some of the tips:

  • Stay up to date with the latest coronavirus news affecting Minnesota, but try not to overexpose yourself to news stories and social media discussions about the virus' wider impact.
  • Maintain normal activities and routines as much as possible.
  • Eat healthy, get plenty of exercise, avoid nicotine, alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Do things that make you happy, and try to get plenty of rest.
  • Get your house so you're in control and prepared in the event of illness (see above).

If you get coronavirus

If you are getting symptoms of the coronavirus and think you may have it, the first thing you should do is call (don't visit) your healthcare provider.

Seeking medical care is the only reason you should leave the house after this, try and isolate yourself as much as possible to prevent the spread.

Try to separate yourself from other people in your home, maybe sticking to a single room and using separate bathrooms if available.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, as many surfaces as possible that you may have come into contact with should be cleaned and disinfected – which includes electronic items like remote controls, tablets and computers.

Don't share dishes, glasses, silverware, towels or bedding with others in your home. Make sure anything you do use is cleaned thoroughly before it's re-used.

The CDC is also advising limited contact with pets, though it's not been confirmed that pets are carriers of the virus.

"If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask," the CDC says.

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