Protecting Your Family During the COVID-19 Pandemic - And Some Advice For Those Working From Home


These are frightening times we are currently in with COVID-19 spreading.

I am working from home for the foreseeable future. I don't talk much about my full time day job here on the blog but I have shared some of my expertises with my Instagram followers in the past and I did again yesterday. While I am not currently working in this field, I have for many years worked as an emergency/disaster professional. I hold three separate certifications from the province of Ontario, North America and the UK/Europe. People like to joke that my designations look like alphabet soup (they are ABCP, AMBCI & BEM)

I have written pandemic plans, along with disaster plans, and tested them with a large amount of employees globally. I have practiced setting up an EOC with provincial leaders to respond to large scale disasters. My particular area of expertise is in pandemic, preparations for natural disasters and active shooters. I tell you all of this not to brag or show off. I want you to understand that I am coming from an educated and practical place and I want you to understand that what I am about to tell you is from 10 years worth of tried and proven work on my part.

I need you to read and remember what I am about to tell you...

Take this seriously and remain calm. 

I have spent far too much breath in the last two weeks, and especially in the last few days, telling people of all walks of life and age ranges to take this pandemic seriously. I have been met with disbelief, called an overreactor and an alarmist. What I am is scared. I am filled with anxiety. I worry for the safety of my family and myself. I am all of these things because those who do not take this seriously will continue spreading COVID-19 and will infect and possibly kill those around them.

When we build pandemic plans, whether its for a small company, a large organization or the government, we take into account how many people will die. We call it mortality rate. When the WHO declares a pandemic they are saying this is a highly infectious virus and a percentage of people will die around the world

A pandemic is an epidemic that’s spread over several countries or continents and affects a large percent of the population.

This is not your typical flu or flu season. What we are dealing with here is a respiratory virus that starts as chills and fever and can develop into pneumonia. The typical flu sees a mortality rate of 0.01-0.05% we're looking at 3-4% with COVID-19. That alone should tell you how serious this is. The other alarming statistic is that WHO and government leaders are anticipating that 70% off the global population will become infected with this strain of coronavirus before we see it end.

We live in a global society and we have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our family and our community. The concern is that if you have the virus you can easily spread this to others as it is highly contagious through touch and respiratory droplets through a sneeze or cough. (CDC Transmission of COVID-19) This virus can live on surfaces, handles, knobs, light switches, chairs, keyboards, even your dog, for up to 48 hours. If that doesn't turn you into a germaphobe who doesn't want to touch anything, I don't know what will.

If you pass this virus along to youngsters, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems you are setting them up for a hard illness to fight, even death. The mortality rate for those over the age of 60 is as high as 15%. Our health care systems around the world are already stressed to the max.

To give you an idea of how things are progressing in Ontario, if you have flu and cold like symptoms  you are asked to call Telehealth. They will talk to you over the phone and will give you next steps. I talked to someone this morning who has been sick for three days and called. It's a minimum 18 hour wait to speak to someone.

They do not close air travel, sports teams, schools, churches, festivals and DisneyWorld for no good reason. This is unprecedented and we've never been here before.

This is the first part of my saying to you. This has been a reminder of the "take this seriously" part. I hope that if you started reading thinking this is all just some big joke that you have been convinced otherwise. If you still think this is overblown, please watch Contagion on Netflix (trigger warning if you are already overwhelmed) We watch this movie in pandemic trainings as it was made with close consultation with the CDC, WHO and emergency managers.

Now, let's talk about how we can all remain calm. My professional advice is this:

If you haven't already, get supplies

If you're out of toilet paper then I'm afraid you might be too late. For the life of me I will never understand why toilet paper was the first on the list (this is not norwalk virus which is known for excessive bowel elimination) COVID-19 is respiratory so stock up on your typical cold and flu supplies - Cold & Flu medication, Kleenex, Disinfecting wipes, soups & ginger-ale. Get enough food and supplies for a few days. Canned goods, fresh/frozen fruit and veggies and some snacks. Hand soaps that are antibacterial are key right now.

Eat right, get enough sleep and take good care of yourself to keep your immune system working at full capacity.

Wash your hands and stop touching your face

Did you know that we touch our faces more than 200 times a day? The worst thing you can do right now is touch an infected surface and then touch your face. If you have to be out, don't touch any surfaces, don't touch your face and wash your hands regularly.

Soap in hand, you want to scrub every bit of surface on your hand and nails. Sing Happy Birthday in your head twice, takes about 20 seconds. Rinse.

Social distancing

You're going to hear this a lot in the next few days. This is a term we use a lot because it helps to flatten the curve (you can read all about that here) You need to keep some space in between you and others. No shaking hands, no high fives, no hugging. Stay away from public spaces and people who are coughing or otherwise seem unwell. I tell my kids that if someone near you coughs, hold your breath, cover your face and get away! Those droplets can travel great distances and the second you breathe them in, it's got you.

Social distancing helps to prevent massive spikes of the virus which overloads the healthcare system.  A strained health care system is not an effective one.

Time to Work From Home if possible

Later I'll share some tips on how to effectively work from home, but right now if you can work from home, do it. This is not possible for every worker but those who can should because they are protecting themselves and those who can't work from home. Less people using public transit, less people in stores and offices means we can slow the spread.

Many schools are closed, Ontario just closed all publicly funded schools for the next three weeks, for that same purpose. Children are notorious germ carriers (I say that half joking) they touch everything and constantly have their hands in their mouths. They need to be home to prevent further children from contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Just stay home, especially if you are ill

If you ignore every other piece of advice I've given, just listen to this one. Stay home. You do not need to be out running around right now. I don't care how important you think it is. I get it. There are vacations in the works, special events you've been looking forward to. Cancel them or double check because they may have already been cancelled.

Hunker down for the weekend and the coming week. Let's see if a full week of everyone staying home brings us back to good place.

If you are still intending to travel, that's on you. No trip is more important than your health and your family's well being. I say this in all seriousness, it's ignorant and selfish. You are literally putting lives at risk. This is not the time to dig your heels in and think you know better.

I have spoken to many that are still planning on air travel and their family members that are genuinely concerned about what they may pick up while away. If your family member is planning on travelling, when they return you need to stay away for 14 days which is the incubation period.

And if you are still planning on travelling, I recommend having lots of cash on hand and a damn good out of country travel insurance plan and I would verify that they will cover any claims related to COVID-19 specifically. If they refer to this as preexisting or don't cover costs related to pandemic, you could be faced with thousands of dollars in medical bills if you fall ill.

You need that cash because if the country you are visiting gets locked down like Italy, you will be left with no options. Your hotel booking will have expired and you might find yourself not able to get another room with them. You're going to need that cash to survive until you can somehow find your way home. And remember, the United States has now banned all flights into the US from Europe. Don't think other countries won't do that same.

If you are feeling ill, stay home and rest. Monitor your symptoms and know when to call your local health office. You need to be aware of who to call in case you start getting worse. At this time you cannot just show up to an emergency room, they are not allowing suspected COVID-19 cases through their doors. Many hospital have off site set ups where you can get assessed and possibly tested. Have that telephone number handy.

Don't panic. Don't become a doomsday prepper. There is a healthy middle ground, take this seriously and remain calm. In many places it's still early spring so the weather isn't all that great outside anyway. Stay home, cook and play some old board games. Or just watch Netflix. Either way, let's stay safe and not spread this virus.

For those who will be working from home for the next little while, please read this post Tips For Working From Home, except the part about getting out of the house to connect with others. Do it virtually for the time being.