A California Engineer’s “Rational” Preparation for Coronavirus
What will I do if/when Coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes a pandemic ???
I’m just an engineer, having absolutely no medical qualification regarding coronavirus. And no, I don’t know why people are buying up all the toilet paper. But I happen to work in a company with both US and China offices so I had the chance to observe how coronavirus impacted our colleagues’ life and work in China over the last two months. I would like to share my planning for myself and my family, assuming a similar pattern (albeit time-shifted) might occur in the US and rest of the world.
Image by KATHERINE QUIRKE/TWITTER
What happened to normal people’s lives in China?
Let's start with the absolute necessities of everyone's daily lives:
- There was no shortage of fresh food or water: grocery stores were well stocked.
- Electricity and Internet connection were all working properly.
- Nobody we know, even in epicenter Wuhan, ran short of toilet paper.
Phew! Now we get the fundamentals out of the way, we can dig a bit deeper into other facets of life:
- There are voluntary and administratively enforced quarantine: people stay home almost all the time, and venture out only once in a while to get food and supplies.
- People spend even more time watching video, wechat, tiktok, and other social media.
- Creative ways emerge to use audio video for remote presence of traditionally in-person activities, such as nightclubbing, fitness training classes, school classes, and reality TV shows.
- Getting up to date and finding accurate news can be hard: too much fake news and rumors, especially on social media.
- For people with kids, this is the longest school break ever. And yes you are stuck with the kids no matter how destructive they can be when confined indoors for so long.
- Prepare to work remotely for a long time: offices are closed, and many companies still encourage people to work remotely even today.
- Local delivery service is running very smoothly for all shopping needs including perishable food and drinks. And China probably has the best local delivery service in the entire world.
Nevertheless, things can get boring very quickly when stuck in the house for too long. So people have to entertain themselves like counting rice, lion dancing with a bucket, and fishing from an aquarium.
What could happen in the US and worldwide?
Most of the patterns in China could replay itself in the US and other countries, but there will be differences as well. A few points:
- Panic might lead to hoarding, which will temporarily cause medical supplies and even daily essentials to run out or in short supply. Look what happend to toilet paper in Australia.
- There will be some level of restriction of mobility, but administratively enforced quarantine will be difficult to implement.
- Getting up to date and accurate info can be hard. Politicians around the world tend to favor the strategy of overnight 180 degree turn: from “it’s mostly fine, under control” abruptly to “it’s a pandemic, state of emergency, lock down”.
- If a large scale outbreak does occur, initially there might be a lack of testing capacity to scan the virus, as well as medical facilities and resources to treat the infected. So you might need to take care of yourself and your family for mild conditions.
What will I do?
At the end of the day, it's about risk management. So my guiding principles are:
- It’s good to have a plan and be prepared.
- There should be enough for everyone if we share. Try not to be a hoarder of medical supplies or other essentials!
- Trust in market economy: there will be enough face masks, pretty soon. I have seen an ad where some entrepreneur wanted to buy 50 outfits of these face mask manufacturing lines.
Procuring 2 weeks of essential supplies does not seem too bad an idea, since many of us in California live in an earthquake zone, a Tsunami zone, or both. I’m not promoting hoarding, but just covering 2 weeks of basics which will not deplete any supermarkets. You probably already have most of them anyways.
- Food (dry goods, canned food) and water (a good filter will trump hauling bottled water)
- Power and fuel (propane tank for your BBQ or camping stove, solar panels & chargers)
- Flu and cough medicine
- Facemasks, goggles and protective gear (when they become generally available again, which means after the hospital needs and strategic reserve are fulfilled)
And what I will do
- Check daily updates from dependable sources (such as CDC in the US)
- Purchase online collaboration and video conferencing for remote work (such as Zoom Video Conference)
- Reduce non-essential public space exposure such as air travel, eat out, movies, etc
- Wash hands a lot with soap, to the tune of this Vietanamese hit song
- If you have kids: figure out a plan to play with them and continue education if/when the school gets closed.
What is your strategy?
So stay alert, be prepared, be kind and help each other. Plus, always have enough toilet paper!
Feel free to share your survival strategy in the community forum.
Title image "Survive Nuclear Bunker with toilet paper": original photo by Getty Images / Underwood Archives, photoshoped (badly) by the author.
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