Quarantined Because of Coronavirus

quarantined as a result of coronavirus

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional so my comments are based on info from sources I believe to be reliable. Consequently, please check with your own sources and try to stay up to date with this rapidly developing emergency.

What’s the latest on the coronavirus?

As I write this on January 30, 2020, China has placed 50 million of its citizens under quarantine because of coronavirus. Facebook and Google are restricting employee travel to China (and Hong Kong). Foreign governments are airlifting their citizens out of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, and, in the case of the U.S., flying them to Alaska and to the mainland U.S..

Two days ago the World Health Organization changed its earlier assessment and now labels the virus a Global Health Emergency.

Meanwhile, here in my California neighborhood, two elementary school children crossed my street wearing white surgical masks.

Should your kids be wearing masks?

Should you?

As the coronavirus spreads, what should we do at home?

First, try to be realistic about this virus. Even though it is a new one and spreading rapidly, it does seem (so far) to be like other viruses. That is, a lot of people get sick, but it doesn’t mean they all will die.

(The most recent statistic I’ve seen is a mortality rate among people with severe cases of 2-3%. Compare that with Ebola, with a death rate of 90%. Another disclaimer – statistics like these can be misleading because it’s never quite clear which strain of the disease is being tracked. Similarly, it’s never clear exactly what the definition of “severe” is. Still, you can get an idea of the relative danger.)

Keep up with the news so you’ll know when to take action as a result of the coronavirus.

I have several sources that I turn to: broadcast news, online news, and my LinkedIn Emergency Management group. I recommend you also take a look at the regularly updated pages at the Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov

In the meanwhile, follow these basic sensible steps.

  • Don’t plan travel to Wuhan, China or anywhere in China, for that matter.
  • Wash your hands often, with soap and water.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands.
  • If you cough or sneeze, smother it with a tissue and throw the tissue away.
  • Clean often-used objects and surfaces with disinfectant.  (Phone? Computer keyboard? Kitchen counter? Bathroom faucets?)
  • If you do get sick, stay home. If persistent high fever or trouble breathing, contact your doctor. (Do NOT walk in without instructions.)

If you are working and traveling, do you need to be ready to be quarantined because of coronavirus?

Today I read that a planeload of Americans scheduled to land in Ontario, CA had been diverted to a nearby military base where they are being kept quarantined for 14 days. (They will get to watch the Super Bowl in their quarantine setting.)

Your plane or even your office could be caught up in quarantine, too.  So it’s good to understand what “quarantine” really means, and to distinguish it from “isolation.”

Important definitions: quarantine vs. isolation.

  • According to Health and Human Services, “Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill.” That explains why the planeload of people watching the Super Bowl won’t be locked into some sort of hospital. Rather, they’ll be observed for several days.
  • Isolation is different.  Per the HHS, “Isolation is used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy.”  You may remember the dramatic cases of Ebola victims being isolated during and after transport to the U.S.

Isolation and quarantine are authorized by the Federal Government for a number of communicable diseases including Cholera, Diphtheria, Infectious tuberculosis, Smallpox, etc. Today’s news reports that the governments of both the U.K. and Australia have authorized quarantine for up to 14 days for people returning from Wuhan.

How to prepare to be quarantined.

You can consider the preparations for quarantine to be the same as for sheltering in place.

So, right now, before anything more happens, ask yourself these questions:

Do we have supplies to carry EVERYONE through a 14-day quarantine? 

At home you are likely to have to make no extreme emergency preparations. And since you will have running water and utilities as usual, life won’t be onerous. Make a list today and get extra dog food, toilet paper, aspirin, etc. immediately.

Think of a few projects you can engage in with other family members. Just remember, once the quarantine starts, there will be no running to the grocery store or to the hardware store.

At work it could be a whole different story. Do you have food and water for everyone in the workplace? Where will people sleep, and with what blankets and/or pillows? What about hygiene?  What to do about people who refuse to stay quarantined?

Preparing to be quarantined at work because of the coronavirus could take several days and cost a fair amount. 

Find out what your legal responsibilities are in this situation.

On the road you may find yourself quarantined without any notice. If you travel, be sure you have basic emergencies items in the car or in your carry-on bag. In particular, have a few snacks, a warm jacket, a supply of your prescription drugs and your list of emergency contact names. Carry batteries and a portable battery so your devices won’t run out of power.

What’s your plan for letting people know you’ve been quarantined because of coronavirus?

Family members may be concerned is they hear about you being quarantined. Be sure you keep them up to date. Don’t forget to cancel and/or reschedule appointments, etc.

Use your crisis communications procedures at work to let employees, suppliers and customers know that activity at your business has been temporarily interrupted (and to what extent). Prepare draft messages NOW so they are ready to be finalized and sent out at a moment’s notice.

Operate from knowledge and caution and not from fear.

The more you know about how the virus is developing and the steps the various governments and/or medical authorities are taking, the easier it will be for you to anticipate any changes you should be making in your personal or work life.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. And to answer that question about face masks? It seems to me that since the virus is transmitted when people sneeze or cough, the people who really should be wearing the masks are not well people (after all, the mask doesn’t protect your eyes) but rather people who themselves have flu symptoms! (The problem is that multi-day incubation period . . .)

Sure, wearing a surgical mask keeps large particles of smoke/soot from your mouth and nose, and keeps you from touching your nose or mouth with dirty fingers. But it doesn’t block airborne viruses.

Still, wearing a mask probably can’t hurt.  Read more about masks here.

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