Prevention and Preparedness During COVID-19 Outbreak (simplified version)
Is there anything you can do to protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 outbreak and reduce your risk of infection?
The answer is YES.
The COVID-19 outbreak has many people concerned about their own health and safety, or that of their family. As a new virus without a vaccine at this time, a lot of people worry that there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves.
But that’s not really true. The good news is that many of the same things you would do to protect yourself in outbreaks, like flu season, can also go a long way toward reducing your risk during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Washing your hands
- Social distancing
- Staying home when you’re sick
- Getting vaccinated for influenza (“getting the flu shot”)
The videos below might help you understand better.
#1: Wash your hands
Just like with the flu, washing your hands is an extremely effective way to prevent spreading viral illness like COVID-19. Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice). You especially should do this (a) after going to the bathroom; (b) before eating; and (c) after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
And until you can wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your unwashed hands.
Kids who see their parents and other adults doing this are more likely to do the same. Together you can help prevent the spread of all kinds of germs.
#2: Practice Social Distancing
When there is illness spreading in the community, consider practicing basic social distancing measures like limiting your time spent around large groups and avoiding unnecessary close contact with people, such as handshakes, aloha kiss, etc. This may seem unfriendly, but it is an important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the flu.
Ask your workplace what policies they may have for employees to work remotely from home (i.e., “telecommuting”) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
#3: Stay home when you’re sick
Many people feel they should go to work even when they’re not feeling great, but it is important to stay home so they don’t spread their illness to their coworkers, classmates, and random strangers. This applies not just to their job or school, but also to shopping and leisure activities like going to the movies.
If Hawaii ends up with community transmission of COVID-19, this practice will be one of the most important tools for preventing further spread.
#4: Get vaccinated for the flu
It may seem strange to think that getting your flu shot will help with the COVID-19 outbreak, but it can help reduce the burden on our healthcare system.
The flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, but it will reduce the number of flu cases. If more people get their flu shot, fewer people will have the flu, which frees up healthcare workers to focus on people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. And because people with seasonal flu often have similar symptoms as people with COVID-19 (fever and cough), it can help healthcare workers avoid confusion and delays if they see fewer flu patients.
Isolation and quarantine to prevent spread of COVID-19
So far, Hawaii has had only a couple cases of COVID-19. However, if the outbreak grows, we may see cases where people with COVID-19 or who have possibly been exposed to it are isolated, quarantined, or asked to stay home or in their hotel room and self-monitor (sometimes referred to as “self-quarantine”).
Those words sound scary, and a lot of people don’t quite understand what they mean. In general, isolation is used to separate sick people with a contagious disease (like COVID-19) from people who are not sick, especially in a hospital, while quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
People who are asked to self-monitor where they live (or are staying) are those who may have been exposed to an illness but are showing no symptoms. They are asked to stay in place (i.e., not go to work, school, or public places) and to inform their healthcare provider or health authorities (like DOH) if they develop symptoms.
Isolation, quarantine, and self-monitoring at home are crucial ways to prevent further spread during an outbreak. The video below can help you understand isolation and quarantine better. If you would like to learn more, check out the CDC webpage on quarantine and isolation.
Last reviewed March 2020