Quarantine Preparations

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A month ago I wrote about dis­aster pre­pared­ness, and while the cur­rent coro­n­avirus out­break had started it wasn’t some­thing I knew about yet. Now that there’s a real pos­si­bil­ity that it will spread globally, it’s worth prepar­ing for this spe­cific dis­aster.

The ideal time to start think­ing about how to re­spond was prob­a­bly sev­eral weeks ago: some sup­plies like masks are already hard to find or very ex­pen­sive. On the other hand, pay­ing enough at­ten­tion to po­ten­tial is­sues that you catch them early is pretty un­pleas­ant un­less you en­joy it as a hobby. This is a strong ad­van­tage of prepar­ing in ad­vance when there’s no par­tic­u­lar is­sue of the day.

Still, there’s time now, so what should we be think­ing through? A good way to pre­dict here is to look at how this has gone where the out­break has already been at its most se­vere, and what you see is a long pe­riod of quaran­tine. They shut down pub­lic tran­sit, within cities and be­tween re­gions, can­cel­led school, and told peo­ple to work re­motely if pos­si­ble and can­cel­led most other work. In some cases peo­ple aren’t al­lowed to leave their houses, and even when peo­ple are al­lowed to they mostly don’t want to risk it.

So the ques­tion is, if at some point in the next few weeks to next few months you needed to stay home for sev­eral weeks, how would that go? Are there things you could do now that would make that go bet­ter? Espe­cially, if you didn’t want to risk go­ing out at all, couldn’t count on stores be­ing stocked in things you need, and de­liv­ery wasn’t run­ning, would you be ok?

Things to con­sider buy­ing a lot of in ad­vance:

Since we could be talk­ing about some­thing months from now, it makes sense to stock up on non-per­ish­able ver­sions of things. If this all ends up be­ing a big noth­ing you can just work through them over time, and it’s not a ma­jor in­con­ve­nience.

We have a lot of food in the house, gen­er­ally cans of beans, toma­toes, and other things we use in our cook­ing. But we don’t have much in terms of food that’s ready to be eaten with min­i­mal prepa­ra­tion, so yes­ter­day we got some ex­tra crack­ers and canned soup.

Other things that would be good to have on hand:

  • thermometers

  • plain bleach

  • masks, or res­pi­ra­tors (a bit more ex­pen­sive nor­mally, but they fit bet­ter, last longer, and aren’t cur­rently sold out)

  • dis­pos­able gloves

I’m less wor­ried about non-stuff as­pects of prepa­ra­tion be­cause these are eas­ier to deal with if and when it be­comes ap­par­ent there’s a prob­lem. Quaran­tine could lead to se­vere sup­ply chain dis­rup­tions, but things like “talk to the other peo­ple in your house and get on the same page about how much to avoid go­ing out” can wait un­til there’a a clearer pic­ture of the risks.

At this point I do still think “ev­ery­thing in my com­mu­nity will be fine” is the most likely out­come. Tak­ing some steps now is not very hard or costly, how­ever, and if things do go poorly we’ll be glad we did.

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