As families around the world begin practicing “social distancing” in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming weeks – with local officials in some states implementing mandatory shelter-in-place orders – we’ll suddenly be spending a lot more time at home. Is your family prepared?

Keeping Your Family Healthy During a Shelter-in-Place Emergency

During a shelter-in-place emergency, your family’s health and happiness are top priority. Do your best to stock up on the right emergency essentials. While toilet paper may be worth its weight in gold right now, don’t forget to stock other important useful items, like garbage bags, resealable bags, pet food, diapers, and toothpaste. 

Can’t find hand sanitizer? Rather than raiding the liquor cabinet for a DIY hand sanitizer project, buy hand soap, fill your soap dispensers, and keep it by every sink in your home. Washing hands for 20 seconds is more effective than hand sanitizer at killing coronavirus anyway. Teach your kids to wash their hands properly with this simple five-step process.

The CDC recommends getting a several-week supply of the prescription drugs you routinely take for chronic conditions. Check to see if your state allows pharmacists to dispense a 30-day refill of medications in an emergency, regardless of how recently they last filled the prescription. Also, many insurance companies are waiving prescription refill limits on “maintenance medications,” which may help you to get the medications your family needs for the near future.

And don’t forget about Fido or Muffin. You’ll want to maintain a good supply of your pets’ medications and flea, tick, and heartworm preventative.

Have a Routine and Leverage Free Resources

Even if Mom or Dad – or both – have to work remotely from home, it’s important to keep the kids in a routine. According to Susie Allison, a former teacher and mom of three, “Kids are used to following a schedule, so making a blueprint for the day will help everything fall into place. It’s a lot easier than you might think.” TIME recommends following your children’s school framework for their daily routine, making sure to also schedule in playtime and screen time:

  • When are they used to having breakfast? Snack? Lunch?
  • When is recess?
  • Break the day into small chunks much like the school day, with different topics or subjects for different time slots.
  • If your child has assigned schoolwork, do they work best in the morning or afternoon?

Will your children be able to participate in online classes while schools are temporarily closed, or will you need to consider home-schooling? If the latter, check with your child’s school to see if it offers any curriculum resources for parents – if not, there are several free online resources for parents who are new to home-schooling. Parents.com shares several resources to help get you started.  

Stay Informed

As misinformation continues to spread – almost as quickly as the virus itself – it’s especially important to refer to trustworthy sources to stay up to date on the latest information regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). A good place to start is the local news media, the website of your local or state health department, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And remember, not everything on social media is factual …

Remember to Have Fun

One silver lining to the situation at hand is that many of us are being “forced” to slow down and spend more time at home than we usually do. Consider fun ways to keep your family occupied (both physically and mentally) over an extended period of time. 

Play a board game with the family. Consider reading that book that’s been collecting dust on the shelf. Speaking of dust … tackle those household tasks you’ve been putting off (who’s up for a round of Spring Cleaning Bingo? Download the FREE printable game card). Try out some new hobbies – writing, painting, sewing, gardening, or anything else that sparks your interest. And most importantly, relax! Taking steps to cope with the stress and anxiety of this new virus and the isolation it has forced on everyone will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger in the end.

Parents need self-care time, too! For two-parent households, divide “parenting” roles, time spent tending to the kids, and work-from-home schedules so that each parent has dedicated free time each day for exercise, meditation, reading, or other routines that help with managing anxiety (and keeping you both sane). For single-parent households, take advantage of “school” time, nap time, or after putting the kids to bed to do something that makes you happy or feel relaxed. 

If a Family Members Gets Sick … 

If a family member gets sick (whether it’s COVID-19 or just the flu), it’s particularly important to follow infection control practices to prevent germs from spreading to others in your home. Make sure you have adequate medications and medical supplies on hand, as well as a supply of nitrile/latex gloves to use when caring for a sick family member (and if you are unable to find gloves, be extra vigilant in washing your hands afterward). 

Sick family members should also limit contact with those who are well. If possible, designate a separate bedroom/sleeping area, bathroom, and eating area for infected individuals and encourage them to wear a face mask (if tolerated). And when a sick individual goes into common areas like the kitchen or laundry room, be vigilant in disinfecting commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, washer/dryer doors and buttons, and refrigerator handles, to name a few.

Clean and Disinfect Common Surfaces

Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces is especially important now. Clean and disinfect common surfaces using products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. You can also disinfect surfaces by applying a dilute chlorine bleach solution (made by adding ⅓ cup of regular household bleach in 1 gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach to 1 quart of water) after first cleaning the surface with soap and water. The surface must remain wet for 1 full minute to fully disinfect against the virus.

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Also clean and sanitize your kids’ toys and electronics, especially if lots of different hands will be touching them.

Give yourself and your family a fighting chance to avoid coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Together, we can all do our part to stop this nasty virus in its tracks!