How to avoid Coronavirus -- the easy things you can do now

Some things are out of our control. But you can lessen your risk for Coronavirus -- or any virus -- with a couple of simple precautions

March 2, 2020
Elbow sneeze

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There's a lot of scary talk about the Coronavirus right now. People are wearing masks and cancelling vacations and avoiding crowds. Does any of that help? What steps can you take to protect yourself? Here's one of the simplest lists I've found of a few easy precautions you and your family can take right now.

•Rule Number One on pretty much every expert's list of Coronavirus precautions: WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!!!!!! Get them wet, front and back. Use lots of soap and lather them up -- front, back. between the fingers, and under the nails. Most people don't scrub long enough. Even my second grader can tell you you're supposed to wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. (I'm not saying he actually does that. I'm just saying he knows that.)

•Rule Number One, Part B: Hand sanitizer is good, too. It seems like everybody has some in their purse or desk drawer. I keep some in my car so that I can scrub down as soon as I leave the grocery store or any store where I've touched the merchandise. You're supposed to take a good long 20 seconds to do that, and I'm betting most of us have been spending less time than that on hand sanitizing. Oh, and the recommendation is that for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to actually do any good, it has to contain at least 60 per cent alcohol. (I have a friend who says that number needs to be 80 per cent, but she's generally pretty paranoid.)

•The second most basic piece of advice is to stay home when you're sick. Even if you're not carrying Coronavirus, why freak out all your coworkers and put up with your cublicle being branded as a hot zone? 

•And I'll add a third absolute basic. Two words: elbow sneeze. Kids learn this in preschool, and adults need to learn it too. (See the picture above for reference.) You sneeze into your hand? Then, what? Shake hands? Give your phone to a friend so he can scroll through your vacation photos? Push the elevator buttons in the 40-story building where you work? Open the refrigerator door in the break room? Stop already. Sneeze into your elbow. Or use a Kleenex. In fact, use five Kleenexes.

Other pointers from this useful New York Times story: Masks don't prevent the virus; they only protect others if you wear one when you have the virus. In fact, the Surgeon General says people should stop buying and wearing masks so there are enough for the people who do need them. Besides, you're freaking everybody out when you wear that thing.

Also, stock up on the supplies and medicines you normally need at home in case you suddenly can't leave home. Create a family plan so you have your bases covered if someone is suddenly out of commission. Try not to panic about the stock market -- it goes up, it goes down, it goes back up. (Some experts remind us to look at this as a "BUY" opportunity.)

Here's the full story -- it's a quick read. Take a few precautions, be smart, and don't panic. In fact, relax. I know a radio station that plays music to help you do just that.

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