The key to being prepared is having a plan. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, we are starting to see a number of public health measures taking effect, but we have not seen any actions to close or plans for closing critical infrastructure, such as the water supply (which is now and is expected to remain safe), health care services, or grocery stores.

As you prepare, keep the following in mind. This situation is constantly changing, and up-to-date information is critical. Stay informed about the current situation and recommendations with information being provided by your local news outlets, public health authorities (including the Galveston County Health District and UTMB), and state and national authorities.

Continue practicing social distancing and following the stay-at-home order: avoiding groups, keeping more than 6 feet away from others when out in public for allowed reasons, including exercise, and other recommended prevention strategies. These include frequent hand-washing of at least 20 seconds, as well as cleaning and disinfecting household surfaces that you come into contact with, such as doorknobs, counter tops, water faucets, toilets, etc., at least daily.

When stocking up your food and supplies, take an inventory of what you already have to prevent overbuying. Create a meal plan for the next couple of weeks and use that plan to guide your shopping. Purchase a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, and non-perishable foods, and plan to use perishable ones first to reduce waste. Canned, non-perishable, and frozen foods are great choices for meals later in your plan. Meats and many fruits and vegetables can also be frozen to be used later. It is also smart to have a 30-day supply of prescriptions medicine on hand.

Keep paper goods and cleaning supplies on hand, but only buy enough for what you need until your next planned trip to the grocery store plus a little extra. The same goes for bottled water. Again, the water supply is safe, and isn’t expected to be impacted by COVID-19. Many larger grocery chains offer curbside pick-up, which can further reduce your contact with others and may be an option for you to consider.

While we are now restricted from gathering in places such as bars, restaurants, or other large gathering spots, most local restaurants are offering take-out and delivery services, either through their own delivery service or through a third-party food delivery service. Keep these services in mind as an option for food as you continue social distancing.

If you are sick, or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), stay home and contact your health care provider. Be sure to call your doctor’s office before visiting for instructions on helping to prevent potentially spreading the virus.

If possible, have a designated sick room and separate bathroom to help separate sick family members from well ones. Avoid sharing food and drinks with sick family members. If available, face masks can be worn by sick members of your family to help prevent the spread of the virus.

John Prochaska is an assistant professor with the Department of Preventive Medicine & Population Health at The University of Texas Medical Branch.

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Charlotte O'rourke

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