Preparing for COVID-19: What to know about self-quarantine

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As cases of coronavirus continue to spike around the globe, many Canadians are wondering how prepared they should be if they need to self-quarantine. And while it’s one thing to be well stocked on essentials like food and toilet paper, it’s also important to be equipped mentally for the potential of two weeks of isolation. Here are a few guidelines to consider if preparing for a self-quarantine.

Making a plan

While the risk of catching the virus in the country is still low, the Canadian government has detailed steps individuals and communities should take in order to avoid contracting and spreading the virus. If COVID-19 hits your community, Health Canada recommends considering how to change your routine and behaviour in order to stop it from spreading. It suggests avoiding large crowds by doing groceries during off hours, taking public transit outside of rush hour and exercising outside instead of at the gym. If you’re a caregiver, consider what help you would need should you contract the virus. Fill up on prescriptions sooner rather than later so you don’t visit a busy pharmacy.

In terms of stocking up for self-quarantine, Health Canada suggests buying enough essentials but discourages stockpiling. Ottawa Public Health has released a checklist of items worth keeping in your home in the event you or someone in your residence needs to go into self-isolation. Keep your shelves stocked with non-perishable, easily prepared foods, including:

  • Fresh veggies with a longer shelf life like beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnip, potatoes, yams, cabbage, squash, onions

  • Fresh fruit with a longer shelf life: apples, melon, oranges, grapefruit

  • Frozen vegetables and fruit, canned vegetables and fruit, dried fruit, applesauce, tomato sauce, 100% vegetable and fruit juice

  • Grains like rice, couscous, quinoa, bread (with a longer shelf life), tortillas, pasta, cold dry and hot cereals, bread rusks, crackers

  • Frozen and canned meat and fish, soup, stews

  • Yogurt, eggs, hard cheese, non-refrigerated milk and plant-based beverages, milk powder, evaporated milk

  • Canned and dried beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds, nut butters

  • Flour, oil, butter or margarine, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, jam/honey, sugar, granola bars, cookies, bouillon cubes, spices, condiments

  • Infant formula (if applicable)

A stock photo of a self-isolation sign left outside a property, instructing where to leave deliveries, illustrating how self-isolating measures can be put in place. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)

You should also refill your supply of pet food, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and diapers, if you have children who use them. 

It’s also important to keep key hygiene supplies on hand, including hand soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer, as well as every day cleaning items like disinfectant wipes, bleach, laundry detergent, dish soap, garbage bags, toilet cleaner, floor cleaner and nitrate or latex gloves.

Ordering in 

For those who are unable to leave the house as a result of doctor’s orders, having food delivered is a convenient and increasingly popular option. Some grocery store chains, like Longos and Loblaws, have delivery services. In larger cities, meal kit companies will deliver portioned meals on a regular basis, straight to your door.  Ian Brooks, CEO and founder of HelloFresh Canada, says while he can’t disclose whether there’s been a spike in orders since news of the coronavirus hit, the company is prepared. 

“There haven’t been any changes to our service, and we’re taking the necessary precautions to maintain the safety and wellbeing of our team and customers, who are our highest priority,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “The team is preparing for all different kinds of situations, including fluctuations in demand.”

The company has also implemented a number of additional safety measures, to ensure everybody stays healthy. These include distributing health questionnaires, regular risk assessments, and providing guidance on illness prevention as per the direction the Public Health Agency of Canada. With regards to the company’s drivers, who distribute the food to customers, the company says it’s implemented a number of proactive measures. 

Considering mental health

Being forced to stay at home for two weeks can have an impact on wellbeing. Dr. Steven Taylor is a clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. He says people need to think beyond the preparedness of stocking up on necessities. 

“People need to think of ways to deal with social isolation, loneliness, boredom and stress,” he says. “It could be as simple as finding things to do if they’re going to be inside for two weeks.”

He says people who were forced to be quarantined on cruise ships managed to successfully deal with the isolation by focusing on tasks like finishing a book or starting a knitting project.

As for people who aren’t under self-isolation, Taylor says it’s important to reach out to people who are more vulnerable, to make sure they’re prepared. This includes health care workers, who are at the front line of the issue.

“We need to consider things like stress and burnout in health care workers to help them deal with the effects of self-isolation,” he says.

With the constant news about the number of cases increasing around the world, it’s understandable that people will feel more anxious and stressed. Taylor says it’s important to keep things in perspective.

“Looking at the big picture is important,” he says. “This will likely be over in months. We’ll be getting on with our lives and putting this behind us.”