Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Is It Time to Panic Over the Coronavirus?

IMHO, the answer is currently "no", however, many people (or it may seem like many people because the media likes to hype these types of situations for clicks) actually seem to be in panic mode.  The stock market plunge is being blamed on the coronavirus and some experts are saying that the public should be prepared for "severe disruptions."

If this was a worldwide outbreak of Ebola, I would already be in panic mode but this virus (again, IMHO) seems to have a pretty low mortality rate and only marginal virulency rate (see mortality rate for coronavirus vs regular flu here).  Obviously this sort of virus can mutate and become more deadly and it is spreading around the world mostly because people don't realize they have the virus until after they have already infected others and so many people travel these days that spreading such a virus around the world is very easy.

As always, the key to preparedness isn't running out to Costco and panic buying everything you may need to bug into your home for six months, but to be prepared for ANYTHING that could happen.  Yes, some people will get the coronavirus and it will significantly and negatively impact their life (I don't even want to imagine being stuck in a small room on a cruise ship for weeks on end then quarantined off ship for another couple weeks), but many other people will get laid off from their job, suffer a financial catastrophe, have a loved one hospitalized for an emergency medical situation, experience a natural disaster or major weather emergency, etc.  No matter the situation, are you prepared to...

  • Stay home for a week, two weeks, or longer due to a county-wide quarantine (this can actually, legally, happen).  This means having enough food, water, toilet paper, supplies, entertainment options, etc. in case you aren't able to run out to the store to restock.  Note that being prepared like this is a real bonus if you lose your job or are snowed in...either way you have enough stuff to see you through weeks of not being able to buy more supplies.
  • Do your bill paying--and hopefully money earning--online?  When your everyday activities come to a screeching halt, both earning money and using your money to pay your bills and keep the lights and heat on, become a necessary priority.  I've lost track of how many people I've known who, usually due to a medical emergency or job loss, have an additional reason to panic because they need to pay their rent or car payment but end up unable to do this because they don't have the money available or don't know how to get the payment made if, for example, they are stuck in a hospital for days on end.  How would you earn money, pay your bills, and otherwise handle your financial situation if you had to do all of this via computer?
  • Have cash on hand.  Again, many emergencies can be fixed, or fixed somewhat, with cold, hard cash.  In addition to having an emergency fund in the bank, also be sure to have a cash emergency fund at home to use in an emergency situation.
  • Take care of yourself if you are sick.  On the one hand, if you are severely ill, you need to get yourself to a hospital for appropriate medical care, on the other hand, if you are not so severely ill, are you able to treat yourself at home and monitor your symptoms properly?  This means having a "sick kit" with Tylenol, cough syrup, easy to prepare foods, Pedialyte, etc. so you don't need to run out to the store to get these things when you are feeling under the weather.
  • Up your PPE game if it comes to going out during a highly infectious disease event in your community and/or if you need to care for a loved one when they are ill.  Right now people are panic buying N95 masks even though they generally don't wear them correctly and I've seen many news shows where people have no idea how to don and doff PPEs correctly anyway (it defeats the purpose of using a mask when you place your hand over the mask to remove it then rub your face with that hand after you have removed the mask...spreading germs...yuck).
  • Deal with supply chain disruptions.  The old saying "reduce, reuse, recycle or do without" is going to become even more pertinent if the supply chains you rely on for everything from gasoline to Fruity Pebbles to toilet paper become disrupted.  There are small hints that this may start to become as issue soon (ie: workers can't make your iPhone in China with entire cities on lock down, ships aren't allowed to dock so no transport is available to move your phone from China to the US, etc. means your phone may not arrive in a timely manner).  So while most people can survive if they don't get a new cell phone, when it comes to critical things like medications coming from Asia, ventilators coming from factories in Asia, and the global back and forth of agricultural items, not to mention the financial fallout for companies impacted by trade disruptions on their stock prices--stocks that may be part of your retirement portfolio--you can see what a financial shitshow this could become. 
This is just the tip of the iceberg should the coronavirus become an actual pandemic so it behooves you, your friends, your family, and your job to plan and prepare accordingly for this potential pandemic situation.  Hopefully you won't have to rely on these preps and this virus blows over but at least if you are prepared, it will be beneficial no matter what disasters you face in the future.

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