The coronavirus, which has killed nearly 4,000 people and is spreading around the globe, and the country, is reason for concern. As of Monday, there has yet to be a confirmed case in Maine.
There is no reason to panic — the annual influenza is still a more widespread threat to most Americans — but prudent planning and prevention can help protect both you and your family.
Develop a plan, advises Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist and senior director at the American Psychological Association. “Doing something proactive and productive helps us to feel less anxious,” she told The Wall Street Journal.
But, once you have a plan, stick to it. “Don’t continue to revisit it and ‘what if’ it,” Bufka says. “Figure out your plan and then continue to do the things you need to do in your day-to-day life.”
Although there is still much we don’t know about coronavirus, be assured that government officials from the global World Health Organization to federal, state and local agencies, including schools, are closely monitoring the disease, preparing — and revising — plans based on its spread, and coordinating responses in areas where the respiratory illness has been found.
Gov. Janet Mills convened a coronavirus response team earlier this month. It is working across state departments and with local agencies and health organizations to ensure the state has a coordinated plan to address the potential spread of coronavirus in Maine.
“Preparing with facts and science and proven public health measures, and commonsense precautions — these are the best measures we can take to protect both the people we serve at work and our friends and families at home and protect all the people of Maine,” Mills said in her weekly radio address on Friday.
What can you do? First, stay informed. The Maine Center for Disease Control has set up a coronavirus webpage, where you can find up-to-date information about the illness, now officially called COVID-19, and steps to take to minimize your exposure.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended extra precautions for Americans who are at high risk of getting sick, which includes older adults and those with heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. If you are in this category, try to avoid large groups, try to keep space between yourself and others and stock up on necessary supplies, such as medications and food for two weeks. If there is an outbreak in your community, you should stay home as much as possible.
The best advice for everyone else is to remain calm. You don’t need 200 rolls of toilet paper. And, if you are not sick, you don’t need a mask. Leave those for medical providers and first responders, who will certainly need masks in areas where outbreaks occur. If you plan to travel, consult the federal CDC website for information about travel warnings and other precautions.
“Please do not panic,” Rep. Trey Stewart of Presque Isle, the Assistant House Republican Leader, said in a weekly radio address. “Maine is well equipped to identify and contain the virus should it become necessary.”
One of the best preventative steps, for coronavirus and other illnesses, is to frequently wash your hands or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, eyes and face. Sneeze and cough into your sleeve or a tissue. Avoid touching surfaces in public spaces such as door handles and elevator buttons.
Stay home if you are sick. This isn’t an easy option for many workers, particularly those in low-wage jobs. In the short-term employers should develop plans to allow employees to work at home, if possible, and to have contingency plans for workers who are sick — especially in service industries where employees have frequent contact with the public.
These preventive measures can serve you and your family, coworkers and friends well during this, and other, outbreaks.