Preparing for a Coronavirus pandemic


The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it's being called, is a scary thing. You need to be prepared. Not just for the possibility of getting sick, but in the ways that a quarantine could seriously affect your regular schedule.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that it's not a matter if, but when, it hits the U.S. And if you take cues from places like China and northern Italy, that means closed schools, businesses, public institutions, and grocery stores. A spokesperson at the CDC warned of the potential for a significant disruption in daily lives, according to the New York Times.

So, listen, you are NOT being paranoid to get ahead of it. NOW is the time to order a few supplies and food, just in case you need to stay in the house or apartment. It seems hugely likely it will impact big cities like NYC and San Francisco... but even small towns may be affected.

For the very latest, take a look at the World Health Organization site. We've found that it has the best and most reliable information out there.


Let's just skip the preamble and imagine a worst case (or bad case) scenario. The Coronavirus has hit your town or city, and you want to avoid getting sick. The simple answer is to stay home, with your family, and avoid contact with others as much as possible.

Here are things you should think about now. Like, right now. While you can still get supplies easily on places like Amazon. Order stuff today and have it delivered — rather than wait in line later, while wearing a mask and feeling all itchy and weirded-out.

  1. Get a limited stockpile of your standard medications. But don't hoard. It's not nice.

  2. Food. Enough food to last up to two weeks for your family, preferably. Do you really want to go outside to the grocery store? You'll find suggestions below.

  3. Toilet paper and other essentials. Sanitary stuff in general will be welcome. It could get funky inside for a long duration, after all. Order some bulk TP quickly and easily now.

  4. Protective gear — yes, masks. Suggestions and info also below.

  5. Games and other stuff to keep your family occupied. You know those rainy Saturdays when everyone is inside and things get heated? Imagine that times 100.

  6. Booze.


It seems like most people only want to talk about them, so we will. But you might really be more concerned about stuff like food.

Already, the major thing we see coming out of the Coronavirus are surgical-style face masks. Many organizations like the WHO are insisting that they are not necessary for healthy people — but that those who suspect they are sick SHOULD wear them. The virus spreads by droplets in the air when a sick person sneezes, talks, or coughs — and that way those bits are caught in the mask.

That is not slowing down places like Hong Kong, however, where people are stockpiling them and wearing them whenever outside.

BUT note there's a big difference between a flimsy, poor-fitting face mask and a N95 certified respirator. Medical personnel who deal with truly infectious diseases, like Ebola, rely on respirators.

The N95 respirator is specific kind of face mask that could be incredibly useful during a pandemic, especially in crowded, urban areas. It's what doctors and emergency personnel wear when dealing with potentially sick patients. According to the CDC, a N95, “Protects from exposure to airborne particles and barrier to splashes, droplets, and sprays. In a healthcare setting, protects from exposure to biohazards including viruses and bacteria.”

A regular face mask, by contrast "may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a face mask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures. Face masks also do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face" — so sayeth the FDA.


You can find them on places like Amazon. Start with a search for 3M and N95.

But be aware that it is a moving target right now, with many selling out, and a lot of price gauging. We bought an adult box of 10 last year for less than $20. Some are going twice or thrice that now.

Some things to know:

  1. Again, hoarding causes major problems, especially if health workers can't get access to necessary supplies. Your doctor and nurses get sick, and then we're all screwed.

  2. The N95 are more expensive, and generally one use.

  3. The "N95" code means that they block at least 95 percent of very small particles. This ability to filter out .3 micron particles is one of the major differences between a regular face mask, surgeon’s mask, and a N95 respirator.

  4. We've worn them, and they are hot and sticky and not at all comfortable for long periods of time.

  5. You should buy a "small" size for children. A close fit is necessary.

  6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "does not generally recommend face masks and respirators for use in home or community settings. However, they may be appropriate for persons at increased risk of severe illness from influenza or other respiratory diseases." For more info, go here.

  7. They come with and without exhalation valves — a desirable feature as far as comfort. It makes breathing easier and keeps you cooler. BUT, if you're the sick one trying to prevent others from getting sick, don't wear one with exhalation valves. In the very helpful CDC section on respirators, the CDC says that, “Respirators with exhalation valves can be used in a healthcare setting when it is not important to maintain a sterile field (an example of an acceptable practice would be when taking the temperature or blood pressure of a patient). Respirators with exhalation valves should not be used in situations where a sterile field is required (e.g., during an invasive procedure in an operating or procedure room) because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field.”


  1. Wash your hands before placing it on.

  2. Cover your mouth and nose, making sure there are no gaps on the sides.

  3. Don't touch it when you're wearing it!

  4. Take it off using the back straps.

  5. Throw that sucker away.

  6. Wash your hands again.

*All according to the WHO.


On to somewhat happier matters: Food! The good news is that it's always good to have a stash of food in your home, no matter the emergency.

The other good thing is that essentials like water and electrical power should still be operating even in the case of a pandemic. That means you should still be able to cook food easily.

  1. When it comes to emergency food, rolled oats are a staple for a very good reason. The Augason Farms Quick Rolled Oats Emergency Food Storage 20 Pound Pail bucket lasts 30 years, and has 181 servings. You can make it with boiling water or soak them overnight in water/and or a dehydrated dairy source.

  2. Parboiled rice. At least 10 pounds of it.

  3. Beans, baby. Dried beans, in bulk, make the most sense, whether its 5 pounds of chickpeas or black beans.

  4. Otherwise, it's really nice to have quick-minded, easy rations, too. Stuff like RX protein bars and peanut butter. For a full list of suggestions, see our Quickie food listing.

  5. Longer-term food. Even freeze-dried veggies? No, not sexy, but they'll keep you from going to the grocery store in a creepy mask.


1. Coffee. Do you want to stay in the house with somebody who's missing their daily dose?

2. Booze. Ditto.

3. Sanitary items. Toilet paper and soap and ways to clean up the kitchen. Take a look at our Health & Sanitation section.

4. Over-the-counter medications. Cold medicines and the like. Make sure you have some, as well as bandages. If the hospitals are full of sick people — you don't want to visit if you don't have to. Plus medical officials will already have their hands full.

Sane ways to deal with scary stuff