My non-panicky thoughts about Coronavirus
I'm not a medical doctor or any type of expert at all, but I realized while brainstorming things we might want to make sure we had, there were things I hadn't thought of, and other people found this list useful, so I'll post it online. For an article from an actual qualified person, I thought Zeynep Tufekci's article was quite good.
What I see as the main problem among people I know is that our lives in SF are not set up to do a lot of living at home. In particular, a worrying number of people I know don't have food at home or really ever cook. But I don't think anything really extreme needs doing, and in fact a hypothetical ideal responsible adult would probably be entirely prepared already.
What I see as realistic concerns are:
- There might be disruptions and temporary shortages as everyone panics. Probably on time scales of having to wait for the store to restock.
- Probably if you get sick you will be taking care of it at home, so you should have all the stuff you should have had anyway at home for when you get sick.
- Relying on other people to cook and bring you food is not ideal for not getting sick.
- You might find yourself wanting to avoid leaving the house for a few weeks.
- The world will not end. Instead, we will temporarily adjust to a new, somewhat inconvenient normal and hopefully not get sick.
Top priority items:
- Tylenol, a thermometer, electrolyte powder, tissues, maybe cough medicine, food you like while sick, so if you get sick you have everything already
- Make sure you have enough essential hygiene supplies like toilet paper and soap so that you won't run out and then find the grocery store is empty till they can restock again. Don't hoard them, but don't wait for the last roll.
- Literally any food in your apartment at all, you know who you are. For everyone else, you probably have more nonperishable food than you expect already, no need to overload Safeway, but maybe look your cupboards over and see if you are missing things. Also while rice is great, if you buy rice and leave it in a corner for months there's a chance it develops weevils. Get food with the intention of eating it no matter what happens.
- Be extra diligent about washing hands.
It's unclear that face masks help and you should save them for in case you get sick and need to go out. Hand sanitizer is probably not a substitute for washing hands so don't panic if you can't find it.
Medium priority items:
- Make sure you aren't running low on any less urgent hygiene supplies, like toothpaste.
- Honey and herbal tea if you get sick. Maybe caffeinated drinks if you would be unhappy to do without.
- Start gradually making your pantry less sad. Think about canned or frozen veggies and fruit. Frozen vegetables and spinach especially are compact and if nothing happens vegetables are good anyway. Again, get stuff you'd eat anyway.
- Check that you aren't about to run out of cooking oil or salt.
Lowest priority: Use this as an opportunity to build a decent pantry and generally be prepared for cooking at home. Spices and condiments help a lot. Think about what your parents used to keep in their pantry. Look up some recipes in advance so you have stuff. Also don't buy ridiculous amounts of stuff or stuff you wouldn't eat. Some ideas:
- Pasta and pasta sauce in a jar are both pretty non-perishable.
- Likewise, there's a large variety of noodles that can be made, as well as sauces for those noodles. Check out your local Asian grocery store as a good source of cheap, varied stuff with long shelf lives.
- There are also a wide variety of dried and preserved vegetables at your Asian supermarket. In particular, dried seaweed and an egg makes instant noodles Real Food.
- On that note, while eggs and yogurt are technically perishable they do last a long time in the fridge and eggs are super versatile.
- You can add granola to yogurt, or dried fruit, or whatever.
- Ground beef and bacon both freeze well and can be stretched a long way. Also, prepared frozen food is less efficient in terms of space.
- Quinoa is compact and expands a lot when you cook it.
- Miso soup is healthy, good when sick, and easy to make. You need miso paste, dashi (fish stock) and dried seaweed (the kind that has a picture of soup on the label, not the sheets.) Ideally you'd have tofu and green onions as well but you can do without.
- Hummus is easy to make with a food processor.
- If you are going to be bored at home a bunch, it's a good time to learn to bake things. Baking bread is not that hard, it just requires being home a lot. Make pita to go with hummus! Or just bake cookies.
- Dried fruit and nuts are generally useful, and if you get oats as well making granola is easy and cheap.
- I, personally, have decided that instant pancake mix and maple syrup are key parts of my survival plan. Less healthy food tends to keep well so you can use that as an excuse.
And, if nothing happens, you'll actually be able to cook at home!
Other things to keep in mind:
- If you have a bike you haven't been using, now might be a good time to make sure it's working. Bikes are a good way to travel around and/or get exercise while keeping a distance from other people.
- If you see yourself getting bored at home, that might be something to plan for. Maybe there are some books you have been meaning to read? Some hobbies you have been thinking of picking up? I personally have plenty of knitting and sewing I can do, and plan to try and convince people to play tabletop RPGs via the Internet.