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Some Things You Can Do to Get Ready

Version 1 - 3/9/2020
Version 2 - 3/10/2020 (fixed the awful formatting from my word processor, added link to information resources).

First off, I’m writing this in a personal capacity. Nothing I say here reflects the views of my employer. Second, I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who reads a fair amount and thinks about these things. I’m not a doctor, or positioning myself in any way as an authority on these issues.

I am someone who saw the meltdown of one city firsthand after Hurricane Katrina and watched the US government struggle to assist people in need. I was also teased unmercifully for my many years of over reaction every time there was a hurricane near the city. But you only have to be right once.

I will be updating this and adding links as I think of more.

Expect Social Distancing Mandates/Requirements


What we know from the influenza pandemic from 1918-1919 is that when you don’t have antibiotics, antivirals, vaccines, or sophisticated respirator technology, you have social distance. That’s what worked in the olden days, what worked in China, and what we can expect here because antibiotics could be in short supply, antivirals and vaccines will take time to come online, and there will never be enough respirators in hospitals for a surge of patients.

At some point, we’re going to get the word to stay home if you can. While this is
easier for many professional workers with access to technology and tools, this will be a huge financial disaster for small businesses, and service workers. I expect the current occupant of the White House to eventually get around to a stimulus package for his buddies, but I really don’t expect that to trickle down to local businesses and people who are hurting.


Here are some thoughts:

  • The Austin Foundation started a fund for businesses impacted by the cancellation of SXSW. I like ideas like this and we should look for similar opportunities in Austin, or wherever you live.
  • If you can, keep paying the people who are counting on your few bucks to stay afloat. Pay your local business memberships (gyms, classes, etc.) even if you can’t go, pay services people what you would have in a regular month. If you are out, TIP at least 20%. You should be doing this anyway. The balances will all be rectified in the long run, and I expect local entrepreneurs to help in creative ways. And, karma.
  • Write to your elected officials about mandatory sick leave policies for service workers, and how they keep the population healthier in times just like this. And maybe send some strongly worded emails to business owners who fought these policies as well.
  • Enjoy the time with others while you can. Remember that everyone else is mad, or scared or manic also. We were already very atomized before this, and if we have to stay in our houses even more, we’re going to get worse. Just be kind.
  • Vote. Situations like this are exactly why a strong, well-funded, fully functional government should exist. Our taxes should have been paying for just these types of scenarios, and we shouldn’t be carrying this burden individually. But here we are. Think of this feeling when you vote and remember, it’s not just backing away from the awful, but moving towards making this country better too.

Be Prepared to Take Care of Others in Your Community


But first, take care of yourself so you can help others. You should definitely have 72 hours worth of food and other basics in your house so you don’t have to leave right away. If you can swing it, have a couple of weeks worth of food in the house.

Don’t go nuts at the grocery store. Slowly double up on your regular food and favor things that are shelf stable and easy to prepare. Buy something you think of as comfort food too. The little things can be nice when times suck. If you want more detailed instructions, here’s a list. But don’t get yourself overwhelmed - this doesn’t have to be a full-blown prepper event; those are selfish/paranoid/dumb people and they are ones who freak out first in a disaster.

Try to get the right amount of sleep, don’t drink too much, and eat the food that is good for you. Here’s a slick workout you can do at home. Partying like it’s 1999 right now is especially unhelpful, because this will be a long-term issue to wrestle with. You’ll need your strength because it’s not all going to go boom suddenly.

Say hello to your neighbors. You know that person you occasionally wave to as you're both bringing in your garbage cans? Say hi, ask how they’re doing and exchange phone numbers.

Check in on others. Even if they don’t know of anyone with symptoms, many older or vulnerable people will be starting to think about practicing social distance. If you know someone like that, give them a call and see if they’re doing OK, or if you can pick up a couple of things for them when you’re at the grocery store.

Expect a Rollercoaster


Right now, my biggest problem is obsessively refreshing the news. Even high-quality sources are struggling to give good information. Compound that with the malpractice of government by the White House, and it’s impossible to easily process the twists and turns in all of this, so I say roll with the punches, but don’t think any piece of news is final, good or bad. Expect to improvise.

Check high quality news sources a couple of times a day. Every 12 hours or so is plenty. For now, I trust the CDC, but I reserve the right to scratch this one off my list depending on how much more they get politicized. Here is a beginning list of reliable resources. Besides those, the NY Times and Washington Post are timely without being hysterical and well documented.

Be careful of the emails that you are forwarded that claim “inside information.” Some of those can be true and even helpful, but please check them (the Snopes people are working fast on this) before you forward them or post them. If you're not sure, don't post it.

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