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COVID-19 or Coronavirus, something we’ve all heard a lot of these days. I’ve spent the last 30 years in the health care and senior living industry, so I’ve seen my share of public health emergencies, and don’t remember anything of this magnitude.
As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I see friends who non-nonchalantly say “Just wash your hands!” with a laughing emoji. If it were only that simple. People who have compromised immune systems, or have co-morbid conditions are at a higher risk of severe complications, even if they don’t fall into the 60-and-older category.
For my daughter, who is awesomely autistic and has intellectual disabilities, I worry whether she will practice good hand hygiene, or if she will remember all of the steps.
I think about face masks, and whether my wipes actually kill 99.9% of germs. I wonder whether there’s enough coffee in the pantry should schools shut down for an extended period of time.
Then I step back into my professional space, and get real with the facts. Here are some things I’ve learned.
Healthcare workers need special N95 masks when they take care of patients who test positive for COVID-19. The general public doesn’t need them. Having some paper masks is OK, but those are to protect others from respiratory droplets that you might share if you have the cold or flu — but it won’t protect you from germs.
Although we’re still learning about COVID-19, it is thought to live on surfaces for several days. And, although surfaces are not thought to be the main mode of transmission (person to person contact is), it can happen if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching a contaminated surface.
Don’t forget to wipe down tablets. Be careful, however — some disinfecting wipes might have chemicals that could damage screens. Follow manufacturer instructions about how to properly clean electronic items. iPads have a coating on them that can be damaged with cleaning products – to learn how to clean your Apple equipment click here.
There are wipes that are specific for cleaning electronic screens available. Keep in mind that the physical act of wiping a screen will remove dirt and germs if you’re unable to use a disinfectant. Consider a screen protector that can withstand being cleaned with a disinfecting wipe.
Products that kill 99.9% of Germs
Or, those that claim to… read the fine print. Many products do kill 99.9% of certain germs like E. coli bacteria in mere seconds but COVID-19 is a virus. Worried you don’t have what you need? Use good ol’ bleach and water –something that most everyone has in their household.
Kids with special needs may have items that are designed to be chewed to meet sensory needs. Certain toys may also be able to withstand the top rack of the dishwasher, particularly those that are likely to come in contact with faces and mouths. Using the dishwasher on hot can disinfect those items.
Make sure to toss out disposable wipes after you’re done wiping down a contaminated surface or once the wipe is no longer wet. You want to remove and kill germs, not spread them around from surface-to-surface.
You don’t need antibacterial soap. The simple act of washing hands with regular soap and water removes germs. So, follow your mom’s advice and wash them. A lot. And get some lotion.
Turn off the news
Kids with Autism and other special needs often have anxiety. Hearing about COVID-19 around the clock can be unnerving. Stay informed, but don’t submerge yourself in news stories. Create some social stories or story boards to help reinforce good hand washing, and social distancing.
Limit your exposure by staying away from large crowds (more than 50 people). I’m finding that my kids benefit from the slower pace of just being home. No running to the multitude of extracurricular events. My company has stopped all non-essential travel and expanded its work at home policies.
This is a great time to use Skype, Facetime or the like to combat social isolation. Although this is something we can do everyday, it will become important for those who need to self-isolate or, who live in places (like nursing homes) that are limiting visitors.
Get Pantry and freezer Items
Plan ahead for meals and get pantry staples in case you’ve got to be home for an extended period of time, or to simply limit going out to the grocery store. Online shopping is a great alternative to heading out. For kids with special needs, stock up on the must-haves to avoid running out. (If you have to go to the grocery store, use a wipe on the cart handle)
Have a plan for the kids
It’s very likely kids will be out of schools for an extended period of time. Limit blue light exposure by reducing screen time – here’s a list of activities that don’t require electronics.
If you can set up routine medications through mail order, now might be a good time. If you’ve got to go to the pharmacy, call ahead to make sure the prescription is ready, to limit your time around others.
Without question, everyone should take COVID-19 recommendations seriously. The more we limit the spread, the less likely we are to run out of needed supplies, or to overwhelm our medical system. Get prepared, and be ready to stay at home for an extended period of time.
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