hese are strange, stressful times. The images of empty supermarket shelves, the eerie quiet of empty streets in cities that have been all but shut down, and the constant stream of often conflicting information on every news program, website, and social media feed can be overwhelming, to say the least. It feels surreal. Regardless of what you call it -- COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, (novel) coronavirus -- the virus currently dominating world headlines is having a very real impact on the lives of people around the globe, and that’s something to take seriously.

We’ve always been concerned about staying healthy, protecting our loved ones, and providing for our own needs, but the COVID-19 outbreak has heightened these instincts to an unprecedented degree. For the billions of people dealing with these concerns and trying their best to play a responsible, constructive role in the world we’re living in, the only way out is through.

Here are a few strategies for making it through these trying times the best we can:

  • Stay informed with credible information from reliable sources
  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Stay connected to the people and things that are important to you
  • Stay productive despite changing work conditions
US President Donald Trump delivers an update on the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic
Updates about the COVID-19 pandemic are constant. Now more than ever, it’s essential to sift through the noise to find credible information we can use to navigate the situation in front of us. Image courtesy of Politico.

Stay Informed

Find and Share Credible Information About How to Protect Yourself and Prevent the Spread of the Virus

Updates about the COVID-19 pandemic are constant. Whether you’re actively seeking information or simply trying to go about your day as normally as possible, the barrage of news reports, tweets, texts, and conversation about the pandemic is unavoidable. With so much being said, it can be difficult to keep track of where news is coming from and how reliable it is.

We all want as much information about COVID-19 as we can get, but so much of the information available right now is incomplete. As we wait for data and continue adapting to the situation in front of us, we need to be critical.

Now more than ever, it’s important to be realistic about the verity of the information we’re receiving. Few sources are entirely impartial, and recognizing personal and political bias behind the statements organizations are sharing can help us sift through the noise and arrive at the best ideas and solutions available.

When it comes to staying informed about the developing COVID-19 situation:

  • Think before you share (or tweet or livestream or…)
  • Skip these already-debunked coronavirus claims
  • Keep an eye out for updates from health organizations
empty shelves in the disinfectant aisle of a grocery store after panic-buyers wipe out their stock
Staying informed about the COVID-19 outbreak is our best defense against making impulsive, panic-driven choices that may not be best for our communities and, by extension, ourselves. Image courtesy of NBC News.

Creating a Dialogue vs. Contributing to Misinformation

Not all misinformation is deliberate. Of course, there are plenty of examples of people attempting to sell bogus miracle cures or simply making up information, but I’d still venture to say that the vast majority of misinformation comes from people making an honest attempt to create a dialogue about what’s happening right now.

Social media is the world’s biggest game of telephone. People paraphrase or misinterpret information. They might tweak data just a bit to fit their argument. And just the same way that a twitter user might tweet information from an article, the author of an article for a blog or online publication with a less strict fact checking policy might allow their writing to be informed by something they read on social media.

Tip: Double-check your information before you share. Whether it’s an idea, an argument, or an article -- make sure you can back it up with information from a reliable source before spreading it.

(That includes this post. Form your own opinions, fact-check this article, share your feedback with us -- it helps us make our content better!)

Debunking Coronavirus Myths

While our knowledge of COVID-19 is still evolving, we have managed to debunk several false claims about the virus. If these coronavirus myths pop up in conversation, feel free to shut them down.

Myth #1: Chlorine can kill coronavirus on or in your body

Properly diluted household bleach can be used to safely disinfect household surfaces, but it should NOT be used on the skin or, as Twitter wisdom would suggest, gargled.

Myth #2: Eating garlic or garlic soup can cure coronavirus

Garlic does have some antimicrobial properties, and studies have been done investigating its potential use as an antiviral treatment, particularly in cases of HIV or the common cold. There is no evidence that garlic can cure or prevent coronavirus.

Myth #3: Colloidal silver, nasal spray, cocaine, etc. prevents coronavirus

As of this writing, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent, treat, cure, or kill COVID-19.

Reliable Sources for Coronavirus News

Because it’s such a universal concern right now, the COVID-19 outbreak is particularly susceptible to being the subject of fake news. There are strategies out there for how to identify fake news and bogus stories, but if you want the most accurate, up-to-date information about coronavirus, rely on the national and international sources holding the frontline against misinformation.

Even when administrations themselves prove inconsistent, government health agencies are still some of our most reliable sources of information. Keep an eye out for updates from sources like:

four charts showing that greater social distancing flattens the curve of how a pandemic progresses
Extensive social distancing is an effective strategy for limiting the number of cases of a disease and preventing healthcare providers from being overwhelmed. Image courtesy of The Washington Post.

Stay Home

How Extensive Should Your Social Distancing Be?

Social distancing has become a major strategy for stemming the spread of COVID-19, but there is some lingering confusion about how, exactly, it should be done. We’ve seen everything from China’s brutal lockdown strategy to unconcerned spring breakers flocking to beach towns despite closures and travel warnings.

Data suggests that the more we’re able to cut down on social contact, the better off we all will be (see the simulation graphs above).

Avoiding Unnecessary Exposure

While store and restaurant closures and event cancelations have taken social distancing out of our hands to some extent, there are still things we can do to prevent our exposure to others (and their exposure to us).

That means, if at all possible, we should be avoiding exposure such as:

  • Discretionary travel
  • Physically going to work/school
  • Nonessential doctor/dentist visits
  • Group childcare
  • Social visits/kids’ play dates
  • Visiting elderly friends or relatives
  • Taking public transportation
  • Gathering in groups of 50 or more according to the CDC (or according to the White House, groups of 10 or more)

Preparing Thoroughly and Responsibly

Common sense dictates that if it’s not smart to spend too much time out of your home right now -- and that’s unlikely to change for a while -- it’s good to stock up on a few essentials. Make sure to follow guidelines regarding surgical masks, disinfectants, and other high-demand products to prevent shortages not just for consumers but for emergency personnel as well.

Try to avoid stocking up on essentials during peak store hours -- if your local store has a Google business listing, a quick Google search should tell you when it is most crowded. Avoid crowding people at the grocery store as much as possible, and as soon as you can after leaving, wash your hands.

a tweet by @wgrover indicating that Zoom lets you select a virtual background. He has chosen Hogawarts

Stay Connected

Social Distancing is Essential: Here’s How to Self-Isolate Without Losing It

When health organizations first began to recommend social distancing to “flatten the curve,” people across the internet rejoiced. No morning commute? No boring small talk with classmates or coworkers? No need to put on a suit or heels or leave the comfort of your couch? It sounds good at first, but the reality is more complicated.

Self-Isolated Doesn’t Have to Mean Alone in the Internet Age

Even the most introverted among us sometimes need a little human interaction, and regardless, being unable to interact with others face to face is entirely different than choosing to stay home and read a book. Luckily, there are plenty of options for connecting with others even from a distance. If messaging isn’t cutting it and your FaceTime connection keeps dropping out, consider options like these:

  • Join a chatroom or Discord server
  • Get creative and personalize your Zoom profile to make video calling more fun
  • Plan a movie night with Netflix Party, a Chrome plugin that allows you to synchronize your Netflix viewing with loved ones no matter where they (or their screens) are

Frustration During Quarantine or Self-Isolation

Canceled events, changed plans, closed stores -- even if we recognize it as selfish, it’s difficult not to be frustrated by some of the precautions we’re taking as a global community. It’s okay to feel frustrated about it, just like it’s okay to be frustrated with being stuck in very close quarters with loved ones. Be sure to give yourself space to be frustrated. Take a few minutes to yourself. Vent about it. Write about it. Hit a pillow.

Then get your head back in the game -- we’re going to get through this, but it’s a group effort.

If you don’t usually work remotely, working from home can be a big adjustment, but it’s definitely possible to succeed.

Stay Productive

Learn How to Work from Home Like a Pro

With a growing number of industries being recommended or mandated to work from home, it’s becoming increasingly important to figure out how to stay productive at home. Transitioning to remote work can be a challenge, so here are a few tips to make the process easier and the results better:

Be Patient

If your team doesn’t usually work remotely, this is going to take some figuring out. Try to hang in there while your organization is figuring out the best tools and strategies for working together. It’ll come together.

Create a Dedicated Workspace

Leaving work at the office is an effective way to separate work life and home life… but what about when your home is your office? To help maintain balance (and also keep you focused!) create a dedicated work space. Even if it needs to be cleaned up and put away at the end of a work session, having a dedicated space and setup makes it easier to turn “work mode” on and off as needed.

Stick to a Routine

It’s tempting to stay up all night watching movies when you don’t have to factor commute time into your morning routine, but sticking to a routine is a good way to boost your productivity and mental health when working from home.

Set Goals for Your Day

What do you want to get done today? Have an idea of what you want or need to accomplish in mind when you start your day. It might even be helpful to write it down. Laying out goals for the day can help you budget your time effectively and stay productive.

Take Breaks, But Not Too Many Breaks

Working from home, you may find that there are fewer distractions (no more unnecessary meetings or water cooler conversation) but the distractions you do have (Netflix, your bed) are ones that can distract you for much longer periods of time. Schedule a few 15-20 minute breaks into your day to help you decompress and stay on track.

Work on a Passion Project

When working remotely, there will be lulls in communication. Waiting on approval for something? Need info from a coworker before you can proceed? Spend a little time chipping away at something you enjoy -- whether that’s a side project for work or learning something new. Investing in yourself is never a bad idea.

We will get through this. Together.

Things are a little weird right now, but they won’t be forever. It’s stressful, and it can be scary, but we are also all in this together. Right now we have a real responsibility to one another to get through this crisis as quickly and safely as we can. So take care of yourselves, do your best, and wash your hands :)

Main image courtesy of UN News.

Mar 19, 2020