Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is taking the world by storm. Starting in Wuhan, China and spreading outward, the virus has been carried from country to country, person to person. As of this writing, the World Health Organization has not yet listed the coronavirus as a pandemic, it’s likely that more people will get sick around our country and the world.
And you know what else is around our country and the world? Military families.
I thought it would be important to talk about the coronavirus as it pertains to military families because, honestly, I haven’t seen anything (other than news reports about infected military members) yet. And if military families are anything, they are prepared.
First of all, please remember, I am not a licensed health professional. This is not medical advice, nor is it a comprehensive list; it is simply a list of the best resources I could find on the coronavirus and how to prepare. Everything shared here is from a news organization or government agency. If you have any health or medical questions, contact your health care provider immediately.
The CDC has suggested for Americans to begin stocking supplies in preparation for the possibility of getting sick and the possibility of a disruption in daily activities. (Think Japan– they just suspended all schools until April.) The CDC suggests laying aside two weeks of food (including shelf-stable items like canned fruits and vegetables), water, and other supplies (like medicine). If you have pets, you’ll also want to make sure you have a good stock of pet food, snacks, and medicines, to keep your furry family taken care of, too. You also want to have a lot of alcohol-based hand sanitizer— liquid and wipes are great to have on hand. (Of course, there’s always Amazon if you forget something.) Buzzfeed has a list of items to stock up on that you might want to check out, too.
If you feel like stocking up on two-weeks’ worth of supplies feels a little ridiculous and doomsday prepperesque, this article by Scientific American does a thorough job of explaining why it’s so important to do so. (Spoiler alert: it’s not just about you! It’s about everyone else, too.)
Don’t panic. According to Health.mil, because military personnel and families tend to travel more than civilians, it’s important to take precautions; however, they’re not “specifically at risk” of coming into contact with the virus.
Listen to the Department of Defense. The DoD, State Department, and CDC have all released travel advisories for China, suggesting that nonessential travel there is better delayed or canceled. If you have plans for traveling to China (or honestly, just traveling in general), continue to stay updated with the DoD, State Department, and CDC’s advisories as the situation continues to change.
Know your clinic. It doesn’t hurt to use this time to update what you know about the health facilities in your area. If you’ve newly PCSed or simply don’t go to the doctor a lot, you might not have the phone numbers or address of your clinic. Take the time to investigate it– write down those addresses, phone numbers, and any other helpful information now and keep it somewhere you’ll be able to find if you start feeling ill. If you do not have access to a Military Treatment Facility, now’s the time to do some sleuthing and figure out what doctor’s offices and clinics are taking new patients with TRICARE insurance (if that is the insurance carrier you have).
Use your resources. If you’re a TRICARE user, you also have access to the Nurse Advice Line, which you can call with specific questions.
Follow good hygiene habits. It’s something everyone should know how to do… but somehow, not everyone does. Following clean habits is a good way to stop a lot of illnesses–not just the coronavirus– from spreading, and a good way to keep yourself healthy. Coughing into your elbow or shoulder, washing your hands correctly, avoiding touching your mouth and eyes, maintaining personal space, and doing the things we expect first graders to do makes a world of difference in containing the illness. Worried you’re not doing it right? Here’s what the WHO is advising.
Wearing a mask? The CDC has said that it’s more important for someone with the coronavirus to wear a mask to help stop the spread and discourages healthy folks from wearing them. (Seriously! This is exactly what the CDC has said about wearing masks.) That’s good news for people who don’t want to buy a $200 box of medical masks from Amazon. If you or your spouse (or your older kiddos) sports facial hair, the CDC has released an infographic on how to correctly wear a mask with that deployment ‘stache. Let’s be honest, it’s fun to look at, even if you don’t have to worry about this.
Keep this website. The CDC now has a page dedicated to all things coronavirus. Keep it bookmarked, and check it for informational updates.
As of this writing, there have been no large-scale evacuations of military bases overseas. Some bases have been closed in Europe, and the first contractions of the coronavirus to military and military dependents happened in South Korea. Still, evacuations of military families aren’t completely out of the question. They have happened in the past, although they happened after natural and man-made disasters and to remove families from encroaching violence.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Evacuations of military families are coordinated between the State Department and the Department of Defense. There will be an official notification; it won’t just be a rumor that pops up on the base’s buy/sell Facebook group.
- If you’re spooked waiting for the evacuation order and choose to leave before official notice is given, you’ll be responsible for all charges incurred. Depending where you live and where you’re traveling to, that could add up to a lot of cash.
- If there is an official evacuation, the government will provide transportation and will pay the costs. There might be other allowances and monies available if there is an official evacuation, too.
So much is still evolving (and will continue to evolve) with the coronavirus. If you have questions or concerns, it is best to consult with professionals. That means turning to doctors, your chain of command, and others who can best advise you on your specific circumstances.