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A week ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 (commonly known as Coronavirus) was officially a global pandemic.
Since then, the U.S. has increased by nearly 8,000 cases. It’s spreading quickly enough that by the time you read this post, those figures will already be outdated.
On March 16th, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to announce a formal “Shelter in Place” mandate. As other cities across the country consider implementing their own forms of voluntary lockdowns, more and more of us will find ourselves spending a lot of unintended time indoors these next few weeks—more likely, months.
Self-isolation is not an easy task, even when necessary. But it is very, very necessary. The choices we make throughout the next week, as individuals and as a country, will critically determine whether or not we become the next Italy.
So, allow me to sound like a broken record for a moment:
Let’s Bust Some Myths, Shall We?
Myth #1: I’m young and healthy—I’ll survive. And I’ll probably get it anyway. So why go through all this hassle?
It’s not about you. It’s about the vulnerable populations who won’t survive (namely, the immunocompromised and elderly), and most importantly, it’s about the overall capacity of our healthcare system.
The rate of death of the viral infection itself is not the same as the rate of death that we may experience as a result of the virus’s total impact. When someone says “it’s a 1% death rate” they are assuming that every person who contracts it will have full access to the medical care system.
There are only so many hospital beds, respirators, and medical staff to go around. If we reach a point where more people need care at once than we can provide, doctors will start having to choose who gets attention and who does not. This means that many people who should have survived the virus, will not.
Then there are the many, many people who visit the emergency room every day due to car accidents, heart attacks, and other ordinary events. If hospitals are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, these patients may be denied healthcare as well.
This is where the concept of “flattening the curve” comes from. Our healthcare system has a certain capacity to help a specific number of patients, and once that capacity is breached (by many people getting sick at once), it will begin to collapse.
This is what we’re currently seeing in Italy, and the reason why their COVID-19 death rates have hovered at an alarming 7-10%.
The virus is exponentially infectious, and if we allow it to spread, that curve will eventually surpass this critical threshold. By social distancing and quarantining, people will still get sick (hospital workers, grocery store clerks, governments, etc. all still have to function to a certain degree), but at a much slower rate. This will give us the time we need to catch up with the number of patients coming through the door.
Myth #2: “But I don’t know anyone with Coronavirus! Only [x] people in my city are infected, so it can’t be that bad.”
COVID-19 is a very, very infectious disease. If you’re rusty on your math skills and are having trouble conceptualizing exponential growth, here’s a fun little trick:
Pull out your phone and open up the calculator. Input “2 x 2”. Now press equal. Press it again. Keep pressing it. See how long it takes you to get to to 200 hundred million. It took me a few seconds.
That’s the unique problem with COVID-19 and any highly infectious disease like it—by the time it becomes a problem, it will be too late to act.
So if you feel like people are overreacting by self-quarantining, the truth is, they are. And that’s the point. The only way to beat this is to take initiative and do our part now, not when it seems necessary.
America is barreling down the same path as Italy at a frightening clip. Evidence suggests we’ll be in the same position as they are in just two weeks.
And remember—symptoms show up anywhere from 2-14 days after infection. Which means you could be spreading the virus and not even know it. By the time most of the country begins to show symptoms, we will already have been spreading it for a week or longer. That’s one of the most important reasons why, even if you don’t feel sick, you should still stay home.
Self–isolation is the only way forward.
The stakes are high, and we must take action now.
That being said, nothing about this is black and white. We need to walk the line between blunting the curve of this pandemic and caring for our own wellbeing.
While sacrifices must be made, use a mix of the 80/20 rule and common sense: yes, you will have to get food at some point, but try going during off-peak hours. If you need to go on a run for your own health and sanity, do it, but avoid crowded streets and parks if possible.
Avoid high-risk social situations that aren’t necessary to your well being, like cruising to the Bahamas or going on a bar crawl for St. Patrick’s Day (ahem). If everyone puts in a moderate effort, we will beat this. But only if we’re all on the same page.
The Six Commandments of COVID-19 Public Health
- Wash your hands
- Don’t touch your face
- Stay 6+ feet away from others
- Don’t buy masks if you’re not sick
- Don’t hoard supplies
- Stay home if you’re not feeling well
AKA, don’t be these idiots:
A final note: I understand that there are people out there for whom the following will not relate to—maybe your job doesn’t allow you to work remotely, or you don’t have home internet access, or you’re immunocompromised and can’t risk going outside, even for a brief walk. I hope you still find value in some of the resources listed here.
Tips & Resources
(For Staying Healthy, Sane, and Responsible During a Global Pandemic)
1.) Keep up with the news on a daily basis, as the situation is changing rapidly. Make sure your sources are reliable. Do this for a few minutes each day, but try your best to stay relatively disconnected otherwise. This will help to combat compassion fatigue and keep anxiety low. Get quality information from:
2.) Sign up for alerts in your area. If you live in San Francisco, text COVID19SF to 888-777.
3.) Get two weeks of food in case you are sick and can’t leave at all. This means picking up an extra box of pasta, not stocking up on 500 cans of tuna.
4.) Get medical supplies like Advil, wipes, sanitizers, and a thermometer if you don’t have one. If items are out of stock, consider making your own sanitizer or cleaning solutions at home.
5.) Make sure any elderly or vulnerable people in your life are taken care of. Give them a call. Offer to drop off groceries or run essential errands so they don’t need to leave the house.
6.) Have a talk with your #quarantinemates about expectations within the home. Are there certain procedures everyone should follow when entering and exiting the home (i.e. WASH YOUR HANDS)? If you’re all working from home together and share an open space, it might be helpful to sync calendars to know who will be on a conference call at what time.
Many companies are being forced to close offices and continue operations remotely. While there are bound to be hiccups with such a sudden change in the way people work, there are several ways to make this transition easier:
1.) Clean your space and set up your work area. You’ll be spending a lot of time at home and it’s important to feel comfortable.
2.) Get ready in the morning. Brush your hair, practice your skincare routine, put on a little mascara to make those video conferences a little more bearable. T-shirts and leggings are acceptable, just as long as it wasn’t what you slept in the night before. A quick change of clothing can help you feel like you started your day.
3.) Stick to a routine. Keep your usual morning rituals in place as much as possible, and keep going to bed at the same time every night. Wake up to an alarm. Setting up afternoon watercooler chats (virtually) or walking the dog at the same time every day can help to add a sense of structure and prevent you from becoming a formless blob of Cheetos dust and Slack emojis.
4.) Create a ritual that formally ends the workday. For example, I’ve been closing my laptop and leaving for a run once it’s 5 pm. Other ideas: enjoy a beer on your balcony, call your mom, or turn on your favorite sitcom.
5.) Have virtual social breaks. Set up lunch dates with coworkers like you would at the office, only over video. Our company even hosted a virtual happy hour earlier today—we all made our own drinks and called in to catch up.
6.) Adopt some new houseplants, preferably by delivery or while you’re already out (like at the grocery store). Adding a little nature indoors will help keep the stir-crazies at bay for a little longer.
7.) Set boundaries. It can be hard to say no to your manager and other stakeholders when they know that you have nowhere better to be. Although not feasible in every position, try setting a strict cut-off time (see #4) and communicating that policy to your team. Set email, Slack, and other messaging channels to snooze in the evening.
Staying Healthy & Active
You’re likely taking fewer steps throughout the day and may not have access to the same equipment or space as you usually would. Here are a few ways you can keep in good health during this period:
1.) Get outside (but stay away from people). Go for a walk or a jog to get some fresh air. If you want to work out at a park, do it, but only if it’s relatively empty and easy to avoid contact with others.
2.) Stay active with virtual resources. You can still move every day, even if it’s not in the same way as you’re used to. There are loads of home workout routines already in existence, and many companies are choosing to release free, guided classes online in lieu of traditional sessions. If you’re looking for a new routine, check out:
- DAREBEE: Over 1300, easy-to-follow workouts that you can filter based on difficulty, equipment, and goals.
- Bikini Body Guide (BBG): I did this for a year and can personally vouch for its effectiveness. It’s short, full-body, and incorporates both cardio and resistance training.
- Sweat it to Shred it: Another circuit program, developed by Fitness Youtuber Sarah’s Day. She has plenty of free workouts on her channel as well.
- Beach Body: Offering two weeks free.
- Beach Body on Demand: These guys own some of the most popular at-home workout programs (think Insanity, P-90X)
- Virtual boxing & kickboxing simulations by Precision Striking and my own gym mate, Alby Tam.
- Yogaworks: Free yoga with code “online”.
- Check-in with your local gym to see if they’re offering any online classes in place of the real thing. Corepower, Core40, Rumble, and others have already started providing virtual training to their members.
- Peloton, FightCamp, and MIRROR are all guided options if you’re willing to invest in equipment.
- Dance! Try a game like Just Dance, put on your favorite song, or follow a tutorial on Youtube. Now would also be a great time to learn all of those TikTok challenges. 😉
- Sweats and the City has an extensive list of trials and discount codes for slow-burn workouts like yoga, pilates, and sculpt.
3.) Workout with friends. Keep your gym buddy accountable by phoning in to do your workouts together, or set challenges if you have an Apple watch. My gym is setting up daily drop-in sessions over Google Hangouts for anyone that wants to work out in the same “virtual vicinity”.
4.) Cook. Real. Food. While it can be tempting to revert back to your old college diet of cereal milk and Easy Mac, refrain. You finally have midday access to a kitchen and plenty of time on hand, so use it! Follow a classic cookbook like The Art of French Cooking, tune into a few episodes of Serious Eats, or try a challenge like Whole30 (which, coincidentally, will be much easier now that you don’t have any social obligations standing in the way).
5.) Eat on schedule. Breakfast, lunch, dinner at regular times. This will also help prevent you from losing your sense of reality as time slowly becomes an optional social construct (as well as keep you from crushing your quarantine snack stockpile halfway through day 1).
Socializing & Maintaining Relationships
Whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, we’re all social creatures at heart. Maintaining your relationships and sense of community is still important, especially in times of crisis.
1.) Check-in on others regularly. Not only your family or friends, but anyone in your community that you know who may live alone or be dealing with issues that might make isolation more difficult for them. Even if you can’t do anything to help, simply showing someone that you care and that you’re thinking about them can go a long way.
2.) Use video hangouts in place of face-to-face time. You can still do a lot of normal activities with loved ones, including:
- Making dinner together. Pick a recipe you both like and see who’s comes out better.
- Watching a movie or TV show via the Netflix Party app.
- Hosting a book club—assign a book for everyone to read, then get together and discuss your thoughts.
- Host a happy hour. Everyone makes drinks on their own.
- Sing Karaoke. Dig around YouTube for free song tracks (here’s a good start)
- Play a game. Chess has an extended history of long-distance play, and games like Pandemic (unironically) work well over FaceTime.
3.) Get into online gaming. People have been utilizing games to connect with others around the world long before it was a social necessity.
- Nintendo Online is relatively inexpensive ($4/mo) and makes it easy to race your friends in Mario Kart, battle them in Super Smash, or go on raids in Pokemon Sword & Shield.
- Minecraft is a great option if you’re looking for something on the more creative side.
- Fortnite is a survival game that also allows you to build and create your own levels.
- More gaming options here.
4.) Find a pen pal. Send notes, doodles, baked goods, or anything you may have made with one of your many new indoor hobbies (see below).
5.) Visit friends within your “isolation cell”. The virus has a two-week maximum incubation period, which means that if you and any other friends have been self-isolating for that period of time or longer, you can be almost certain that none of you are infectious. If you can walk or drive to each other (avoid public transportation), you can start to schedule periodic visits, as long as everyone involved continues to distance themselves from others.
However: Visiting friends is entirely out of the question if you are in a “shelter-in-place” mandated city.
This post helps explain the concept of group isolation in more detail:
Depending on the nature of your job and how active your lifestyle was before, you may or may not find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands. Now’s the time to indulge your curiosities, get back to an old hobby, or catch up on that overflowing to-do list.
1.) Stay cultured virtually. Many musicians, artists, and cultural organizations are finding creative ways to give patrons access to their content online.
- Billboard published a list of live concerts (the list is updated regularly). Catch Diplo and his kids or John Legend and a very inebriated Chrissy Teigen in their living rooms while they perform.
- Disney Plus released Frozen 2 to its streaming service three months early, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they released Mulan next week in lieu of a true premiere.
- PBS Nature Documentaries are available for free online.
- Gary Hustwit is streaming his films for free (this week is Helvetica)
- Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium via live cams.
- Famous art museums like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris are offering virtual tours of their collections. Check here for a full list.
- The Social Distancing Festival is an online cultural experiment created specifically in light of COVID-19. Anyone who’s had a performance canceled, a gallery opening postponed, or simply wants to sing for an audience is encouraged to submit content.
- The Seattle Symphony is offering live broadcasts of their concerts.
- Both Disneyland and Disney World are streaming virtual ride experiences.
2.) Finally catch up on all of those TV show and movie recommendations you’ve been holding off on.
- Make it a challenge. Follow a specific director’s work (ahem, Miyazaki), try catching up on all of the MCU, or maybe tackle a few classic movie that you’ve missed out on.
- 100 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (personal favorites: Blade Runner, Coraline, The Dark Knight, Ex Machina, Her, Lord of the Rings, The Shawshank Redemption, Into the Spider-Verse)
- The 30 Best Movies on Hulu Right Now (WATCH BOOKSMART! TRUST!)
- Best TV Shows on Hulu Right Now (don’t sleep on Looking for Alaska, Community, Parks and Rec, or Friday Night Lights.
- If you’re more into art-house vibes or niche cinema, check out smaller services like Mubi, Kanopy, or Shudder.
3.) Read a damn book. Restore your attention span, if even marginally.
- Utilize your local library. They may be closed in-person, but online resources should still be widely available. This includes e-books and audiobooks. If you don’t have a card yet, see if your local branch is allowing sign-ups online.
- Audible has an extensive collection of audiobooks that are great for listening to while multitasking (cleaning, drawing, etc.). They offer a free trial as well.
- Gutenberg has an online catalog of classic novels whos copyrights have past expiration (in other words, they’re freely accessible to the public). Dive into famous works like Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, or Dracula.
- Goodreads is a fantastic resource for both logging your progress and finding what to read next. Here’s a list of my most-recommended books.
4.) Listen to podcasts. Some stellar options include:
- Freakonomics Radio
- The Ground Up Show
- How I Built This
- Planet Money
- Ologies with Alie Ward
- The Joe Rogan Experience
- Spilled Milk
- Stuff You Should Know
- TED Radio Hour
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- Time’s 50 Best Podcasts
5.) Go down a YouTube rabbit hole. It’s the world’s second-largest search engine and the variety of content is endless. Check out:
- The Royal Ocean Film Society: Quality analysis of popular films and directors
- Tiffany Ferg: Social and cultural commentary
- Rowena Tsai: Simple self-care
- Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: Words that capture inexplicable but common emotions
- Best Ever Food Review Show: A lot of us have canceled long-awaited travel plans in the last month; Sonny does an amazing job of immersing viewers into new cultures, virtually
- Casey Neistat: The godfather of daily vlogging
- Casually Explained: ELI5, but in video format
6.) Learn something new online. Want to get into cryptocurrency? Or pick-up some front-end programming skills? Or start learning Korean so you can rewatch Parasite without subtitles? Now’s the time to indulge your curiosities.
- A curated list of data science resources
- 450 free Ivy League courses to take online (everything from policy to engineering to design)
- Skillshare offers thousands of classes on various topics, from hand-lettering to social media management. They’re offering two months free.
- MasterClass is like Skillshare, but exclusively houses content from professionals in each industry. Learn acting from Natalie Portman, film scoring from Hans Zimmer, or basketball from Steph Curry.
- Education Companies Offering Free Subscriptions due to School Closings is a crowdsourced list of hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of learning resources that are free to access during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Learn a language: Duolingo offers an intuitive mobile app, and Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months has tons of advice and resources available for anyone looking to learn a language in the most effective way possible (he’s fluent in 7 languages himself).
7.) Play games! In addition to the online gaming options listed previously, there are plenty of solo adventures to choose from as well. Sims 4 is on sale for just $5. Or maybe it’s time to check in on your Neopet that you abandoned 12 years ago?
8.) Start a side-hustle. Many people are being thrown out of work due to the virus, but there are ways to make money online if you’re willing to put in the time.
- Upwork, Fiverr, and Toptal are premiere resources for connecting freelancers and clients.
- Task Rabbit: although you shouldn’t be performing in-home tasks, there are still plenty of options like grocery deliveries and running errands that can keep you busy (and help encourage those who are vulnerable to stay inside).
- More ways to make money online
9.) Pick up a hobby (just for fun). Although the gig economy will continue to grow for the indefinite future, not everything needs to be monetized. Some hobbies can be just that—a hobby. Some ideas:
10.) Explore the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. There’s plenty of time for spring cleaning this year, and going full Marie Kando will not only keep you busy, but make your space enjoyable and stress-free during isolation.
11.) Tackle your never-ending to-do list. Clean up your phone’s camera roll, patch that tear in your jeans, and cancel all your unused subscriptions. We all have a running task list of things we’ll never get to—so now’s the time to, uh, get to them.
12.) Vlog or journal your experience. We’re living through the first global pandemic in over 100 years. That’s absolutely wild, and it’s a moment in history that deserves to be documented. Forget what the news is saying for a moment—how are you feeling? How are your friends and family handling things personally? How are you choosing to fill your days? Capture your thoughts on camera or on paper, then share (if you feel comfortable) with others. We’re all in this together, after all.
13.) Get lost in pop culture. Download TikTok (finally) and start your own account, or spend four hours in bed scrolling through dance challenges (not speaking from experience). You can also follow meme accounts like @quarantined2020 to bring some humor into your life and feel a little more connected to the world in such an isolating time.
14.) Practice hair and makeup tutorials, or put together outfits. Take some pictures and share with friends. We will come out on the other side of this eventually, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few looks in your back pocket for all of the #coronafree parties you’ll be invited to.
If You Have Kids at Home
It’s already difficult enough to keep from losing your own mind while locked down at home—I can’t imagine what it must be like for all the parents out there who suddenly have to take 24/7 care of their families as well. Here are some resources to help keep kids educated and distracted during this time:
2.) Parenting tips during Coronavirus: Ideas on working from home with kids, arranging activities, and keeping them educated.
4.) Khan Academy, in addition to their usual content, is providing school schedules and COVID-19 resources for parents.
7.) Hotlines to reach out to about school closures and parenting resources
Taking Care of Yourself
For most, self-isolation is a compassionate choice that is meant to preserve the health of the vulnerable people in our communities. That doesn’t mean that you should stop caring for yourself as well. Here are a few ideas and resources to keep your mental sanity in check, and where to reach out for help should you need it.
1.) Requirements for receiving unemployment benefits are changing swiftly in order to accommodate the large influx of workers who are suddenly finding themselves without work. Check your state’s local policies to see if you are eligible. California’s program can be found here.
2.) Foodbanks are expected to stay open. Find your local one here.
3.) If you’re out of work, check your local grocery store to see if they need any additional hands on deck.
4.) If you live alone and need someone to talk to, 7 Cups offers volunteer listeners.
5.) For professional help, reach out to the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
6.) Meditate to quiet your mind, especially if you’re experiencing anxious thoughts. If you’ve never tried it, Headspace is a great guided introduction to meditation (they have a few sessions which are free, and are offering complimentary access to healthcare workers at the moment). Don’t feel like you need to pay for access, however; there are plenty of free guided exercises on YouTube.
7.) Familiarize yourself with grounding techniques, a form of mindfulness traditionally used to combat anxiety and PTSD.
8.) Practice self-care. This doesn’t just include face masks and pedicures—setting boundaries, taking time away from technology, and getting enough sleep are all important habits to curate as well. Girls Night In is a very well-written, self-care focused newsletter.
Taking Care of Your Community
Kindness and empathy are critical if we hope to survive in this strange time. Make sure the people in your life and community are taken care of.
1.) My friend Gloria (who’s currently studying for her masters in public health at Boston University) sent over an impressive, crowdsourced list for communities around the U.S. There are resources for mutual aid and volunteering.
If you’re wondering where you can help (whether it’s donating, providing supplies, or simply want to help spread pertinent information to those who may not have access to the Internet or reliable media outlets, reference the following documents. There are also resources listed for anyone you know who may be facing eviction, unemployment, or other struggles due to the current climate.
2.) How to Be a Good Neighbor Right Now: lots of great tips here, including keeping common spaces hygienic and offering to be an emergency contact for those who may live alone.
3.) Support local business if you have the financial means to do so. Ordering take-out from restaurants that are still opening, buying gift cards online for later use, or ship your favorite coffee shop’s beans directly to your house. If you have a fitness membership to an independent gym or studio, continue paying your membership if you can. UberEats is also waiving delivery fees.
4.) Don’t hoard supplies. Buy no more than two weeks’ worth of groceries or cleaning products at a time.
5.) Let seniors in line ahead of you at the store, so they can minimize the stress of shopping and time spent outside.
6.) Verify your sources before spreading news to others. While it can be tempting to forward new information when you first hear it, taking a moment to double-check what you read will go a long way in preventing misinformation from spreading.
1.) The Coronavirus is Here to Stay, So What Happens Next? The U.S. is past the point of containment. All we can do now is help slow the spread—so what does that mean for the future?
2.) My friend Jenny is compiling her own list of resources related to COVID-19. You can check it out here.
3.) Thomas Pueyo wrote a very timely article on Medium about why the time to act is now. After receiving over 40 million (!) views in a single week, he’s written a follow-up: The Hammer and the Dance. If you’re still having trouble understanding “what all the hype is about”, give it a read.
And a final note: