Before You Freak Out: 12 Things To Know About The Coronavirus

Here's some info to, hopefully, put your mind at ease.

Human Interest

Boy. It's only March and 2020 has already been on one. Big time. If it's not the chlamydia that's in the Artic Ocean (yep, you read that right) or the fact that there are monkeys with herpes in Florida who are running rampant (is it just me or is Florida always good for a crazy story?), it's kids on TikTok treating empty toilet paper rolls like they're straws (eww). But man, if there's one thing that definitely tops everything I've seen thus far, it's got to be, what is now a pandemic across the globe. You know what I'm referring to. The coronavirus. And contrary to what some people are saying on Black Twitter, "No, Black People Aren't Immune to Covid-19".

There is simply no way around it. If we're not hearing about it in the media, we're noticing it when we get in our cars and realize that there is significantly less traffic on the roads. Or, we're going into grocery stores, only to realize that there is absolutely no toilet paper in sight. Then there are those of us who are trying to figure out how to juggle our jobs with the fact that our kids are out of school (check out "As Schools Close Because Of Coronavirus, Nearly 300 Million Kids Aren't In Class"). Or, it's the fact that more and more of us are unable to visit our elderly loved ones in nursing homes, we're spending hours in airports trying to figure out if—or how—we should catch a flight or, we're wondering when we'll see the people in our lives who are in the military again (due to the travel ban that has been placed on them).

And y'all, if you're looking to our fearless leader (I hope you can just hear the sarcasm that's just oozing from my keyboard to your monitor) for accurate information or even comfort, well, I'll just refer you to Trevor Noah's "Trump's Coronavirus Address, Blooper Reel Included". Make sure to wait for the bloopers. Trump never ceases to amaze, man (you might also want to check out "The sick joke of Donald Trump's presidency isn't funny any more").

I won't lie. Even with the coronavirus relief bill that was recently passed, the projections of what this pandemic has the capability to do is pretty mind-blowing. As of March 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 214 million Americans could be infected. That's nothing to Kanye shrug about. But with all of the information—and misinformation—that is out here, I thought it would be important to share some actual facts. Because, as we all know, "knowledge is power". Plus, the more truth you have about this virus, hopefully, the more inner peace you can gain about how to approach it in your own life.

As a heads up, this ain't a short read. That's because, I tried to be as thorough as possible. But I'm hoping that these 12 points will provide you with what you need to come to a place of knowing that, yes, we are in some trying times. Still, it shouldn't paralyze you with fear. With a little pre-planning and intentional precautions, we can get through this. As Black people, we've certainly been through worse, right? I'm sayin'.

1. What Exactly IS the Coronavirus?

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So, just what is the coronavirus (COVID-19)? It's kind of a long and sordid tale, but probably the best way to sum it up is, it's a virus that comes from a family of other viruses that has the ability to infect both humans as well as animals. Someone was diagnosed with it in December 2019 (more on that in a sec), and it's related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). It's highly-transmittable and while—please make sure you catch this part—many people who get it end up with a mild case, the huge cause for alarm is, sometimes it can lead to pneumonia, fluid build-up in the lungs or kidney failure (check out "Here's what coronavirus does to the body"). To date, the virus is less deadly than SARS and two percent of the reported cases of the coronavirus have been deadly.

Just where did it originate? I want to be careful about taking us all down that rabbit hole because new information is constantly coming out. What I will say is if you heard that it came from a Chinese person consuming bat soup, while scientific reports can confirm that there is definitely a coronavirus strain that comes from bats, what actually has baffled researchers is, there appears to be a different animal who served as the "intermediate host" between bats and humans in this case. What is factual is it originated in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province, presumably from an animal at a seafood market. Yes, it did come from China. However, let's use common sense. Chinese food is not going to give you the virus (any differently than taking the risk of eating out anywhere would) and—please stop—Corona beer definitely won't (goodness).

You can check out "What You Need to Know About Coronavirus" and "What Is Coronavirus?" for more detailed information (and additional fact-checking).

2. Who Is the Most Vulnerable?

As far as who is most vulnerable, according to the CDC, it's older adults (in China, 12 percent of the cases involved people who are over 70) and individuals who have medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. And what if you happen to have asthma? According to The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, because it is a condition that affects the respiratory system, you should be extra cautious too. Some studies state that men are at a higher risk than women as well. So are individuals who are taking care of anyone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Currently, children are at a lower risk than adults.

3. How Can You Get Infected?

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How can you get coronavirus? From what I read, it is spreading due to droplets that come from people's noses and mouths. One science article stated that, standing less than six feet from an infected individual, for more than 15 minutes, can put you at high risk for contracting it.

For now, the incubation period appears to be 14 days from the day you are exposed, you would need a laboratory test to confirm that it is indeed the coronavirus and, as far as treatment? Yeah, that's another area where I want to be careful. From what I've researched, because the virus is viral and not bacterial, it doesn't respond to antibiotics. While scientists and medical professionals are trying to find a cure (and a vaccine), what is recommended in the meantime is to 1) self-quarantine (or your doctor may admit you into the hospital if it's a severe case); 2) to drink plenty of fluids in order to remain hydrated; 3) to keep the fever down and 4) if it's severe, supplemental oxygen may be needed.

It is important to keep in mind that, at least for now, 80 percent of individuals who get the virus are able to recover without the need for hospitalization or even extra-special treatment (reportedly, 70,000 have recovered in the United States as of March 12). The reason why self-quarantining is such an imperative thing to do, even if you have a mild case, is the person you could infect may have a compromised system. The less the virus spreads, the safer those around us can be. That's why more and more companies are requiring that their employees work from home right now. Makes sense, right?

4. What Symptoms Should You Look Out For?

OK. Let's talk about symptoms for a minute. When I read about a woman who freaked out to the point of being kicked off of a Jetstar flight, all because a man was coughing on it (we normally cough, anywhere between 1-34 times a day), I was like, yeah, I definitely need to throw the symptoms of the virus into this. So, here's the deal. If you want to see for yourself what makes the coronavirus stand out from the common cold, the flu or even allergies (since we are heading into allergy season), a chart that I checked out stated the following.

  • Fever: Common
  • Dry Cough: Common
  • Shortness of Breath: Common
  • Headaches: Sometimes
  • Aches and Pains: Sometimes
  • Sore Throat: Sometimes
  • Fatigue: Sometimes
  • Diarrhea: Rare
  • Runny Nose: Rare
  • Sneezing: No

Now, information about the virus is ever-evolving. Another article that I read is discovering that some people who have coronavirus are even asymptomatic. But what I am confident in recommending is, if you happen to have several of these symptoms (not just a cough, unless it isn't going away after a couple of days), you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.

5. Good Hygiene Should Be a Given Regardless

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Everything in life has silver linings; it's all about whether or not we choose to see them. When it comes to the coronavirus, two linings that come to my mind is, during the (potential) quarantine season, it could create more quality time for families and two, it should also remind us to use common sense when it comes to hygiene.

For instance, although I'm not sure I get the logic behind why The Real's Adrienne Bailon thinks that there's no real need to wash your hands after using the bathroom, so long as you're at your own house (bacteria is bacteria, y'all), believe it or not, she's not an exception in this case. A couple of years ago, The Root published an article, citing the fact that only 31 percent of men and 65 percent of women wash their hands after going to the restroom (what in the world?!). Y'all, all kinds of germs and bacteria is not just coming from bodily waste but countertops, doorknobs and cellphones—all of which are in our house. Outdoors, there are things like steering wheels, shopping carts, gas handles, ATMs…need a sistah go on? So yes, wash your freakin' hands, please. Use warm or hot water. Definitely use soap. And, make sure that you lather up and wash for no less than 30 seconds and then rinse thoroughly. Wash them after using the bathroom, after you come in from outside, and after you cough or sneeze too.

As far as other precautions that you need to take, it's not too much different than what you (hopefully) learned in early elementary school. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Avoid touching surfaces, as much as possible, in public places. Also, keep your hands off of your face, your fingers out of your mouth, and keep your house clean and disinfected (this includes tables, light switches and desks, not just toilets, sinks and faucets).

Now the "extras" that you should factor in, just to be extra safe, include avoiding crowded spots and staying six feet away from people as much as possible; doing a fist-pound instead of a handshake, even with people you know; avoid touching surfaces, as much as possible, when you are in public (try opening doors with the sleeve of your shirt instead of your hands), and nixing the whole in-store product testing approach. At least for now (Sephora and Ulta Beauty won't let you anyway; again, at least for now).

If you happen to be like a friend of mine's husband and you feel like you can't give up the gym, no matter what, take a second to check out "Coronavirus and the gym: Be 'super careful' at public facilities, doctor suggests". Speaking of men, fellas, you can keep your facial hair (praise the Lord). It was a rumor that you needed to cut it off, but you don't.

And what about your pet? Rest easy about them. Reportedly, "The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from humans to humans. There is no research to support human to animal spread at this time." Yeah, I caught the "at this time" part too, but until we know something different, don't stress about Spot, Fluffy or whatever your dog or cat's name is. Treat them as you normally would—unless you kiss yours in the mouth or let them sleep on your pillow. Then…don't.

Oh, and what about the whole mask-wearing thing? According to the World Health Organization, you only need to put a mask on if you are actually ill and disposable face masks should only be used once. Otherwise, you can chill on that.

6. Use Soap More than Sanitizer

While I'm still trying to figure out what the obsession with toilet paper is right now, I totally get why hand sanitizer is flying off of the shelves. If you can't seem to find any at your local store, I wouldn't trip, if I were you. There are a substantial amount of sources out here that say a good old-fashioned bar of soap is more effective anyway. One article said that it's because soap has the ability to loosen bacteria and viruses from the skin (it also said that, when you're in public, it's best to go with liquid instead of bar soap). Another article that I checked out stated soap is one of the most effective ways to get rid of the virus because it removes the fatty layer that coats the virus. The New York Times also recently published an article entitled, "Why Soap Works". So, instead of thinking that you've got to take the risk of standing in line at a local drugstore for some sanitizer or that you should figure out what DIY recipe actually works, pick up some soap instead. It's totally got your back. Again, there's plenty of data to prove it.

7. Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Your Actual State

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If you're feeling overwhelmed, I'd venture to say that, a part of the reason why is because, not only are you watching what's happening on our continent, but what is transpiring all over the world. While it is essential to be aware of what is going down globally, remember that it's essential that you are most knowledgeable about what is happening in your actual state (or where you are traveling to). For instance, in Ohio, health officials believe that 100,000 people are already infected while (at the least at the time of me writing this) West Virginia is the only state to not have a coronavirus patient yet. It's also important to know how your local officials are handling the situation. While I'm here, shout-out to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance, who may have read articles like, "Coronavirus to impact low-wage, black workers the most" and already decided to halt water disconnections for the next 60 days.

You can go to your favorite search engine and seek out US maps that track how many people are infected based on where you live, or you can go to a search engine and put "coronavirus" along with your state (or even your city) in order get the updated info. Make sure that you do.

8. Here’s What You Need for a 14-Day Quarantine

I went to the store to stock up for about three weeks a couple of days ago. I'll be honest with you—it wasn't so much due to the virus as the fact that so many people are panic shopping that I wanted to make sure I actually had something to eat in my house (because eating out is gonna be a no-no for me right through here for a little while). But whether you're shopping to stock up "just in case" or because you have been told to self-quarantine (or see the need to self-quarantine because you recently came back from Italy or something), you don't need to go broke by buying up the entire store. Here's basically what you need for about two weeks of staying in your house.

Dried and canned goods. It's pre-packaged (unlike fresh produce). Plus, I wouldn't 100 percent rely on electricity, if I were you. If the entire country goes on a lockdown, well, that's people who work at the electric company too and you just never know. Plus, I live in Nashville and was without electricity for a week after the tornadoes that we had a couple of weeks ago. Throwing out a freezer full sucked. Anyway, whatever you decide to get, make sure it's a 14-day amount for each individual who lives in your home.

Frozen foods (and a cooler). Again, the dried foods and canned goods are a precaution (they also last for a long time). Hopefully, your electricity will be just fine, so also get some frozen foods (they last longer than fresh produce) and a cooler, if you don't have one. That way, if your electricity does happen to cut out for a moment or two, you can put the ice in there and store your frozen food a bit longer.

30-day prescription of medications. Even running out "for a hot second" could infect you or someone around you. So, just to be on the safe side, have a month's worth of the medications (and vitamins or supplements) that you already take available.

Over-the-counter meds. If you do happen to have mild symptoms and your doctor encourages you to recover at home, you'll need some ibuprofen to help with body aches and your fever (although some experts are actually recommending paracetamol instead); cough syrup to manage your cough and some cough drops to soothe your sore throat. Stock up on those.

Paper products. Toilet paper, paper towels, you get it.

First-Aid kit. If you've got kids or a man who likes to tinker around the house, a kit is paramount.

Ladies, don't forget about sanitary products. If your period is scheduled to come on during the quarantine, make sure you've got what you need to handle it. Personally, since I've been using a menstrual cup, I've got just one more reason to be in love with it; I only need to use one and I only have to purchase one every 10 years. I'm set.

Water. They are saying that the virus won't affect our water supply. But again, if there is a nationwide lockdown, that somehow happens to affect the employees at the water company and how we get our water (you never know), having a 14-day supply of bottled water, per person in your household, is a good look too.

I could go on, but USA Today published a pretty comprehensive list. You can check it out here.

9. Yes, You Need to Budget

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The shoes can wait. So, can buying up 10 plane tickets or purchasing whatever else is on your current high-end shopping list. The main reason why I say that is, in the midst of the pandemic, please don't miss some of the shadiness that is going on. Things like "Court cites coronavirus in blocking Trump administration's food stamp cuts" (yep, this administration is actually trying to cut people's food stamps during a pandemic. Wow.) and "For the Love of God, Why Is the Trump Administration Blocking Medicaid Access to Fight Coronavirus?". Moral to the story? Don't assume that the government is automatically gonna have your back right through here. If there was ever a time to create a budget (and stick to it), save and be frugal, it would be now.

Case in point. I have a girlfriend who is a speech pathologist in Maryland. Maryland and Ohio were the first two states to shut down all K-12 schools due to the coronavirus. She's married with four kids. When I asked her what all of this meant, she said that she would be paid for the next two weeks, then there's spring break and then…we'll see. You can't pay a mortgage on "we'll see". Spend and save wisely, y'all.

10. What About Air Travel?

As far as travelling, about half of the people in my intimate circle have been on a plane, at least once, since the news of the coronavirus broke out. They are still healthy and pretty "Omarion" (you know, unbothered) about it all. Good for them. Still, for as long as the government allows us to fly (check out "Are restrictions on travel within the United States coming soon?"), it's still important to take precautions. That's why you should have some sanitizing hand wipes in tow and you should also wipe down any surface that you plan on touching on the plane; to drink as much water as possible (it will flush out your system, keep your immunity in good shape, and help to prevent headaches, body aches and fatigue); and, that you have some Vitamin C on hand. It is a holistic way to fight off airborne germs. I'm hoping it's a given that you would cover your mouth and turn your head away from others if you cough or sneeze (you might want to do it into your sleeve rather than your hand, just to be extra safe).

When it comes to some avoid-getting-sick-while-flying hacks, NPR did a good feature last month. It included booking a window seat as much as possible, and also keeping in mind that the office where you work is probably nastier than any plane you've flown on, so stay calm. Peep this—"In the course of her research, Hertzberg's team took more than 200 environmental swabs on 10 transcontinental U.S. flights and didn't find a single respiratory virus in the sample (though there was plenty of bacteria)." Again, knowledge is power.

11. Make Sure to Keep Your Immune System Strong

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The stronger your immune system is, the more equipped you'll be able to fight coronavirus if you do happen to get it. Stay hydrated. Eat healthy (especially consume lots of antioxidants like spinach, citrus fruits, beans, eggplants and dark chocolate). Get plenty of rest. Exercise (even if it's just in your house). Take a multi-vitamin. Open up your windows (indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution). Get some comfort foods for your quarantine but don't overdo it on the junk. Make green tea your friend. Have sex with your partner (sperm is like a mega-multi vitamin and a woman's vaginal fluids are the ultimate probiotic). In short, be as proactive as possible about your health. It's an extremely worthwhile investment.

12. Fear Helps Absolutely Nothing

Being concerned is one thing. Being paralyzed with fear is something else. The first is productive. The second? It really does nothing but make matters worse. That's why it's so important to embrace every moment, to remain as tranquil as possible, to operate from a place of wisdom, knowledge and discernment, and to choose to not fear. Because, as my Bible following family knows, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7—NKJV); love and a sound mind—for real, for real—are what's gonna get us through this.

If you need a little more encouragement, Hot New Hip Hop recently posted an Instagram message from hip-hop artist Lecrae that I thought would be a fitting way to close this out. Here's some of what he said.

"I stayed up late doing as much research as I possibly could. I was on the phone earlier today talking on the phone with someone who is very close to a biotech scientist who spent their 50-year career working with viruses such as corona and actually on coronavirus. COVID-19 is a new strand of coronavirus, so corona has been here for a while. This is a new strand." (He's right; reportedly, the first strain was described in the 1960s.)

"God is in control. We live in a world that is broken. There have been pandemics, there have been wars, there have been bombs, there have been plagues since humanity's been here. It is not an excuse for us to act inhumane and for us to act as if God is not in control and as if he's not a God we can trust. He's brought people through it. Not without pain and not without suffering, not without loss. This shows me where my true rewards are, where my hope really is, where my faith really is."

Yes, sir. If I were around you, I would give you a fist-pound for sharing this. Come to think about it, hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco also had a word in due season:

"As this thing grows and gets a little more out of hand, remember that corona is what you make it. If you make it a crazy, panic-driven, fear-filled thing, then that is what it will be. This disease isn't just the disease itself; it's also the reaction to the disease, and in some cases, for most of us, what we will be experiencing is the reaction to the disease."

The coronavirus isn't something I'm thrilled about, but with the info that I have, it's not something I'm terrified of either. Stay aware. Stay focused. Stay calm. Like all crisis, sis, this too shall pass.

Now get off of here and go to the store before all of the toilet paper runs out. #justsayin'

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Here's How To Stop Worrying So Freakin' Much

10 All-Natural Ways To Avoid Catching A Cold

Stressed Out? Here Are 10 Steps Towards Immediate Calm & Tranquility

How I Afford To Travel The World Without Breaking Bank

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