This has been an election for the ages and—breaking news!—it doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.
What is coming, though, is change. Circumstances are lining up for a big wave of new COVID-related restrictions, a national mask mandate, and even the strong possibility of a nationwide shutdown.
Today we're going to show you how this could all happen and what you need to do to prepare.
Conditions That Might Lead to a Shutdown
COVID cases have skyrocketed in the last few weeks with more the 100,000 infections per day and close to 250,000 total deaths.
We don’t have to tell you that COVID cases have skyrocketed in the last month or so. Some are calling it a second wave, some a third. But either way, the numbers have been alarming:
- Infections – 100,000-plus infections per day.
- Deaths – Approaching 250,000 deaths.
- Death rates are down, thank heavens, but hospitalizations remain high. Health facilities all over the US are on the brink of being overrun. If the trend continues and quality of care drops, there’s a chance that death rates could tick back up (though hopefully not to spring 2020 levels).
- Vaccines are on the horizon, but completing and widely distributing them will still take many months—as one leading immunologist puts it, “well into the second half of 2021.”
On its own, these conditions may not push us into a shutdown, but combined with the issues below, it's easy to see how it could happen.
Wherever you stand on the current state of the election, one thing is sure: a lot is up in the air right now.
Government in transition – We’re in that wonky few-month period in every election cycle where the attention and effort of transitioning new leadership takes away from actual governance.
This year is especially bad—a historical number of mail-in ballots are still being counted and as a result, two senate races and over a dozen house races are undecided (as of this writing). That’s not to mention state and local positions all over the country.
Presidential transition – And then there’s the battle for the presidency…
The current once-in-a-lifetime election scenario we find ourselves in would seem a lot stranger if it weren’t coming at the tail end of such a bizarre year.
Again, wherever you stand on the election, messaging on the virus from not one but two administrations has been, and will continue to be, a source of confusion and instability.
Terrible timing – While our government is distracted, the rest of the country is in the throes of a new wave of coronavirus infections that’s looking like it could get worse.
Deaths from COVID have been on the rise as well...though thankfully not yet to the level of spring 2020.
"We are likely to see massive explosions of cases and outbreaks that could potentially make what we've seen so far look like it hasn't been that much," said Dr. Michael Mina, a professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Without clear leadership at this critical moment, more spikes in cases seem likely. By January, when (and if) a presidential transition takes place, higher COVID counts will make it easier to justify a massive lock down.
And then there’s the fact that if the dust settles and Biden ends up in the White House, we’ll be facing a very different approach to tackling the virus. The differences between Trump and Biden on this issue could not be more different.
Trumps COVID leadership
Local – The president has left COVID response by and large to state and local leaders.
Variety of voices – Rather than sticking exclusively to the opinions of scientists and doctors, Trump brought political and business voices into decision making.
Restriction-light – At least at the federal level, officials have been hesitant to enact restrictions.
Less urgent concern – The president has held a relatively optimistic view of the virus, stating in recent months that “we’re rounding a corner.”
“It affects elderly people,” he said. “Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. But they have other problems, that’s what it really affects, that’s it…But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”
Biden’s COVID leadership
Biden seems to believe that COVID is one of the main reasons he pulled ahead in the presidential race, so he’s highly motivated to get off the ground running with a completely different approach than his predecessor.
More federal intervention. According to Biden’s seven-point plan to beat COVID, the federal government will take a much more direct role in combating COVID-19.
More restrictions. Where the Trump administration was hesitant to enact restrictions, Biden sees strict COVID regulations as vital to saving American lives.
Mask mandate. Biden has already promised a nationwide mandate that would require Americans to mask up around anyone they don’t live with. It would also apply to interstate transportation, where it seems that truck drivers, pilots, and train conductors would possibly have to wear masks in their vehicles.
Since the election, experts in the Biden camp have been talking about a possible nationwide lockdown. Don't be surprised if that talk turns to action.
More pressure to comply. Biden has openly said he will personally contact governors to enact and enforce COVID restrictions like a mask mandate. If governors don’t comply, he will go around them to pressure local county and city leaders.
Potential lockdowns. The biggest potential change of all is the new possibility of more stay-at-home orders—even a nationwide lockdown.
How to Prepare
Frustrating as it is, there’s little we can do to control the craziness in our country right now—but we can control how we respond.
With more COVID, masks, restrictions, and shutdowns potentially on the way, the time to prepare is now! Here are our recommendations for the best ways to do that.
EXPECT MORE RESTRICTIONS—GET LOCKDOWN READY
Get Ready for Grocery Shortages
Grocery store shortages are back. Low-inventory items include disinfectant wipes (of course), toilet paper, cold medicine, goldfish crackers, potato chips, and soda.
Back in September we warned our readers about new grocery-store shortages. And sure enough, reports of shortages are now coming in from all over the country.
While we wouldn’t encourage panic buying, here are some items we know are currently either out of stock or have purchase limits at many grocers:
- Disinfectant wipes
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper (Kroger and H-E-B are limiting purchases)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hand soap
- Face masks
- First aid and cleaning gloves
- Canned soups
- Holiday foods (stuffing, turkey)
Then there are items that are still in stock, but that could be vulnerable. It might be wise to pick up one or two extras of these when you see them:
- Holiday hams
- Frozen foods
- Cold remedies
- Herbal teas
- Potato chips
- Goldfish crackers
Store Up an Emergency Food and Water Supply
Regardless of how much you’re able to pick up at the grocery store, your safety may end up depending on an honest-to-goodness supply of long-term emergency food and water.
The folks at FEMA and the Red Cross recommend you store up a minimum of two weeks of emergency supplies.
That’s a perilously bare minimum.
You’ll be much better off with at least a month’s supply or more if you can manage it. Here are the essentials you need:
One gallon of water per person, per day – For drinking, cooking, and light hygiene. This should include portable water, water filters, and barrels of treated water.
The best safeguard against the struggles of another national lockdown? Three months minimum of long-term food and water.
One to three months of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods (minimum) – With a focus on macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. Aim for supplying around 2,000 calories and 50 grams of protein per person per day (less for children). Get a variety of freeze-dried fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, beans, and rice. You’ll also want pre-made entrees that are easy to cook in a pinch. Try for three months and then work up to 6 months and year if you can.
Multivitamins – You’ll get many of the micronutrients you need in your food. But since your diet may be a little less varied in a shutdown scenario, a good survival multivitamin can help bridge the gap.
As you can imagine, we’ve written a whole lot on this subject. For more in-depth advice on putting together your short and long-term food supplies, check out these articles:
Get Hygiene Ready
Masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes are some of the cornerstones of COVID readiness. And like we said, they’re already in short supply with a risk of temporarily disappearing from shelves.
But not to worry! With a little independent ingenuity, you can make your own:
If you have isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel, you've got what you need for homemade hand sanitizer.
DIY Sanitizer – Store-bought hand sanitizer is not your only option. If you can find isopropyl alcohol (99% volume) and aloe vera gel, you’ve got what you need to whip up homemade sanitizer that’s every bit as effective. Here’s a great DIY recipe.
DIY Wipes – Of all the grocery store items we’ve listed, the one you’re least likely to find are disinfectant wipes. These have been cleared off most shelves for months. Manufactures have been promising improvements in inventory since summer, but so far haven’t been able to fully deliver.
Here’s a recipe for DIY wipes. Like sanitizer, it requires isopropyl alcohol (99% volume). It also requires bleach. These ingredients are both in high demand, but theoretically should be easier to round up than wipes.
DIY Masks – The good news is that masks still seem to be in abundant supply. With a looming national mask mandate, though, they could become harder to find.
There are lots of masks out there, but not all of them are worth your time. According to research, these are the most common masks available for coronavirus protection, in order of most to least effective:
- Fitted N95 mask with no exhalation valve (recommended for health care professionals)
- Three-layer surgical mask (best option for everyday folks)
- Cotton-polypropylene-cotton mask (best made-at-home option)
- Two-layer polypropylene apron mask
- Swath of polypropylene mask material
- Two-layer pleated cotton mask
- Two-layer pleated cotton mask
- N95 mask with exhalation valve
- Two-layer “Olson style” cotton mask
- One-layer Maxima AT (air textured) mask
- One-layer pleated cotton mask
- Two-layer pleated cotton mask
- Knitted mask
- Double-layer bandana
- No mask
- Gaiter-type neck fleece
To make your own polypropylene mask, you’ll need material. You can pick that up at Amazon, Walmart, and lots of other retailers—it’s a common fabric for re-usable grocery bags. Combine it with a cotton layer for extra protection.
STAY INFORMED & READY TO REACH OUT
Stay informed. In this hectic time of transition, there are going to be lots of mixed messages about COVID. One of your best defenses is to cut through the hype and stay up-to-date on trustworthy, non-partisan information (as much as such a thing exists).
The best place to turn are your local health departments. COVID outbreaks are super localized; flare ups can be worse in one part of a single county than another. Make sure to frequently visit your state health department’s “.gov” website for up-to-date information (floridahealth.gov, hhs.texas.gov, dhhs.nv.gov, for example). Your county health department website will have a lot of great info, too.
Private and not-for-profit medical organizations can also provide great COVID-related guidance. Here in Utah, Intermountain Healthcare (IHC) is a massive not-for-profit system of hospitals and clinics. Their website has a wealth of information on the virus. Most states are home to similar health care organizations: Kaiser Permanente and Prime Healthcare in California, Trinity Health in Michigan, CommonSpirit Health in Illinois, just to name a few.
If you display symptoms of COVID-19, early testing can help prevent spreading the virus.
Testing. If you do end up getting sick, early testing can help your chances of safe recovery and help prevent community spread. According to the FDA:
The best way to get a COVID-19 test is to contact your health care provider. You may also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing. Some communities are also testing asymptomatic people (people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms). Often these people are health workers or other essential workers with a lot of public contact.
Insurance. For now, know what type of coverage your insurance provides. Most providers have been very flexible and accommodating when it comes to COVID testing. Here’s a super thorough list of what to expect from many of the big providers. If you’re uninsured, know that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act has extended Medicaid for COVID-19 testing to people without insurance.
Emergency contacts. COVID quarantining is challenging, and you might need help if it happens to you. Make a list of people you can rely on if you’re sick—family, friends, neighbors, and other community resources.
PREPARE FOR POSSIBLE ILLNESS
Many infected. Over 10 million Americans have been infected to date—that’s a bit over 3% of the population—and that number will probably rise.
Know your risk. Most of us know by now that certain people in this country are more vulnerable to complications from the novel coronavirus. Folks over 65 are particularly at risk. According to the CDC, so are people with these health conditions. Be especially careful if you’re fighting:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart conditions, like heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
A bedroom with a window and (preferably) attached bathroom can make an excellent isolation area for sick members of your household.
Build an isolation room in your house. If someone in your household does come down with the virus, there are steps you can take to help prevent it from spreading to your other family members and roommates:
- Place the sick member of your household in a bedroom with a window and attached bathroom. Weather permitting, keep the window open.
- Hang drop cloth at the entrance.
- Cover the walls with plastic drop cloth.
- Cover all vents in the room to isolate the air system.
- Place a disinfecting area in the hall next to the door with disinfecting supplies, a garbage bag for dirty clothes, and a separate bag for tossing out contaminated gloves, masks, etc.
As a wise man once said, “change is the only constant in life.” That’s certainly true in post-election COVID America.
It’s impossible to know for sure what the future holds, but with a little foresight and preparation, it won’t matter much—you’ll be ready for anything.
"Disinfecting Wipes" by artizone is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
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"Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers Cheddar Cheese in Big cartons" by PatrickRich is marked under CC PDM 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/
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