Read: The official coronavirus numbers are wrong, and everyone knows it
A lot of prevention advice is going around, both good and bad. I hope it’s helpful to compile some of the former in one place. Much of what follows is not original—generally don’t trust health advice that no one else is giving—and please bear in mind that any guidance can and should change as the situation develops. Local health departments and personal physicians should tailor recommendations for specific populations and scenarios.
That said, here are preventive measures that people are considering at the moment, and some notes that are worth your time and attention. The things most of us take for granted as common knowledge must now be acted upon. We all know how to do these things; now we just need to actually do them.
Using hand sanitizer
It works, if you can find it. Use it often. Make sure it’s alcohol-based (at least 60 percent alcohol). There are some “natural” products that contain less, or none, designed to be less drying to your hands. These can’t be counted on. You can also make your own with isopropyl alcohol, if you can find it.
Read: What is the right way to wash your hands?
This is always important, but especially now. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, regularly. Note that soap works ideally in combination with scrubbing and heat, but cold water works far better than nothing. You do not need antibacterial soap; the coronavirus is a virus, not a bacterium.
Cleaning hand towels
Wash them often, too.
It’s not a clearly threatening practice, and physical touch has its own value to consider, as do gestures of respect. But I’ve been an advocate of alternative forms of greetings such as fist bumps for years, and this outbreak doesn’t change that.
Touching your face
The person most likely to give you this virus is you. It will happen when you touch something coated in viral particles, getting them onto your fingertips, and then touch your face. Avoiding touching your face would be very effective, but no one is going to stop, at least not entirely. That said, if everyone did even a little less face touching, it might make a dent collectively. (If every person on Earth touched their face one fewer time each day, that would mean 230 billion fewer face touches a month.)* The other option is to touch only your face and nothing else.
Here’s an unproven suggestion from me that transcends this particular outbreak: All business and public spaces should turn their bathrooms’ doors around, so you push on the way out rather than the way in. If building codes or other safety codes prohibit this, install a foot pull. Or, as long as privacy is moderately protected, remove the door altogether. If none of this is possible, at least put the trash can for paper towels outside the door so everyone can use a paper towel to touch the handle.