You don’t need to ruin a perfectly good drink to make hand sanitizer and you certainly don’t need to act as if this is a zombie apocalypse and hide in your bunker for all eternity.  There isn’t enough beer for either, so hear me out.

We are in the midst of a significant public health situation, an outbreak of a novel coronavirus. It would be a disservice for me, as a public health professional, to not offer some important information to this community.  If you didn’t already know, I have a Master’s degree in public health nutrition and served with the CDC during the Ebola outbreak in 2015.  I have amassed a network of people I’m proud to call friends who have far more knowledge and experience than I do and I’ve asked a few of them for feedback.  So rest assured, what I’m offering is based on the best information I can obtain right now.

Another very important thing for me to note is this: I will not now, nor ever, politicize this.  If you’re looking for a political tirade, this is not the place for that.  Public health crises transcend party lines.  Period.  End of that story. 

Simply put, COVID-19 is a novel form of coronavirus that is rapidly spreading throughout the globe.  Those infected may develop mild to severe respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath, dry cough) and fever.  As with any illness, there are those that are at a higher risk than others.  Presently, those aged 60 and over or those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, lung disease or diabetes are considered high risk.  That may include your parents, grandparents or even yourself.

However, let me say this now: while you should be concerned, you should not panic.  With very simple precautions, you can help keep yourself and those around you healthy.  Handwashing with soap and water is the most basic thing you can do.  That can be literally any soap, even dish soap, if you happen to run out and don’t have easy access to more (because people hoard things in times like this, let’s face it).  Yes, you can make sanitizer from your favorite hard liquor, but that’s really not necessary, and you’ll probably want to drink it if you’re stuck at home.  You probably have isopropyl alcohol in your medicine cabinet.  A small amount of that diluted in aloe gel works just fine.  Routine cleaning helps too.  Cleaning your phone, desk and common areas can only help.  If you’re caring for someone who is ill, take these precautions as well.  A note on the need for a surgical mask: unless your physician tells you to or if you’re in direct contact with someone who is ill, you do not need one.  A healthy boundary of six feet is appropriate. 

Now, let’s say you are feeling sick.  Before you lose your mind and head to the ER with mild symptoms, you should also know that the flu and allergies are emerging.  It’s important to know the difference and to contact your doctor or even your local health department first and heed their advice, before heading to the emergency room.  Our already strained healthcare system will be further burdened, which may create issues for those who really need care.

You’ve probably also heard by now that many events are being cancelled and entire countries are under quarantine.  Let me explain this concept of social distancing, and stress the importance of it.  COVID-19 is very contagious and has a long incubation period, meaning that you could feel healthy or even have a mild case, and be spreading the virus to others.  Keeping healthy distance and limiting large gatherings is meant only to reduce the rapid spread.  It does not mean that we will never have events to go to or that we have to live in bubbles until the end of time.  This is a temporary situation put into place out of an abundance of caution.  And let me say this while I’m on the topic: if you are asked to self-quarantine, DO IT.  It is for your own good and the health of others.  At the very least, you can catch up on Netflix and make the best of it.  But for the love of everyone, do the right thing.

On to how you can prepare your pantry and your fridge with health in mind.  I hate to break it to you, but you probably shouldn’t be ordering from Grubhub or Uber Eats, even if they can make ‘contactless’ delivery.  Some tips for you:

Your Pantry – Canned beans, dry whole grain and veggie pastas, rice, broth, nut butters and whole nuts are great items that can help you whip up anything from a basic soup to a quick protein packed meal.  You may want to get some powdered milk as well.

Your Freezer – veggies, fruit, proteins in recipe friendly portions and even breads (thinking long term storage of perishables here), will keep you from visiting the crowded grocery store if need be.

Your Fridge – if you’re stuck home and cannot get out for fresh items, this should be where you house things that need to be thawed properly or stored temporarily, in addition to whatever you may have had prior.  And your beer, because let’s face it, if you’re in close quarters, you’ll likely need it.

You can exercise, too!  Lockdown doesn’t mean you’re stuck on the couch.  Exercise can help you stay healthy and serve as a distraction from the world for a while.

To wrap, it’s important to look to the past.  We’ve had many public health situations in the past and we’ve made it though, together, with celebratory libations.  Now is the time to care for your fellow Beerfits and do the best you can to keep everyone, and yourself, healthy.  Knowledge is the best defense, so stay calm, educate yourself and be healthy!

World Health Organization:
Nassau County Department of Health:
Suffolk County Department of Health Services:

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