By now, we’ve seen the effects of this pandemic. Even though it spreads rapidly and infects efficiently, there are ways you, the prepper, can mitigate your risks and continue living a healthy, functional life.
We’ll review the facts and scientific data at hand, best practices for basic protection, and we’ll review some projections and the potential risks being posed to daily life and basic resources.
How The Virus Spreads
Based on current data, the virus has presented an average spread rate of 2 to 3 persons per one infected individual. Also called an “R0” or “R-naught” value, scientists now say SARS-Cov-2’s average is 2.2 individuals. But because some infected individuals may never show symptoms nor be tested, this value may be higher.
Why is this? Let’s review the mechanisms and characteristics of the virus – you’ll quickly see why this particular strain of the virus has (and will continue to) spread rapidly for many weeks and months, unchecked.
The virus has a particularly long incubation period. Some researchers say the period of incubation – the amount of time the virus is present in one’s system before presenting substantial symptoms – is up to 14 days. The statistical median period of incubation is 5.1 days, nearly a full week. Other research says that those who are infected are contagious during the first week of being infected.
In lay terms, those who become infected may be able to pass the virus onto others within 12 hours of infection, while remaining asymptomatic for up to 5 days.
Mechanics of How The Virus Spreads
This aggressive pneumonia virus infects individuals through the upper respiratory tract. The virus enters the body through the nasal passages, the throat’s airway, and/or the eyes, where it resides in the mucus membranes inside one’s head, nose, and throat, multiplying rapidly. Researchers found that infected patients produced “thousands to millions of viruses in their noses and throats, about 1,000 times more than SARS patients.”
When infected individuals cough or sneeze, they aerosolize the virus in the water droplets and fluids expelled from their nose and mouth. These aerosolized particles containing the virus can remain airborne for up to three hours. Some studies say it may be possible for the virus to spread simply from infected individuals breathing heavily. This is why, at the time of writing, White House officials may soon recommend individuals wear masks when in public to mitigate the risk of transmission.
And still other research says the virus can remain present on surfaces – cardboard, stainless steel, plastic, and other surfaces – for three hours and up to three days.
How to Reduce or Eliminate Your Risk of Infection
Thankfully, although the virus is highly contagious, its methods of spreading are nothing new. Plenty of existing gear, medical equipment, and simple practices exist which will help you to reduce or totally eliminate your risk of becoming infected.
Let’s review what you can do to protect yourself, and what gear you should seek to own:
N95 Respirator Mask
If you haven’t heard of it before, you most likely know about the N95 mask quite well by now. If not, this is a soft, cloth respirator which seals the nose and mouth, preventing infection by stopping microscopic airborne particles (like infected, aerosolized water droplets) from entering the body.
You should invest in and ideally wear one of these masks while in public, particularly in densely populated areas or if you’re visiting one of the few essentials businesses currently open. What public places remain – like your local grocery store – are where the risk of infection remains highest, too.
Contacting surfaces that others have recently touched presents arguably the greatest risk of infection. Statistically, the average person touches his or her face at least 16 to 23 times per hour. That’s once every three to four minutes.
During colder months and early spring, that statistic climbs as individuals suffer from congestion and allergies. Half of all that facial contact involves a “mucosal surface”, like the nose, eyes, or mouth. Every time a potentially infected individual touches his or her face and then touches another surface, they may likely be shedding the virus. That means if you touch that same surface, you’re risking transmission.
Wearing disposable gloves is effective in reducing this risk of shared-contact transmission. Obviously, that means exercising certain best practices: Dispose of your gloves after exiting the public sphere and before touching any other surfaces you’ll interact with later.
For example, if visiting a store, dispose of your gloves before entering your vehicle. Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after disposal, too. Don’t touch your face or exposed skin while wearing gloves. Don’t interact with your phone or personal belongings (like keys) until after you’ve disposed of your gloves.
The mobile solution for soap and water, ethanol-/alcohol- based hand sanitizer is an effective mitigator against the spread of the virus. The CDC says your sanitizer should contain at least 60% ethanol an 70% isopropanol, the two active ingredients that break down viruses effectively.
Goggles or Glasses
Although the risk of infection through the eyes and tear ducts is low, it is still possible. That is why you’ve probably seen physicians, nurses, and other clinicians wearing plexiglass face shields in certain media. You might get an odd look or two if you go to the local grocer wearing swimming goggles, but a simple pair of glasses could help reduce your risk of infection around others who may be coughing or sneezing.
Does a Gas Mask Filter Protect Against the Virus?
In most cases, yes. Most filters will advertise whether they protect against microscopic biological contaminants. It’s important to know that viruses are thousands of times smaller than most bacteria, so even if a mask advertises generic “biological protection”, you should confirm that it includes viruses. The official filter designation for viral protection is “P3”, the highest level of biological protection.
How to Disinfect Against Viral Contamination
The CDC as written extensively on how to effectively disinfect things like your home, personal belongings, your vehicle, and even your clothing to protect against viral infection. Long story made short, bleach, 70% alcohol-based products, and EPA-registered disinfectants are your best friends.
Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds is a simple and effective way to disinfect. Although standard soap doesn’t kill the virus, it effectively traps it and removes any trace from your skin. You should frequently wipe down shared contact surfaces in your home – fridge and pantry handles, door handles, light switches, remotes, phones, car door handles, even the mailbox. Here’s why?
How Long Does the Virus Live on Surfaces?
Research says the virus can live on ceramics, plates and silverware, glass, mirrors, doorknobs, and metal surfaces for up to five days. Wood surfaces, up to four days. Plastics, two to three days. Stainless steel, two to three days. Cardboard and paper don’t have a consensus, but the virus is said to survive between 24 hours and five days. If you purchase from Amazon Prime and love that two-day delivery, consider the low (but very real) possibility even your mail and parcels could be carrying a viral load. Handle them and disinfect them accordingly.
How Long Will the Pandemic Last? What it Means for Prepping
The answer to this question rapidly evolves on a day-to-day basis. While various clinical trials have moved at breakneck speed to test potential vaccines and treatments (with some appearing promising with early, rapid results), no one knows for sure how long the virus will remain a specter over our daily lives. You’ve already witnessed the shortage of basic amenities like toilet paper, bottled water, and milk and eggs.
Folks who don’t plan well like a prepper like to hoard perishables and supply lines have been disrupted. With worldwide restrictions on virtually all business sectors and industries, we could very well continue to see a shortage of basic supplies and foodstuffs even once the pandemic is considered finished.
Meanwhile, some grim models say that potentially hundreds of thousands will die in the coming four to eight weeks. While these models illustrate a worst-case scenario (the death rate of the virus is alleged to be lower than what has been reported, potentially around less than 1%), the American populace will continue to panic-buy, and those critical supply lines will remain bottlenecked.
Eight Weeks’ Worth of Food, Water, Amenities
That’s the best practice we can estimate at the time of publication for the well-prepared pandemic prepper. If you’re stocked up on eight weeks’ worth of food, water, and basic amenities like TP, chances are, you’ll weather the storm and come out uninfected and well-fed.
Ten Cases of MREs (Worst-Case Scenario)
If you prefer to go full-tilt with a reliable set of meals, assuming a total collapse of society (hey, we don’t rumormonger or fearmonger but look where we’re at) then you would need approximately 10 cases of MREs.
Each case comes with 12 MREs, and for 56 days, you’d need two MREs daily to provide approximately 2,400 calories – complimentary TP and wipes are often included. Are we implying you’ll see a total breakdown of the American infrastructure, a real shortage of food? Probably not.
Recommended reading: 10 Best MRE Meals in 2020 For Survival Scenarios And Emergency Preparedness
Nonetheless, the pandemic continues to spread at an alarming rate. With every day, new cases mean an accelerating rate of infection, and that means a higher chance of transmission whenever you venture out.
If you choose to stick to shopping at the local grocer, wear the basic PPE – gloves, mask, perhaps glasses – and stick with shelf-stable foods as much as possible:
- Low-acid canned goods (2- to 5-year shelf life)
- Canned meat and poultry
- Soups (except tomato)
- Noodles and pasta
- High-acid canned goods (12- to 18-month shelf life)
- Juices (tomato, orange, lemon, grapefruit)
- Mixed fruits
- Vinegar-based sauces and dressings
- Tuna and canned sea foods (18-month shelf life)
- Rice and pasta (2-year shelf life)
- Jerky and dried, salted meats (12-month shelf life)
Can I freeze milk?
Yes, you can. It should be sealed and remain unopened. Once frozen, milk will keep for approximately 3 to 6 months. When frozen, liquids expand. That means you should ensure the seal on the container is solid and won’t burst or leak over time.
Can I freeze eggs?
Yes, frozen eggs must have the shell removed (the shell will crack as the egg white and yolk expand) and they will keep for approximately 12 months. When ready to use them, allow them to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. It’s best to crack and separate each egg in a baking tin, then wrap with saran wrap before storing it in the freezer.
Can I freeze bread?
Yes. Bread should be kept well sealed, so it doesn’t suffer freezer burn or a loss in texture or taste. Frozen bread will keep for at least 3 months.
Self-Defense Preparations during a pandemic
This pandemic’s most likely scenario plays out with a treatment being identified in the coming weeks, and the all-too-oft-mentioned “curve” of infections being flattened for good. However, history and scientific data say most clinical trials fail. That could mean this virus remains a wide-spread, infectious disease.
Many experts are discussing the possibility that the virus becomes a cyclical recurrence, abating in the summer largely because of quarantines and social distancing, only to return with a vengeance in winter.
Having a second wave of crippling infections occur in winter means greater risks of food shortages. With the damage already done to the economy, the second wave will be worse for the American populace. Unemployment rates have already ballooned with 6.6 million jobless claims as of April 1st, 2020. Injecting trillions of dollars into the markets and Americans’ wallets cannot be cyclical.
Folks will be more widely unemployed as this virus continues its warpath. Many will be unable to keep heat in their homes and food in their fridges. That means a higher rate of theft, burglary, displacement, homelessness, and potential violent crime.
Appropriate self-defense preparations are critical. A record-breaking 2.5 million guns were sold in March, according to the NRA. This idea of prepping for the defense of your home, family, and supplies is quickly becoming a widespread belief of necessity.
We’ve written a guide to key self-defense weapons to have on hand, as well as a handy guide describing various firearm practice drills you can perform at home without using any ammo.
Lastly, we recommend you read up on how to prepare for civil unrest and martial law. If there is any one situation (barring a massive natural disaster like Yellowstone erupting) that could create such an environment in America, it is a once-in-a-lifetime viral pandemic.
This article has been written by Travis Olander for Prepper’s Will.
About the Author:
Travis Olander is a writer, prepper, military veteran, and outdoorsman. He contributes to Prepper’s Will and the greater prepper community while running a gun range and shooting gear website – rangeoften.com – in his spare time.