As the number of coronavirus cases increase around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to profoundly reshape daily lives and habits. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve likely seen people in the U.S. and around the world “panic buying” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s critical to remember that being prepared doesn’t equate to stockpiling or hoarding.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to not panic or stockpile supplies. There are healthcare workers and sick people around the world who have a much higher need for supplies like face masks. A shortage could pose an even greater health risk to communities. Instead, it’s best to create a household plan, as recommended by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. With a household plan, you can prepare and anticipate what sort of items you’ll need in case anyone gets sick at home or there’s a disruption of daily activities in your community.
There’s a ton of information on how to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak in your community, and it can be overwhelming. We’ve compiled a list of what to do and buy while you’re quarantined at home.
Make a plan, scan your home
A COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time in your community, so a household plan can help protect your health and the health of those you care about, according to the CDC.
The CDC provides step-by-step guidance on how to establish a successful household plan, and recommends basing the details of your plan on the needs and daily routines of who you live with. Take a look around your home and scan your pantry, medicine cabinet and bathrooms to figure out what you already have, then write down what you’re missing.
Buy what you need for two weeks
If you’re in home quarantine, you should have at least two weeks’ worth of supplies and minimize trips to stores to avoid contact with others.
Both the CDC and U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommend buying enough household items, medications and food to last two weeks. It’s also a good idea to look into how to get food delivered.
“It’s important to note that food production suppliers and companies are not reporting any shortage of food supplies across the country — so while you shop, it’s not necessary to hoard food or other grocery store items,” Tamika Sims, PhD, director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, said in a blog post.
So, you’re probably wondering: What exactly should I buy during a COVID-19 pandemic?
Prioritize your grocery list
Prioritize non-perishables, frozen foods and canned vegetables on your grocery list the next time you make a trip to the supermarket. If you’d like to buy fresh produce, try to use that up first to minimize any food waste. You also have the option to freeze most fresh produce if you buy too much.
“Instead of going to the store several times a week, try to get enough groceries for one full week, buy more healthy shelf-stable items to avoid spoilage, and refrigerate foods properly,” Sims said.
Additionally, keep an eye out for foods with long shelf lives such as dried beans, rolled oats, pasta products, shelf stable milk and rice. These types of foods can usually sit in the pantry for several years.
While you can have a supply of bottled water in the house, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made it clear that “Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual.”
If you have pets or children in the home, pick up some extra food and supplies all at once to avoid making extra trips throughout the week.
Check toiletries and cleaning supplies
Across the internet, images of empty shelves and shopping carts full of supplies have led more and more people to panic buy. Toilet paper is one of several items that has become the latest coronavirus panic buy, but the reason why isn’t very clear. It’s natural to want to prepare for the worst, but don’t overstock basic toiletries.
Within the two-week limit, make sure you have enough toothpaste, floss, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It’s also good to have extra laundry detergent and hand soap at home.
Refill prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
Make sure you’re up to date on any prescription medications and have a supply of necessary over-the-counter medications. In light of COVID-19’s spread, CVS and Walgreens are offering free home delivery of prescription drugs. And some insurers, such as Aetna, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield have temporarily waived early refill limits on 30-day prescriptions.
The CDC advises patients to check with their pharmacists about the possibility of 30-day emergency refills and to keep a 7- to 10-day supply at home, while the American Red Cross recommends having at least a 30-day supply of any prescription medications at home.
Things you don’t need to buy
It’s easy to act out of fear during a frightening global situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, but panic buying and stockpiling doesn’t help the situation. Keep in mind that you can skip the hand sanitizer if you’re self-isolating (as long as you have hand soap), and that you don’t need to wear face masks if you’re healthy.
“The current recommendations regarding masks are that if you yourself are sick with fever and cough, you can wear a surgical mask to prevent transmission to other people,” Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, said in a blog post. “If you are healthy, there is not thought to be any additional benefit to wearing a mask yourself because the mask is not airtight and does not necessarily prevent breathing in of these viral particles, which are very tiny.”
As one last reminder, here’s a list of things you don’t need to buy right now:
- Face masks (unless you’re sick)
- More than a two-week supply of hand sanitizers or hand soap
- More than a two-week supply of food
- Dehydrated meals