How to stay prepared during the pandemic: CBC's Marketplace cheat sheet

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A woman walks downtown in Toronto on Friday. Many people are using masks to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but health officials like Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious disease expert, say that isn't necessary. (CBC)

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How to be prepared for the coronavirus

It's all anyone is talking about these days: How to stay safe and prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, there's no reason to panic. Many of us are still heading into work, taking public transportation and going about our normal lives. 

But Marketplace has been looking into what you need to know about minimizing your risk and how to stay prepared in the event you have to self-isolate or go into quarantine.

David Common spoke to Dr. Susy Hota, the medical director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto.

Tips for staying safe, limiting the spread 

1. The most important thing is to keep washing your hands

  • Shy away from handshakes and be sure to clean your hands after touching things like door handles and door knobs.   

2. Keep using public transit, but stay vigilant 

  • Hota says she still uses public transit to get to work every day, but there are precautions she recommends.
  • For one, she says to try and avoid touching anything you can, especially things like the poles on subway cars, handrails and walls. 
  • "These surfaces end up being touched by so many people. They're heavily contaminated," she said.
  • If you do need to hold a handrail or hang on to a subway pole, go ahead, but try and avoid touching your face, and wash your hands as soon as you can.

3. You don't need to wear a mask 

  • "We don't really have any evidence to show that wearing a mask in public spaces is going to protect you," said Hota. Just try and stay about two metres away from other passengers if they are coughing or sneezing, if at all possible, she said.

4. Don't go to the hospital unless it's an emergency

  • The majority of people who get COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms and do not need to go to the emergency department. If you're experiencing mild symptoms, call your primary health-care provider, like a family doctor instead.

5. Practise social distancing

  • Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam says one way to help limit the spread of the virus is by practising social distancing.
  • "This means avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings, considering shopping or taking public transport in off-peak hours and greeting one another with a wave or elbow instead of a handshake, kiss or hug. Where possible, increase social distancing with others to two arms' length, approximately two metres," said Tam.

What supplies should you stock up on?

Many Canadians are wondering what supplies we might need to keep on hand in the event of having to self-isolate for 14 days or a mandate to increase social distancing.

Marketplace's Makda Ghebreslassie spoke with Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health, and an emergency preparedness expert who volunteers with the American Red Cross.

1. Non-perishable goods are your friend

  • Things like granola bars, canned meats and vegetables, beans, lentils, chickpeas and rice are all solid bets when stocking your pantry.
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits are easy to keep as well.

2. Cleaning supplies are a must

  • Disinfectant wipes, bleaches, soaps — all of these things can work to kill the virus. 
  • Vodka and vinegar, unfortunately, do not work as disinfectants.

3. If you're sick, find a buddy

  • A friend or family member can drop food and essential items outside your door, minimizing contact.
  • "That way you can actually make sure that things are delivered to you but you're also not putting the other person at risk," said Sinha.

4. Try to have two weeks' worth of supplies

  • Items like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are already running out at many stores, and Sinha recommends only stocking up on items that will last you for as long as the recommended isolation period of 14 days.

5. Health Canada says stock up on essentials but avoid 'panic buying'

  • "It is easier on the supply chain if people gradually build up their household stores instead of making large-scale purchases all at once," according to Health Canada.

What else you need to know

How to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis
If you need to self-isolate, CBC News has you covered.

What does it mean to call something a pandemic?
WHO defines a pandemic as the consistent spread around the world of a new disease to which the population has not yet gained immunity. The definition does not take into account the severity of illness — just how common it is now.

Is the coronavirus ravaging your investment portfolio?
Financial experts predict the recovery could take a year or more, and there may be more rough times ahead.                 

Canada won't be wiped out of toilet paper, says leading manufacturer

The latest in recalls

This week on Marketplace

Are you prepared for the pandemic? With David Common, Makda Ghebreslassie and Asha Tomlinson

We've got lots more on what you need to know to be prepared for the coronovirus on this week's show.

It's a special edition of Marketplace, and our hosts are taking to the streets, the grocery store and the subway to bring you the latest on COVID-19. 

Watch this week's episode and catch up on past episodes of Marketplace anytime on CBC Gem.

We want to hear from you

Are you in quarantine or self-isolation? We want to know what your employer or health authorities told you. Email us at