Unless you’ve been boondocking deep in the woods for the last month, you’ve probably heard about the coronavirus, Covid-19, social distancing, and the stockpiling of toilet paper. If you’re feeling a little confused about what this all means for you as a nomad, today I will try to help you sort out fact from fiction and truth from fake news.
What is the novel coronavirus everyone is talking about? What is COVID-19?
In the HuffPost article “Here’s the Difference Between Coronavirus And COVID-19,” author Lindsay Holmes explains that the term “coronavirus”
refers to a group of viruses that are known to cause respiratory issues. So even though many are referring to the illness circling around right now as “coronavirus,” that’s not actually the name of the disease…
COVID-19 is what experts are calling this particular disease.
According to a Standford Health Care FAQ,
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
The same FAQ says,
the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses…named the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, shortened to SARS-CoV-2.
As the name indicates, the virus is related to the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, however it is not the same virus.
Am I at risk for catching COVID-19?
According to the University of Chicago Medicine article “COVID-19: What We Know So Far about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus” by Emily Landon, MD, an infectious disease specialist and hospital epidemiologist, the short answer is yes.
It doesn’t appear anyone is naturally immune to this particular virus, and there’s no reason to believe anybody has antibodies that would normally protect them.
Can my pet catch COVID-19 and transmit it to me?
According to the Healthline article “Don’t Fall for These 3 Myths About the New Coronavirus” written by Joni Sweet and fact-checked by Dana K. Cassell,
“You’re not going to get a dangerous human coronavirus from Fido,” said [Dr. Gregory] Poland [a virus expert and head of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic]. “It’s true that dogs, cats, and most species carry their own kinds of coronavirus, but those are not human pathogens.”
Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19? Is there a treatment for the disease?
The aforementioned Stanford Health Care FAQ says no.
Currently there is no vaccine or specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. However, there are vaccines and drugs currently under investigation. The National Institutes of Health has estimated that a large clinical trial for a vaccine may be available in 12-15 months.
How do I protect myself from COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers the following measures to protect yourself from COVID-19:
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Having trouble avoiding touching your face? Check out the Healthline article “You Probably Touch Your Face 16 Times an Hour: Here’s How to Stop” by George Citroner and fact-checked by Michael Crescione.
What is social distancing?
In the humorous yet informative Forbes article “What Is Social Distancing? Here Are 10 Ways To Keep The Coronavirus Away” author Bruce Y. Lee explains
Social distancing is a public health strategy attempting to prevent or slow the spread of an infectious pathogen like a virus. It includes any method to keep people as physically separate from each other because physical proximity is how many pathogens go from one body to another. This includes isolating people who are infected, quarantining people who may have been infected, and keeping people separate from each other in general.
Who is at greatest risk for contracting COVID-19?
In The Guardian article “Coronavirus: Who’s Most at Risk, What We Can Do and Will We See a Vaccine Soon?” Dr. Tom Wingfield of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine says
heart disease, followed by diabetes, hypertension – high blood pressure – chronic lung disease and finally some cancers were the main risk factors [for contracting COVID-19).
The more of these conditions you have, the greater the likelihood of severe disease that you face.
In addition, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services states
Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease and those with weakened immune systems seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.
Early data suggest older people [over 65 years of age] are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website lists the following symptoms of COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath
The website says the symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
The Healthline article “Everything You Should Know About the 2019 Coronavirus and COVID-19” (written by Tim Jewell and medically reviewed by Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP) elaborates that the cough gets more severe over time and the fever begins as low-grade and =gradually increases in temperature.
What should I do if I contract COVID-19?
The University of Chicago Medicine webpage “What Are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?” by Allison H. Bartlett, MD, MS gives the following suggestions for folks who are experiencing mild-to-medium symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, muscle and body aches, cough, and a sore throat:
…stay at home, self-isolate and rest.
Monitor your temperature and drink plenty of fluids. Continue to wash your hands frequently, disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home and stay away from other people as much as possible.
The hospital and emergency room should be used only by people who are concerned about life-threatening symptoms… If you’re just a little bit sick, the best thing you can do is self-isolate and try to keep the virus from spreading to others.
What should I do if my COVID-19 symptoms get worse?
On the “What Are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?” webpage mentioned above, the author says,
If your condition worsens after 5 days, reach out to your doctor — ideally through a remote way, such as calling or messaging— for advice.
Contact a doctor if you’re experiencing the following symptoms:
Shorness of breath
Constant or sever abdominal pain
Unable to keep food or liquids down
If any of these symptoms are severe, you should go to an emergency room. If you are over 60 and have other chronic medical problems, consider contacting an emergency room for less-severe symptoms.
Thanks for all the great information, but what particular challenges do nomads face in regards to the COVID-19 outbreak?
Right now, healthy people are being told to self-isolate and stay home as much as possible to help flatten the curve and help slow down the rate of the epidemic. People experiencing mild-to-medium symptoms of COVID-19 are being told to stay at home and rest. What’s a nomad without a permanent home base to do?
I suggest you find a place to hunker down and sit still for a while.
Perhaps you can find a free camping spot in a national forest to spend 14 days away from the rest of civilization. Of course, you will have to weigh the pros of being away from people with the cons of being away from medical attention should you get sick with COVID-19 or some other illness. If you’re generally in good health, you may feel more comfortable taking the risk of going deep into the woods. Maybe you can find a free camping spot not terribly far from a hospital or urgent care clinic. Perhaps hunkering down with a partner, traveling buddy, or members of a small caravan would be a good idea so folks can take care of each other and someone healthy could drive a sick person into civilization if necessary.
This may be a good time to splurge on a campground near a town if you can afford such a luxury. Just remember, you’re at the campground to isolate, so stay out of common areas and away from group activities as much as possible. Campendium has posted a list called “COVID-19 State by State Campground Closures & Responses” to help you decide where to go and what places to avoid.
If you can’t afford to stay at a campground and can’t or don’t want to trek out to the woods, continue blacktop boondocking, but stay away from other people as much as possible. Many hangout spots like libraries, museums, and senior centers have been closed across the country, but you can still hang out in your rig in parks and parking lots. I’ve heard of a Panera that was open but had removed half of its seating so people weren’t forced to sit so close together Maybe you can find a coffee shop with a similar setup where you are. (For maximum stealth, spend your days in a parking lot different from the one you will sleep in at night.)
Another problem a nomad might face is hand washing. Hand washing is all over the news. UNICEF, in the article “Everything You Need to Know about Washing Your Hands to Protect against Coronavirus (COVID-19)” says,
In the context of COVID-19 prevention, you should make sure to wash your hands at the following times:
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
After visiting a public space, including public transportation, markets and places of worship
After touching surfaces outside of the home including money
Before, during and after caring for a sick person
Before and after eating
That’s a lot of scrubbing up! What are you supposed to do if live in a rig without running water and a sink?
When I was a vandweller, I kept hand wash water in a Nalgeene bottle or a empty Dr. Bronners soap bottle. I found both of these bottles easier to use and less wasteful than pouring from a gallon jug. I often washed my hands outside, either in my camping spot or in parking lots, and just let the excess water hit the ground.
Worried because you don’t have hot water to use for washing? The aforementioned UNICEF article says,
you can use any temperature of water to wash your hands. Cold water and warm water are equally effective at killing germs and viruses – as long as you use soap!
If you don’t have soap, UNICEF says you can use hand sanitizer.
…alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills the coronavirus, but it does not kill all kinds of bacteria and viruses. For example, it is relatively ineffective against the norovirus and rotavirus.
Using…hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol [is] the best second option if you do not have soap and running water
If you are going to be stationary for a while and don’t have hand washing facilities inside your rig, you can set up a hand wash station outside. Put your soap and water in a location where it’s easily accessible and wash up throughout the day. Clip a clean cloth or paper towels nearby. UNICEF says drying your hands is important too.
Germs spread more easily from wet skin than from dry skin, so drying your hands completely is an important step. Paper towels or clean cloths are the most effective way to remove germs without spreading them to other surfaces.
My final advice for you is about what to do with yourself while you are practicing social isolation. For nomads who are introverts, this won’t be such a problem, because we prefer to be away from crowds. However, the extroverts among us thrive off interacting with others and will have to figure out how to amuse themselves until the pandemic passes.
Several of the suggestions in my post “What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?” are suitable for doing alone. If you have internet access, you can watch movies or television shows, often for free. Check out the following articles to help you get free entertainment: “The 9 Best Free Movie Apps to Watch Movies Online,” “How to Watch Movies Online for Free–Legally,”and “19 Best Free Movie Websites.” If you’re able to stream you can attend the Metropolitan Opera for free without leaving your rig. You can also take virtual tours of museums around the world via the internet. Finally, if you like to color and an access a printer, you can download free coloring books from 113 museums.
These are trying times, friends. I hope this information and my suggestions can help you stay healthy, keep others healthy, and maintain your sanity for the duration.
If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.
Blaize Sun is not a medical professional. She did her best to insure the information in this article was accurate at the time of publication. Things are changing fast right now, and it’s possible this information will be outdated by the time you read it. As always, please look at this blog post as a starting point for your own research. Also, please seek medical attention if you need it. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.