How I Upgraded My COVID-19 Protection

The Philippines is stuck in the world’s longest lockdown. I envy my friends from Taiwan, New Zealand, and Australia as their kids are back in school and grownups are slowly returning to their normal lives, while the Philippines has not flattened the curve since the start of quarantine in March.

How do we prevent the likelihood of catching the coronavirus while stuck in confusing levels of quarantine? I recently shared this status update on Facebook:

Hilarious comments ensued, making me realize I’m not the only one who’s turned into Sheldon in the time of COVID. Here’s how I upped my sanitation game to protect me and my family in the Philippines.

1. Use a quality face mask.

I can’t emphasize this enough: Single-layer cloth masks (also known as pitta masks) will only protect you from dust and pollen, but not viruses. Whenever I hear stories of people who contracted the virus despite wearing a mask, I immediately wonder: What type of mask were they wearing in public? Did they wear it properly? I understand that any mask is better than no mask, but when buying/making a reusable mask, your best bet is a snug-fit, two-layer mask with an option to insert an extra filter. Read my mask guide here.

How to Choose a Reusable Face Mask

CM FIT has cool face mask designs for only ₱30-60 each.

2. Add a face shield.

I initially purchased bucket hats with plastic face shields for my family and employees, but it made us sweat buckets under tropical weather. Those hats are only comfortable to use in cold climate or air-conditioned places. I switched to washable face shields with better ventilation. I have a plain version, and just for the heck of it, a Kylo Ren one. I use a face shield when I have face-to-face meetings and I’m running errands in a crowded place.

The original Star Wars shields started in a toy store in New York, but in the Philippines you’ll find many Star Wars-inspired PPEs in Shopee and other online shops for an average price of ₱500. Most stores sell only Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, but I found a sticker artist in Cavite, Chewy V., who said yes to my Kylo Ren request. He can do whatever design you want for ₱150-200 each.

Upping my sanitation game with my Kylo Ren face shield. Yes, I Photoshopped myself (terribly) into that Star Wars wallpaper. Get your free Star Wars Zoom backgrounds here.

3. Use a shoe disinfectant mat

With varying reports about how the coronavirus stays on surfaces, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Aside from daily cleaning, I added a new routine: disinfect your shoes or slippers before entering the house. Many online shops now sell disinfectant mats, but read the reviews before buying. Some disinfectant mats are cheap because the plastic tray is wonky and easily breaks. Here’s one I’ve personally tested: Dr. Solemat. It’s sturdy and wide.

Dr. Solemat is ₱999 per set and includes a non-skid coil mat, plastic tray, and a gallon of disinfectant solution.

4. Sanitize pets safely.

Keep your pets away from sanitation mats and disinfectants with bleach that could harm your dog’s paws, skin, and respiratory tract. I have a strict “Do not touch my dogs!” rule with strangers under quarantine. After taking my dogs out for a walk (in a secret spot away from humanity), I wipe them from top to tail, especially the paws, with baby wipes before entering my house. I also lightly spritz 70% isopropyl alcohol on the wipes before use. Suffering from pet owner anxiety? Read this report from NPR that said, “Despite the occasional media report of a dog diagnosed with COVID-19, there is no evidence that pets can contract or spread COVID-19.”

Businesses are closing and people are losing jobs as the weeks go by. A lot of my friends have started sideline hustles, from baked goods to face masks. Check out these natural dog soap bars from my friend Irene’s online shop. In the time of COVID, please support small local businesses.

5. Master the art of handwashing.

While I carry multiple alcohol sprays with me, I’m more of a hand wash kind of gal—a minimum of 20 seconds before rinsing, and while singing a refrain from the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears.

6. Listen to medical experts.

No sweetie, crystals, MLM supplements, or vitamin IV drips will not make you immune to COVID-19. Steam inhalation or destroying 5G towers will not make the virus go away. After more than 100 days in Philippine quarantine, I’ve gotten tired of educating relatives who share fake and alarmist posts. The best I can do is post credible medical reports on social media and hope that people read beyond titles and captions.

7. Say no to reunions and meet-ups for now.

I cringe whenever Facebook friends from high-risk cities post photos of gatherings. Just because nobody in household A and household B got sick for the last 100 days, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for them to party in each other’s houses mask-free and with no social distancing—not while the curve is still rising. For all you know, you could be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19. And because we live in a country with extremely limited access to testing kits, you will never know.

I’m not going to visit my sister who lives in her condo just because I think I’m clean. I don’t want to risk giving her family the virus that I might be asymptomatically carrying or that I’ll catch in the elevator on the way to their condo unit. C’mon, sheeple, the pizza party can wait until 2021 (half-kidding!) or at least until we’ve flattened the curve in the PH. This applies to you, too, USA and Brazil!

Show Me Your Quarantine View

8. Have a COVID-19 emergency plan.

Even with all these precautions, many people in strict lockdowns have been reported to contract the virus. Do you have a contingency plan in case you or a loved one catches the virus? I live in a corrupt country with no mass testing, mediocre healthcare benefits, and ever-changing community guidelines. It’s best to have a plan A, B, and C.

List the top three nearest hospitals you trust to take care of you in case you contract COVID-19. What if all three hospitals are full? Do you have an advanced directive in case you get incapacitated? If your health insurance covers COVID, what is the cap amount? Where will you get the money to pay for medical expenses? How can your family communicate with you or the nurse in the COVID ward? If you have pets or children, who will take care of them when you’re in the hospital? Have a talk with your family about worst-case scenarios and backup plans.

Tell me, what’s the COVID-19 situation like in your town? Do you wear a mask with your nose dangling like a baby elephant’s trunk?