For the next two weeks and likely longer, steps are being taken throughout Montana to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus. Schools, government offices, and businesses have closed or reduced hours of operation. Meetings and events have been cancelled or limited in size of attendance. People are encouraged to minimize outside interaction (“social distancing”) as much as possible.
Agricultural operations are no different. While many are secluded, other people come to farms and ranches regularly, and we frequently travel off the farm or ranch. For example, essential services like milk pickup, livestock pickup and delivery as well as the shipping of commodities and delivery of agricultural inputs occur on a regular basis. We want to take all steps reasonably prudent to prevent agricultural producers from contracting or spreading the Coronavirus.
Currently there is no vaccine or medicine for Coronavirus. Once infected, an individual should quarantine themselves away from other individuals for 14 days and get rest and take fluids. Hopefully, like other flu illnesses, it will run its course by then. However, there are measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent obtaining the virus or spreading it once obtained. Although we are not experts on the spread of the virus below are some common sense practices recommended by the CDC.
- Clean your hands often. Routinely 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 available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands with the sanitizer and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact. Do not travel to town or gatherings, unless absolutely necessary. When possible, put distance between yourself and other people - 6 feet is recommended. Do not shake hands. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting sick, namely, older adults or people who have serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. Stay at home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash and regularly wash your handkerchief. Immediately wash or sanitize your hands.
- Clean and disinfect. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, keys, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Most common household disinfectants will work. Otherwise, use a diluted bleach or alcohol solution. If surfaces are dirty, clean them first with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
Now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to use safe practices.