The Almost-Definitive Guide to Surviving COVID-19

You will learn what COVID-19 is, what to wear, where to go, and what tools to use. Updated and refined daily to make sure that you're prepared for anything.

Key Points

  • Avoid travel to the most affected countries like China, South Korea, Japan, and Italy.

  • Clean the surfaces you interact with using alcohol.

  • Social distancing is acceptable and encouraged in most affected regions.

  • Stock up on over-the-counter essentials using tools like Virus Engine.

  • Practice excellent hand hygiene.

  • Purchase useful personal protective equipment and disinfecting tools.

Table of Contents

  1. Origin - Where Did It Come From?

  2. Symptoms - How Will I Feel?

  3. Transmission - How Do I Catch It?

  4. Spread - Which Countries Are Affected?

  5. Hot Spots - Where Should I Avoid?

  6. Actionable Items - What Should I Do Now?

  7. Optional - How Do I Go Above & Beyond?

1. Origin

Where Did It Come From?

Before we begin, let's clear up some confusion around terminology. Coronavirus is simply the common name for Coronaviridae, a family of viruses characterized by their unique, crown-like morphology when viewed under an electron microscope that was first discovered in the 1960s.

"Coronavirus is not interchangeable with COVID-19." - Virus Engine

COVID-19 is one of the newest and possibly the most infamous member of this family. Other notable members include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which you may be familiar with. These strains have claimed the lives of 774 and 851, respectively.

"SARS set off a panic about global spread and contagion at a time when globalism and social contagion were issues simmering nervously in the West." - Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

First discovered in Wuhan, Hubei of China in December 2019, experts theorize that COVID-19 originates from a large seafood and animal market. There have been thousands more testing positive since without ever nearing these markets, suggesting person-to-person spread. On January 30, the CDC confirms person-to-person spread in the US.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today confirmed that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has spread between two people in the United States, representing the first instance of person-to-person spread with this new virus here." - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2. Symptoms

How Will I Feel?


Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can include fever, swollen tonsils, cough, body aches, fatigue, sinus congestion, and trouble breathing. The burden of these symptoms along with secondary pneumonia, bronchitis, or other existing medical conditions are what makes COVID-19 deadly.

3. Transmission

How Do I Catch It?

COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets - such as the mist we spray from our orifices when we sneeze. The virus in these droplets infect you by entering through your eyes, nose, or mouth. This method of transmission is identical to that of influenza, a virus that draws a lot of comparisons in the media.

Respiratory droplets is not the only way COVID-19 is transmitted. Fomites, surfaces that can be contaminated with viruses and act as a vehicle of transmission, play a big role in the spread of the disease. Being mindful and maintaining the conditions of nearby fomites is a key to minimizing risk of infection.

"Fomites become contaminated with virus by direct contact with body secretions or fluids, contact with soiled hands, contact with aerosolized virus (large droplet spread) generated via talking, sneezing, coughing, or vomiting, or contact with airborne virus that settles after disturbance of a contaminated fomite (i.e., shaking a contaminated blanket)" - Boone, Stephanie A, and Charles P Gerba.

Source: Centre for Food Security and Public Health

The most accessible and popular disinfectants during this outbreak are the alcohols. While it is unclear whether they work against COVID-19, it is proven that alcohols work against the influenza viruses.

"Ethyl alcohol (70%) is a powerful broad-spectrum germicide and is considered generally superior to isopropyl alcohol." - World Health Organization

4. Spread

Which Countries Are Affected?

Source: Here

It goes without saying that you should not travel unnecessarily to the top affected countries. This includes China, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and many others. Use heat maps such as the one above to track where the virus is.

5. Hot Spots

Where Should I Avoid?

Social Distancing - a strategy where you avoid crowded places - can and should be used, especially if you are in the aforementioned countries.

Where should I avoid going to minimize my chances of infection?

Public Transit

Though airplanes have gotten the most attention in the media, the true impact it has on individual transmission has not been proven. We know that up to 50% of cabin air is recirculated to improve fuel efficiency. Whether that is good or bad is still up for debate. If there is an increase in transmission, it could be from proximity rather than air quality.

“The air on planes is fairly clean, and probably better than in a day care center.” - Dr. Karl Neumann, a pediatric travel expert.

Other common modes of transportation like bus, train, and taxi should not be overlooked. Subways are especially known for being cramped during rush hour. These places are ideal for disease transmission as they are both crowded and filled with surfaces that people touch.

For example, the handles on a subway are touched by hundreds of people before they are wiped down. If one of these passengers is a COVID-19 carrier, then the rest are at major risk. Passengers are also inches from each other - sometimes in direct contact. A sneezer, cougher, or even a talker could create a viral cloud around them.


Fomites will be a recurring theme in this section. Some people like to touch things for the hell of it. When I’m in a clothing store, I touch all the clothes. I imagine makeup shops to be the worst considering all the people dipping their fingers into those palette boxes and then touching their face right after.

Public Washrooms

I feel like Captain Obvious, here. I've been in many unsanitary men's public washrooms. Every time I complain about it to my fiance, she tells me that the women’s is worse - how frightening. COVID-19 is transmitted from person-to-person via droplets of bodily fluids. The washroom is where we excrete the most fluids and is where we're closest to said fluids. Captain Obvious, out.


Restaurants are great if you're looking for COVID-19 to go. You are letting people you’ve never met before, touch something that you will ingest. It’s best to prepare your own food while COVID-19 is a concern.

Healthcare Facilities

Nosocomial infections, commonly known as hospital-acquired infections, are one of the leading concerns during an outbreak. Most hospitals are, respectfully, overcrowded by those you are avoiding. There are two types of hospital patients during this pandemic: those who have COVID-19 or those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. If you only have a mild illness (without suspicion that its from COVID-19), avoid going to the hospital or doctors office as you may be putting yourself and others at unnecessary risk.

Virus Engine will triage you based on your symptoms to give you an actionable recommendation (eg. Seek Medical Attention Immediately) and over-the-counter treatment options. Seeking the most appropriate level of healthcare is crucial because you do not want to prematurely deplete your community's healthcare resources.

"Do not go to the doctor's office if you only need a nasal spray." - Virus Engine

Your Neighbors

Being cognizant of your surroundings include the people around you. If you are in close contact with someone that’s been in the top 5 affected countries, you should be mindful of how they're feeling. This is a favor you’re doing for them, yourself, and everyone around you. You are at least helping them monitor for symptoms in an objective way.

Do not be racist. I've been accused of hoarding masks when I haven't purchased a single pack. This was in Toronto, a very multicultural city. I can only imagine how much worse it is in less tolerant regions.

6. Actionable Items

What Should I Do Now?

Create herd immunity by sharing this guide and other useful information about COVID-19.

Follow these five steps every time you wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Always wash your hands after you:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food

  • Before eating food

  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea

  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

  • After using the toilet

  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet

  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste

  • After handling pet food or pet treats

  • After touching garbage

Carry with you a 60%+ alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Conversely, stay home when you are sick.

Cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze with a handkerchief, tissue, or elbow.

If you are in a high risk country or community, consider social distancing.

Disinfect fomites when possible with alcohol.

Regarding masks, as per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

  • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).

Get the flu shot if it is still available. Although it does not cover COVID-19, it will minimize your chances of getting sick and having to make a trip to the doctor’s office.

Get the pneumonia vaccine to minimize your chances of complications if you do catch the flu or COVID-19.

Things to buy:

  • N95/FF3/N100 masks or surgical masks for stopping the spread of infection if you are sick and to discourage touching your face.

  • Disposable latex, nitrile, or rubber gloves for having a barrier from fomites.

  • Goggles or other protective eye wear to block out droplets.

  • Over-the counter medications recommended by Virus Engine, such as anti-diarrheal or nausea medications, analgesics, electrolytes, and nasal sprays.

7. Optional

How Do I Go Above & Beyond?

Consider having prescription medications on hand such as Tamiflu.

Thoroughly cook meats and eggs instead of eating medium rare steaks and runny eggs.

Avoid unprotected contact with wild and farm animals.

Purchase tyvec or hazmat suits for those in the top affected countries.

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Updated daily to make sure that you're prepared for anything.