DETROIT — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, elected leaders, public health officials and survivors who contracted the virus early are speaking up about what others can do to keep safe — and plan ahead.

When the pandemic hit in March, Lynus Parker, for instance, thought he was mostly safe and not at much risk for infection. At 57, he was young and fit, and he mostly worked from home.

But he ended up hospitalized for three months. Parker and his wife, Kirsten, are now telling their story in hopes of helping others.

Wearing a mask and washing your hands can prevent the spread of the virus. But you also should take steps in case you fall seriously ill.

More on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here’s what the experts urge:

Wear a mask. Despite initial messages that said cloth masks wouldn’t help, health officials now say they do. The CDC’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, has called face coverings “one of the most powerful weapons we have” to stop the virus.


Keep your distance. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, droplets are launched into the air. What’s a safe distance? Six feet, about two arm-lengths.

Wash your hands. It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose. The virus can live for days on some surfaces. Hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds helps.

Stay home. Follow state, local and territorial travel restrictions. Traveling increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Airports, bus stations, train stations and rest stops are places where the virus lingers on surfaces.

Gather important documents. Prepare a list of all the medications you take. Gather important records and paperwork: health records, financial records, and other documents someone you trust might need if you are hospitalized.

Set up automatic bill pay. You might be in the hospital for a while, and you can avoid hassles if you autopay your utilities, loans and other reoccurring expenses. Otherwise you may need to reconnect shut-offs or pay late fines.

Give advance directives. Write down your wishes for medical treatment. Prepare a living will and set up medical power of attorney. In an emergency, are there limits to the life-sustaining treatment you want? Who do you want to make decisions for you?

Have discussions with your family. It may be hard to think — and talk — about death. But the Parkers, who nearly faced it, said it helped that they had conversations in advance about it.

Hospitalization was difficult for both of them, but fortunately, they said, they already had discussed some questions, and those conversations were not something they had to try to have while ill.


©2020 Detroit Free Press