There’s a new virus that’s emerging, novel “coronavirus,” also called “COVID-19.” It first appeared in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019. Here’s a link to the WHO’s site for the latest global information. At this point, the virus has infected near 100,000 people in 81 countries.
There are hundreds of cases in the United States. Here’s the latest from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, there is no reason to panic. COVID-19 is another type of respiratory virus much like influenza. Seasonal flu occurs in the United States and around the world every year. While large numbers can sound scary, far more people have the seasonal flu every year in the United States. The CDC estimates that there have been between 32 million and 45 million flu cases in the U.S. this flu season, resulting in 18,000 to 46,000 deaths. This has been a relatively typical year.
While there’s no vaccine for coronavirus at present, the precautions to take to avoid coronavirus are the same precautions you should be taking already to prevent the transmission of seasonal flu, the cold, etc. Here’s a link to the CDC’s recommendations regarding prevention.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
“Protect yourself and your community from coronavirus with common-sense precautions: wash your hands, stay home when sick and listen to the [CDC] and local health authorities… Let’s stay calm, listen to the experts, and follow the science.” Barack Obama
Another thing that will allow you to rest easier is to make sure your basic estate planning is done. Of course, after you take these simple steps, then you can consider a more thorough consideration of your estate plan, like a trust or will, beneficiary designations, etc.
But everyone should have these three basic documents, regardless of their wealth or health:
- You should have a power of attorney for property. This would allow your agent to pay your bills and make other time-sensitive decisions during a period of your incapacity.
- You should have a healthcare power of attorney. This would allow your agent to make medical decisions for you (in consultation with your physicians) if you were unable to make those decisions for yourself.
- You should have a HIPAA power which authorizes those you designate to access your protected health information.
While this COVID-19 is new, coronaviruses and other respiratory viruses are not new. Taking simple precautions will allow you to sleep easier and help you avoid this current outbreak.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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