November Expenses

Life in Taipei has been a lot of fun but it can get expensive very fast if we're not careful...

Review of Christmasland in New Taipei City 2018

If you're a foreigner living in Asia, then Christmas can be a bit different. But there are festivities here...

The Cost of Moving to Taiwan: The First Month

How much does it cost to move a family overseas? One important question to consider when moving abroad is: How much will this international move cost?

How to compare cost of living between countries

Will I spend more money in Taiwan compared to my home country? Less money?

Toy bank - aka the Taipei City Parenting Resource Center

Those of you who are parents probably know that kids tire of toys very quickly. So the Taipei city government has this great resource for parents with kids ages 0-6 years old, the toy rental bank!

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Novel coronavirus: masks for the non-medical personnel

So it seems the great mask-wearing debate has come to a conclusion as the World Health Organization finally admitted that “We can certainly see circumstances on which the use of masks, both home-made and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease.”

So here's the tutorial from Hong Kong scientists for those who are looking to make their own masks:

Materials: paper towel roll, strong tissue paper, elastic bands, a hole punch, paper tape, scissors, plastic-coated steel wire, a pair of glasses, plastic file folders and binder clips.

For the mask:
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean your items
Put one piece of paper towel, with proper hygiene, on top of another
Place a piece of tissue paper, which will act as the bottom layer of the mask, on top of the two pieces of the paper towel
Cut the stack of paper into two
Use the paper tape to seal off the two sides of the mask
Make two holes at each sealed side with the punch
Attach the metallic wire with paper tape to the top edge of the mask to make the nose bridge wire
Tie four rubber bands through the holes on the mask’s sides

For the protective shield:
Cut the file folder into two pieces
Attach one piece on the edge of the glasses with binder clips
The shield can be reused after disinfection for each usage
Note: The hospital said other materials such as cling film, air conditioner filter paper, and cotton cloth were not suitable for making the masks.

Homemade face shield:
Materials: hard hat, plastic sheeting

The CDC came out with some patterns also and a recommendation to put coffee filter inside the mask:

If you can sew, here's a fancy version:

If you're wondering what types of cloth to use, ones with 180 counts, when you can't see the light when holding them up, like batik work better than cotton.

If you can't sew or can't find elastic or hair ties, a friend of mine has a solution with bandana and shoelace that only takes a minute:

Novel coronavirus: resources for health care personnel on the frontline

For those of you who are health care professionals on the frontlines, here are some resources I've found that may be helpful for you:

This is a handbook translated from Chinese to English from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine's affiliated hospital that managed to have 0 deaths and 0 nosocomial infections with 104 patients with confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 78 of those being severe or critical conditions:

Handbook of COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment

Medical Missions, a community of Christian health care professionals and organizations serving the world, has put together some great resources as well:

Let me know in the comments if you've discovered other great resources for health care personnel.

Novel coronavirus: Why such big deal over such a little Covid-19 virus?

As a stay at home mom who also happens to be a public health nurse with a Ph.D. I have been following the course of the coronavirus closely.

So it was sad to see when the U.S. finally realized the seriousness of the outbreak there were people who were still going out to parties and ignoring the importance of social distancing such as the now infamous college student on spring break:

There are people asking, what is the big deal if the virus affects mostly the elderly (over 65) or those with chronic conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc)?

In the greater scheme of things, there's a lot of fear over the virus. Compared to other pandemics in history, it's not ranked at the top for the number of deaths, see helpful infographics here that are constantly updated. 

Unfortunately, we live in an age of social media where people are seeing the numbers and hearing/watching the news in real-time. It's kind of like hearing about a case of a puppy being tortured and killed after the fact versus watching it die before your eyes thinking you could have done something to prevent it.   

What we tend to worry about in the health care system is overburdening the capacity of the system. (From studying this in my Ph.D. process, there's usually a major health care worker shortage most everywhere in the world.) 
So a person who would normally be able to recover from an illness with the care and equipment provided in a hospital might not be able to have access to that and would instead go meet their creator. 
This is what happened in Wuhan, China and why they deployed so many health care professionals and built hospitals to increase capacity:

Also, the virus seems to be very successful in transmitting between humans and wrecking damage in the lungs that don't seem to be controllable with antibiotics:

I like how this Johns Hopkins virologist describes them:
They break into your home, eat your food and use your furniture and have 10,000 babies. “And then they leave the place trashed,”

Having an overcapacity for health care systems is not a good place to be even with the low percentage of risk of death for those who are young and healthy, in the case, you get something other than the virus and need the hospital, you might not get access.
Which is why you have no doubt seen the "flatten the curve" graph, first proposed by the American CDC for the 2007 flu- page 3 here

I like the explanation of the spread of the disease from the visual capitalists that shows that the Covid-19 has a large R0, or spread factor than the flu (for covid-19, 1 person can spread it to 2.5 people and for the flu, 1 person spreads to 1.5 people) and a current higher mortality percentage (2-3% for covid-19 versus 0.5% for the flu). While thousands of people die every flu season, this could be a lot worse since we do not have vaccines or medications yet.

Novel coronavirus: what to do when you suspect you have covid 19

So an ounce of prevention outweighs a pound of cure. It is best to wash one's hands and not to touch one's face and have all kinds of prevention strategies. But in the case where there's just too much of the virus around and you suspect you've caught it, here's what I'd do.

Being a nurse, I'm usually way too paranoid so I'd actually check the differential symptoms with the common cold, flu, and allergies first.

But the American CDC has actually come out with an AI named Clara who'll help you to see if you need to be tested:

In Taiwan, there's a government hotline number you can call (1922) and they can help to decide if you need testing and where to get it done.

Most people without pre-existing conditions or younger than 65 who have mild symptoms can recover at home in isolation (American CDC). This is also not to overwhelm the hospital systems.

You would do the same things you'd do if you were sick at home with the cold/flu, except everyone who you live with will also have to do the same things and not go out. As parents, we're pretty used to our kids coming down with some sort of sickness and all of us having to stay at home. Although the past two times our son ended up in the hospital with pneumonia so we're extra nervous and even though Taiwan has not imposed lock-down, we've imposed self-quarantine for awhile now.

We don't check the mail, no one really mails anymore anyways. And our groceries are delivered to our apartment complex.

It's drinking a lot of fluids and sleeping it off like my husband and son are demonstrating here (when they didn't have any sickness).

However, if you suspect you or someone in your home has Covid-19 which is highly contagious, be sure to give the person with the suspected case their own separate sets of linens/towels, room, silverware, personal hygiene items, toys. But if you're the parents of a child who is not totally independent yet, try to have one designated parent who is healthy (or more healthy) to take the child and get them to rest, drink a lot and play in a designated area (their own personal fort/room that others aren't allowed to come in for two weeks).

For our son who was 3 when the coronavirus hit, we had to sit down and explain why everyone is out wearing masks and why he had to wash his hands and sing the alphabet song so many times. This cartoon PDF from United 4 Children may be helpful:

Novel coronavirus: when you have to self-quarantine with toddlers part 1

With most things with kids, it's hard to make a plan that goes exactly right but when you don't have a plan it's a disaster.

I know there's a ton of online educational sites offering free subscriptions right now but with little kids, I'd like to limit screen time unless I'm desperate (happens more often than I'd like to admit).

So, if you're looking at quarantine with toddlers here's what I've found to be helpful:

Arts & crafts:

I stocked up on about two rims of paper, colored pencils, crayons, markers, pencils, paint and paintbrushes at my local store. It's helpful to have a storage box to put everything in.

The result was this:

But the kids had a blast! Except I probably should have saved more newspapers and made them wear their aprons.

For the older kids, hundreds of museums all over the world have transformed their art into coloring pages so you could totally do an art lesson with this:

Then there's planting:

I got this kit from a monthly subscription magazine and apparently, everyone at one time in Taiwan schools has planted window plants of cabbage.

But did remember to put something down on the floor to catch the dirty since I let the kids put the dirt in. I'm the worst person to do plants so I hope it grows in two weeks according to the instructions.

But there's a ton of lesson plans for this out there:

I was going to try to do composting but realize this may need a year or worms that I have no idea how to get. So well see if I can figure out just doing fertilizer from organic materials at home. If anyone has good ideas. Post below.

Novel coronavirus: what we do to protect ourselves from the Covid 19

So there's a lot of information out there for things you can do to protect against the Covid-19. As a mom of a child whose immune system seems to be compromised (our son has been hospitalized twice for pneumonia before the coronavirus) we take some extra steps but here's a breakdown of what we do personally.

1. Wash hands - this is the most important one as your hands can transfer the virus from a contaminated surface when you touch your mouth, eyes, nose or any other open surfaces to get into the body. We wash our hands whenever we go out, before we eat, after playing with toys, sneezing, coughing etc. But you have to make sure to scrub all areas of the hands for at least 20 seconds, which is the ABC song. Also, be sure to dry the hands really well. I make my kids sing the ABC song and now my kids know their ABCs really well. I finally realize the tune of ABC is twinkle twinkle little star after singing it so many times.

2. Limit going out to once a day - we try to schedule our going out time to just once every day at non-peak hours such as around noontime on mass transit if we need to go anywhere further than our local park. Going anywhere crowded like the mass transit, we all wear masks.
My packing list for going out includes: alcohol-based hand sanitizers, sprays, and wipes as kids touch everything and there's not usually a bathroom nearby, tissues for drying hands or when I forget to pack gloves and need to open non-automatic doors, disposable gloves or a used pen for pressing elevator buttons, soap for when there are bathrooms but no soap, small plastic bags for trash as there are not very many trash bins here in Taiwan. Extra masks for if I'm not vigilante and the kids throw away their masks.

3. Hang out at non-crowded venues - it's easier to do social distancing at non-crowded places such as a hiking trail or a big park. It's next to impossible to try to keep little kids indoors all the time as the apartments here are small, so we're fortunate that there's a major park nearby within walking distance where we are able to go exercise and let out some energy. But those of you with bigger houses or yards shouldn't have a problem.

4. Take a bath when coming indoors - we've now made it a routine to take a bath whenever we get back inside from wherever we've been. We'll also wash our clothes with the hottest water we can find possible and use antimicrobial soap. We keep a stack of garbage bags near the door where we can deposit and bag things that have been outdoors to try to keep it from getting indoors. My husband and I will also make sure to wipe down our phones with alcohol wipes.

5. Order goods online - we've made sure that ordering online at the grocery store that deliveries work for us. Taiwanese apartments are rather small so there's not a lot of room for extra appliances like an extra freezer like we used to have in the U.S. But living in a city is convenient that you can order from major grocery stores to deliver and there are equivalent to Amazon here in Taiwan.

6. Have a stock of indoor materials on hand - for days that we might have to stay indoors to keep the kids entertained. I'll have to write another blog post on what I've found to be helpful.

Novel coronavirus: what I did or wish I did to prepare for covid19

Update: caveat, please do not stockpile these items , especially mask and gloves as those are needed by medical institutions. These are some of the things that I wish I had on hand as they were stock piled by others.
So it seems all we're hearing these days on the news is the Wuhan virus, here are some of the things that we've done and some things that I wish we did:

Things to buy:

  • Hand sanitizer with more than 60% alcohol content (my mother actually bought us some from America) alcohol rub is effective against the coronavirus by attacking the outer layer of the virus.
  • Hand soap: washing your hands for more than 20 seconds (the ABC song) is the most effective way, I had to scramble to find large containers of refill for our hand soaps as we were washing our hands so much.
  • Masks: (I did buy some as soon as I heard of it so we did have some) but only need it in close quarters or if you're immunodeficient like my son seems to be. Surgical grade mask is what Taiwan CDC says are effective so there's no need to do the N95 unless you have a situation like in Wuhan. 
  • Thermometer: our in-laws bought us an amazing thermometer that goes across the forehead before we left for Taiwan that pretty much earned itself a place on the top shelf in our small apartment and the title of the best gift ever as we had to check our temperatures every day. 
  • Wipes: there are wipes made with alcohol and we use those to wipe our phones down as the virus can live outside of the body for several hours and we use our phones so much. 
  • Saran or cling wrap: these are handy for wrapping up your phones in case you prefer spraying your phone with disinfectants or just exchanging the old ones for new ones when you get home.
  • Laundry detergent: along with hand soap, we were using so much detergent as we took off our clothes every time we went in and out. 
  • Toilet paper/Tissues: If you don't have enough masks, stick some tissues/toilet paper on the inside to re-use the mask became a thing here in Asia.
  • Cloths/towels: this is for if you can't find masks and need to make some of your own, also, I found that I had to wash a lot of hand towels since you really to dry your hands well after washing them. In Asia, people also started making cloth protective covers for their masks which I'm not too sure about yet. 
  • Lotion/coconut oil: our hands were getting cracked from washing them so much. Not something I thought of until it happened. 
  • Gloves: disposable ones for pressing elevators and opening doors as the virus can live outside the body.
  • 2 weeks supply of food: rice, flour, canned foods, frozen vegetables and fruits in case you have to be quarantined. 

Things to do:
Get plenty of fluids, sleep, and exercise. Your best protection and friend is your own immune system so make sure you treat yourself well.

I will continue to update this post as there are probably things I need to add.