What To Do If You Run Out Of Food Or Medication During A Coronavirus Quarantine

by Kaitlyn Wylde
A young woman is opening the door of her fridge

In what has become the biggest lockdown in human history according to The New York Times, millions of people are at home without a rulebook explaining exactly how to get what you need during a coronavirus quarantine. Whether you're voluntarily practicing social distancing to protect your health, or under quarantine because you could be infected, you still need to function. But how do you do that when you're not supposed to go anywhere or touch anything outside your quarantine zone?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), staying in your house amid the coronavirus outbreak, as well as avoiding all public areas and transportation, are key. And while the CDC might clearly outline the do's and the don't's when you're sick — do wash your hands regularly, do use a separate bathroom if you can, do call ahead before visiting the ER, don't share food, don't interact with others, don't leave the house — it doesn't exactly explain how to get food, how to get medication, how to deal with deliveries, and what to do if you need help in general.

How To Get Food During A Coronavirus Quarantine

If you're showing symptoms:

Dr. Terry Gordon, Ph.D, a Professor of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, says there's a fine line between ethics and health care logistics during these complicated times. "If you are quarantined at home because you might be sick or mildly sick, it would be highly unethical and improper to go to the grocery store, even taking the precaution of using a mask and gloves," he tells Bustle. Instead, opt for a delivery service like Shipt, Instacart Kroger, or Walmart. These services allow you to pay online with a credit card, so you don't need to exchange cash with a delivery worker.

Note that if you're going to have something delivered, Dr. Gordon says the items must be pre-paid and left on the doorstep — there should be absolutely no interaction, and that includes signing a bill or being handed the delivery. Instacart has a contact-free delivery option. And if you're ordering from a service that doesn't allow you to suggest that option, you can leave a note with your phone number, explaining that you would like the delivery left at the door.

According to Dr. Gordon, no one outside your quarantine zone should set foot in your home or make contact with you unless they're a trained health care professional bringing absolutely essential goods. Even if you have family members or friends helping you out, make sure they leave the supplies at the door. You don't want to risk getting anyone sick.

If you're not showing symptoms:

Try to avoid going into crowded public spaces, like the grocery store, unless you legitimately need something and delivery isn't an option. If you do have to make a grocery trip, stock up on non-perishables, but do not hoard them. In an interview with The Kitchn, Nutritionist Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN suggests getting enough food to last for two weeks at a time. That way, you're not taking supplies from people who need them most, or buying more than what you can eat before it expires.

Dr. Steven Gundry, MD, founder of the International Heart & Lung Institute, suggests also buying immune-boosting and nourishing items, like leafy greens, garlic, citrus, and green tea. While you're at the grocery store, make sure to practice CDC guidelines like keeping six feet between you and other shoppers, covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching your face.

How To Get Medication During A Coronavirus Quarantine

If you're showing symptoms:

According to America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), because a national emergency has been declared, many insurance companies are waiving their limits on 30-day supplies of prescriptions in lieu of extended 90-day supplies instead. If you are sick, get in touch with the doctor who prescribed you the medication, and put in a request for a three-month supply. If it's approved, call your local pharmacy to see what their delivery options are and let them know that you are sick and would like a no-contact delivery.

Prescription delivery services like ScriptDrop (an Ohio-based start up) are now offering expanded national, same-day deliveries to help patients get their medications during quarantine. To get your prescription delivered via ScriptDrop, make sure it's filled at your pharmacy and paid for over the phone via credit card. Then, just text DELIVER to 727478 and you'll receive a text back that will give you instructions for how to set up your delivery. ScriptDrop will find a local courier who will pick up your prescription for $8 (which you will pay online) and leave the delivery at your door. Walgreens, CVS and other chain pharmacies also offer delivery services which can be paid for over the phone for a contact free delivery process.

If you're not showing symptoms:

According to both experts, there's no reason to stockpile your prescriptions if you are not sick. If you absolutely have to go out and buy medicine, whether it's prescription or over-the-counter, come prepared with a list so that you don't have to make frequent trips. Use extra caution when going to the pharmacy to pick up your supplies, avoid touching surfaces or handling cash, and use hand sanitizer when you leave.

How To Get Pet Food & Supplies During A Coronavirus Quarantine

If you're showing symptoms:

Heather Loenser, D.V.M., Senior Veterinary Officer at the American Animal Hospital Association tells The New York Times that pet owners in quarantine should be prepared with pet supplies for "a couple of weeks." Order food and toys from your local pet shop, when possible, and if you're pet needs medications or special supplies, you can order them online and have them delivered via Chewy Pharmacy, PetCareRx, 1800PetMeds, or your vet's office. Make sure to include your phone number in your delivery form, so that when your package arrives, you can personally instruct the delivery person to leave it at your doorstep, as there should be zero contact.

To be clear, the CDC says, "there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19." Still, it's ideal if someone else can take care of your pet while you're sick. If that's not an option, though, the CDC recommends wearing a mask around your pet, keeping a distance, and washing your hands after and before interacting with your pet.

According to Dr. Gundry, if your pet runs into an emergency, call your vet, let them know that you're sick, and see if they are able to help arrange for your pet to be seen safely.

If you're not showing symptoms:

Pets will offer great support to many people who are self-isolating, but Dr. Gundry warns that while you might find yourself with the time to take your pet to a park, you should avoid anywhere that could be crowded. Instead, walk your dog outside and spend time together inside. And if you need to buy pet food or medicine, the same rules for grocery shopping apply.

Can You Go Outside During A Coronavirus Quarantine?

If you're showing symptoms:

Both Dr. Gundry, Dr. Gordon, and the CDC explicitly state that if you are sick, you need to stay in your home. The only exception is if you need to leave for medical treatments. Do not go into public outdoor spaces like parks, shared yards, or even balconies. The WHO warns that “poorly ventilated buildings affect air quality and can contribute to the spread of disease,” and suggests that leaving windows open is OK.

If you're not showing symptoms:

Dr. Gundry tells Bustle that getting fresh air right now is healthy, as long as you're staying at least six feet away from people. So spend some time outside, exercising and enjoying nature, but avoid public places or parks if they're too populated.

How To Deal With Packages During A Coronavirus Quarantine

Though researchers believe the coronavirus can live on hard surfaces for up to two or even three days, the WHO says "the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is low." Still, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that the coronavirus could live on cardboard for up to 24 hours, so it can't hurt to wipe down your package before bringing into your home.


Dr. Terry Gordon, Ph.D, professor of environmental medicine at NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Steven Gundry, MD, founder of the International Heart & Lung Institute.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here.