How We’re Monitoring, and Preparing for, the Coronavirus

Julie H. Case

Disaster relief organization Team Rubicon monitors the COVID-19 epidemic and looks at how to protect against coronavirus transmission.

As a nimble disaster relief organization, Team Rubicon is constantly readying for responses to natural disasters or humanitarian crises. Increasingly, that has included medical service, as with our assistance with the Dengue Fever outbreak in the Marshall Islands in 2019. Currently, Team Rubicon is preparing to support against COVID-19, formerly known as the novel coronavirus, and assessing our capabilities to ensure we’re ready if our services are requested. 

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, we are monitoring the situation with the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other organizations, and are actively engaging with infectious disease experts, government agencies, and international organizations to improve our readiness. Fundamentally, we are working to ensure we’re positioned to consider opportunities to support responses to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, both within the US and around the world.

For our Greyshirts and Team Rubicon staff, responding to a health emergency, like a coronavirus, brings opportunities and, of course, risks. The safety of Greyshirts is paramount to the launch of any operation and will be a major planning factor should we launch operations against, or continue any operations within a background of, COVID-19. For now, here’s what we know about COVID-19, and how our TRibe, supporters, and the general public can protect themselves against it.  

What is the Coronavirus?

COVID-19, originally referred to as a novel coronavirus, is an airborne respiratory virus that was first detected in the Wuhan Province of China in late 2019, and officially identified in mid-January of 2020. As of February 27, COVID-19 has been detected in 38 countries, including the United States. 

Coronavirus symptoms, which can begin 2-14 days after exposure, are similar to the flu and include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Left untreated, or in people with compromised immunity, COVID-19 can progress into a coronavirus-infected pneumonia. 

How the Coronavirus is Spread

COVID-19 is transmitted from person-to-person, through airborne droplets. With such respiratory droplet transmission, an infection, like COVID-19, is transmitted over short distances by large droplets, and over longer distances by droplet nuclei generated by coughing and sneezing. Unlike some diseases, such as measles, the infectious agents of COVID-19 do not appear to be carried by dust suspended in the air.

Studies suggest that coronaviruses, including COVID-19, can live on surfaces for a few hours or up to nine days depending on conditions. It can also be cleared from surfaces with disinfectants. 

It is estimated that the number of people one individual infected with COVID-19—also known as a reproduction number, or R number—between 2.5 and 6.6. By comparison, the flu has an R number around 1.5, and measles has an R of 12-18, meaning one person infected with measles is estimated to spread it to 12 to 18 others. 

How Greyshirts Can Protect Against Coronavirus COVID-19

Multiple U.S. and international agencies have developed protocols for warding off COVID-19. Most rely on good hygiene.

Wash Hands Early, Wash Hands Often: The CDC, MayoClinic, and WHO all argue that simple hand washing is the best protection against COVID-19 infection. To protect against the coronavirus, flu, and even the common cold, follow the CDC’s practices for proper hand hygiene.

Keep Your Distance: Whenever possible, the WHO explains, stay 3 feet away from anyone coughing or sneezing. 

Keep Your Hands Out of Your Mouth: Avoid touching your face—and especially eyes, nose, and mouth. Because the coronavirus can also live on surfaces—like tool benches, sledgehammers, and subway poles—it can be transferred from hands touching those surfaces through mucous membranes and into the bloodstream. 


While the CDC still considers the risk posed by coronavirus low for the United States, it’s imperative we all understand the steps we can take to lessen the impacts on our families and communities.

Know that whenever and whatever Team Rubicon can do to serve those impacted by COVID-19, we’ll be—safely—there.


  • Reflection

    A Better Tomorrow

    A volunteer responding to tornadoes in Ohio gets a glimpse at the hidden value of the work Greyshirts do.

  • Preparedness

    How to Prepare Your Pets for Disaster

    From leashes for Fido to carriers for Kitty, here are our top disaster preparedness for pets tips to add to your emergency planning now.

  • Feature Story

    Serving World Health Means Innovating

    From Haiti to Ukraine, for World Health Day, we look at where we've delivered disaster relief and humanitarian aid over the past 14 years, and how far we have to go.

Read More Stories