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Does that sound about right?

Yes, except that the puts need not expire worthless. The at the money option premium decays as the square root of the time to expiration. So if you are just trying to hedge your total holdings, buy a put that is at least 2x the time to the earnings report. Then you are wagering only with 25% of the premium. You will lose some for the price going up, of course, if the news is good, but will be able to recover a substantial portion of the premium by selling the put on the news.

Unfortunately, all I can do as far as options are concerned is sell covered calls.

That's odd. The normal rules in IRAs should allow you to buy either puts or calls. Buy-writes are a well known conservative investment strategy that IRA rules also allow. The usual problem is that a broker won't let you sell a cash-secured put even though it is the same (barring some fees) as a doing a buy-write. There are, however, several brokerages that will allow you to do this in an IRA account (possibly after satisfying some experience requirement).
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