We’re just about ready to return to normalcy, but is it safe? As businesses start to reopen, there’s one thing you need to remember: COVID-19 hasn’t magically gone away.
That doesn’t mean you should cancel that cross-country road trip, or refrain from going to that outdoor restaurant, but it does mean you should continue to take all the precautions necessary to stay healthy. Luckily, we’ve all had months of practice–we just have to tweak our methods a bit for social gatherings and other encounters as businesses and restaurants begin to reopen.
Thus far, this reopening includes hair salons, barbershops, dentist offices, some nonessential retailers, outdoor dining, and a few more. At the time of this post, there are over 8 million cases of coronavirus worldwide and over 2 million of those cases are in the United States of America. However, we’re seeing a spike in cases amidst the reopening of businesses all over the United States. Experts are predicting another spike in the number of coronavirus cases, and awareness and mindfulness should be top of mind.
There’s a caveat with reopening that with more contact, we might end up right back where we started. The CDC wants everyone to know that “In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” The number one thing to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus is to minimize exposure, which means staying in unless absolutely necessary.
But in the cases where you just need a break from your apartment (we hear you), here’s how to resume going out during COVID-19 safely:
- Wear a mask
By now, you should have a mask you can wear to protect yourself and others from contracting the virus. Even though things are reopening, you should still wear your mask unless you are eating or drinking. Since coronavirus is believed to be spread through the air, be sure that your mask fits snugly on your face. Gaps can introduce airborne contaminants to your airways.
Touching a surface that has COVID-19 on it and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes, could be another form of contracting the virus. Wearing a mask will keep you from touching your face, reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus from contaminated surfaces.
Yes, it’s going to be hot under that mask, but the far worse outcome is contracting and spreading the virus to others.
- Wash your hands thoroughly
You’re probably familiar with the 20-second rule when washing your hands, but here’s a refresher. Wash your hands for at least 20-seconds with soap and warm water. Be sure to get under your fingernails, and lather up to your wrists. 20-seconds is about the length of singing “Happy Birthday”, as a rule of thumb. Washing your hands thoroughly will prevent the spread of coronavirus as well as protecting you and the people you live with from contracting it.
If you’re about to head to a restaurant or picking up food, make a habit of washing your hands thoroughly before and after your meal.
- Sanitize regularly
As you start to go out more, sanitizing is more important than ever. The CDC recommends hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wearing a mask can prevent you from touching your face as you’re touching other surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and other high-touch surfaces, but get into the habit of also using hand sanitizer between touching public surfaces and belongings like your car door, steering wheel, cell phone, and other personal items. When you get the chance to, wash your hands thoroughly, but in the meantime, hand sanitizer is your best bet!
- Stay 6 feet away from others
Prolonged exposure near others will increase your risk of getting infected or infecting others. When you’re out, stay at least 6ft away from others. Coupled with wearing a mask, this will minimize the risk of getting infected, especially when having a conversation or in more crowded areas.
Keep this in mind when eating at newly reopened outdoor restaurants. These establishments should already be spaced according to this guideline, but you should ask a waiter or waitress if you suspect the spacing is too close. When you’re eating, drinking, and socializing without masks on, it is imperative that you keep this 6-foot rule.
- Stay home when safe
If you feel sick or are exhibiting any symptoms, stay home, and avoid going out until your symptoms subside.
- Socially distance outdoors
Studies show that well-ventilated areas are less likely to spread coronavirus than those that aren’t. Avoid gathering indoors altogether. But if you are gathering indoors, opening a few windows will help disperse any airborne contaminants. In addition, wear a mask and try to keep a distance between people that don’t live with you.
Luckily, gathering outdoors is so much nicer anyway. Wear a mask when you’re not eating or drinking and keep a 6ft distance from others. You should also bring your own utensils and reusable water bottles or drinking glasses instead of using your friends’.
- Use disinfectant wipes
When getting gas or going to an ATM, be sure to use a disinfectant wipe if available. If not, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after fueling up. When you get home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Additionally, when ordering takeout or getting food delivered, use disinfectant wipes on the outside of the bag or dispose of the bag it came in immediately. Then, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before eating or drinking.
- Precautions apply to pets too!
Although it may be tempting to, refrain from petting that super cute labradoodle you encounter at the park. Likewise, keep your pet on a short leash to prevent contact with strangers and other dogs. This can keep your pet and others safe. Although there isn’t sufficient evidence to say that the virus can’t be transmitted from pet to pet, it’s better to err on the side of caution–for your sake and theirs.
- Get tested
Coronavirus testing is becoming more readily available and accessible in certain areas. Some don’t even require insurance, citizenship documentation, and are completely free. Check your local area for more information. If you’ve been in a large crowd recently, or are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, find a testing center and get tested immediately.
In addition, there are also antibody testing available in certain areas. It’s believed that some people remain asymptomatic as their bodies can fight off the virus, but these people can still spread it. It can be reassuring to know if you’ve got these special antibodies, but it’s also good to get tested if you have the means, to be extra careful not to spread the virus to others.
- Keep your social circle small
Spending time with friends and family is a healthy way to cope with all the uncertainty going on in the world today, so it’s no surprise that people are eager to get back to their social lives. However, the more people you interact with, the higher the risk of getting infected or infecting others. Keep your in-person social circle small to minimize your level of risk.
- Assess your risk
Of course, it’s your choice whether or not you want to take the risk of exposure no matter what you’re going out for. Consider the three D’s when deciding whether or not to go out: diversity, distance, and duration.
Diversity refers to the number of households you’re interacting with outside of the people you live with. As stated previously, the wider your social net is, the more likely you could get infected. Pay special attention to whether or not the people you plan to interact with have been to any high-risk areas in the last 14 days. These can include large crowds, social gatherings with people from other households, doctor’s offices or hospitals, hair salons or barbershops, malls, and offices.
Distance pertains to the proximity of your interactions with others. Are you taking a bike ride with some friends that don’t live with you? Are you dining at an outdoor restaurant without adequate spacing between others? The rule of thumb is to stay at least 6ft apart from others, especially when people aren’t wearing masks. Whether that’s with the friends your dining with or people sitting or walking nearby, these are some things to consider.
Duration is in regards to the amount of time spent with others outside your household. The longer you spend with others, the more risk you have in contracting or spreading COVID-19. If you’re having an extended conversation with someone or browsing a store in close proximity to others, this risk might increase.
As we slowly transition back to normalcy, keep these tips in mind. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to stay home for the time being to stay safe.