After months of widespread business closures and shelter-in-place orders sweeping the nation, we’re finally seeing a slow return to the way things were before COVID-19. Even New York City has taken preliminary measures to reopen. Whether you’re thrilled by the news of reopenings or feeling more wary, it’s important that you continue to take special measures to protect your health – particularly if you belong to a population that is more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory illnesses.
Wear a Mask in Public
Cloth face masks slow the spread of coronavirus by preventing those who may have the virus, but no symptoms, from spreading it. Wearing a face mask contains your germs, keeping them away from others around you, so that when we all wear a face mask, we all protect each other. Countries that combined face masks with other protective measures early in the pandemic saw success in slowing the spread of the virus.
You can buy cloth face masks online or in-store for a relatively low price, or make your own at home. The CDC has provided instructions for DIY cloth face masks, both with and without sewing.
Avoid Large Gatherings
The more people at a social event, the higher the risk of COVID-19 transmission. While there’s no magic number to limit gathering sizes – it varies by state – North Carolina has recommended no more than 10 people gather indoors and no more than 25 outdoors during Phase 2 of reopening.
That doesn’t mean you should go to as many dinner parties of 10 people as you can. It’s probably best to start slow, especially if you are a senior or part of another vulnerable population. And when you do attend social gatherings, be sure to take additional protective measures like wearing a face mask and washing your hands often.
Wash Your Hands, Don’t Touch Your Face
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to wash your hands after touching surfaces in public, including doorknobs, handles, cash registers, ATMs, and gas pumps. If there isn’t a place to wash your hands nearby, use hand sanitizer instead.
The average person touches his or her face as much as 16 times per hour. The good news is, you can train yourself out of this habit. Simply setting an intention to not touch your face, or to only do so with freshly washed hands, is a great first step. If that’s not enough and you still catch yourself doing it, try placing reminders where you can’t miss them – for example, put a Post-it note on your desk, or set an automatic reminder on your phone.
Continue to Practice Social Distancing
Even as government leaders at the federal, state, and local level relax mandatory guidelines, it’s still wise to practice social distancing as much as you can. When you’re out shopping or dining, keep a distance of at least six feet from others. Avoid restaurants and retailers that appear to be ignoring state guidelines to limit customers to 50 percent capacity. If it looks too crowded, go somewhere else!
Try and plan small gatherings for the outdoors; the risk of coronavirus transmission is lower in the open air. With loved ones, opt for elbow taps and “footshakes” instead of hugging and kisses on the cheek. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue, to name just a few), do not travel outside of the home except to get tested or consult a medical professional.
Happy reopening. Stay safe, stay vigilant, and stay healthy!