Tips for Keeping Healthy as the Economy Re-Opens
As more states and cities continue gradual re-opening and allowing mandatory stay-at-home orders to expire, uncertainties remain for many of us. Is the coronavirus going away? How can I be sure it’s safe to go out in public? Should I wear a face mask? Is it okay to go to a restaurant or have friends come to the house?
While the gradual re-opening is certainly good news for the thousands of businesses that were forced to close as part of the effort to “flatten the curve,” a certain amount of caution is still appropriate as we begin to leave our homes more often.
First, it’s important to understand that the virus is not going away. Until we have proven, effective treatment for COVID-19, a reliable vaccine, or “herd immunity” (when enough people have been exposed to the virus and developed immunity so that the virus has a harder time finding new hosts), the novel coronavirus will be part of our daily lives. That means if you are part of a vulnerable population, you should continue to stay at home as much as possible and limit contact with persons outside your household. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the following groups as being at greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19:
Those age 65 and above
Those living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
Those with chronic lung or respiratory disease (including asthma);
Those with HIV or other immunocompromised conditions;
Those with liver or kidney disease;
Those with diabetes or who are severely obese;
Those with heart disease.
If you aren’t in any of those categories and you think it’s time to get out more, here are some helpful hints for things you can do to decrease your chances of contracting COVID-19 or unwittingly infecting others if you decide you’re ready to leave the house.
Don’t relax too much. Remember, the number of cases worldwide is still rising, not falling. In the U.S., while some states (like New York) are seeing a downward trend in hospitalizations and deaths from the virus, other areas are experiencing a plateau or even slight increases.
Wear a face mask. Remember that even if you feel fine, you could still be carrying the virus. In fact, as the CDC notes, some who test positive never experience any symptoms at all. The mask is more about protecting others than protecting yourself, but it will definitely impede the transmission of the virus when you’re out and about.
Shop for what you need, not for entertainment. It feels great to get out of the house for a bit, and making the occasional trip to the grocery or some other store can even improve your mental and emotional health. But now isn’t the time for a leisurely stroll down the aisles. Get what you need and leave. During the 1917–18 influenza epidemic, some public libraries posted signs that read, “Please get your books and hurry away.” That’s pretty good advice for right now.
Use your other body parts more and your fingers less. You can push buttons and make on-screen signatures with a knuckle instead of your fingertip; you can open a door after wrapping your hand in a sleeve or a coattail; you can flip a light switch with your wrist or an elbow. Anything you can do to avoid touching surfaces with your hands and fingers makes it less likely you’ll transmit the virus to your facial area.
Wash those hands. This is still the best protection from infecting yourself and others. Get in (or maintain) the habit of washing with soap every time you leave home and return. It’s also a good idea to wash before handling food or personal hygiene items (like a toothbrush).
Keep your distance. Many stores provide six-foot markers in areas like checkout lines—observe them. When you’re walking the dog or taking your morning jog, it’s easier to maintain your distance, but be mindful whenever you’re in public. In store aisles, wait for the person near you to move away before you go to pick up your item. Stay aware of your proximity to others when in public places.
It’s very important to get the American economy moving again, and we can all do our part by shopping, buying, and conducting business responsibly. Taking a few extra precautions will enable us to be more engaged and active while staying healthy at the same time.