Thanks to the infodemic, COVID-19 fatigue has become a very real (and very dangerous) reality. From inside the four walls of your home, it’s easy to forget that 9.1 million people have contracted the virus globally and over 474,000 have lost their lives fighting it. It doesn’t stop there, though. On June 21, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the largest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases in the United States: 183,000 in just 24 hours.
Given these devastating statistics, it’s pretty clear why COVID-19 safety measures are just important today as they were in March or April or May. Chances are, many of us now need a refresher on what it means to be a responsible, empathetic citizen in a time when a pandemic looms over the health of the entire country. Below, you’ll find the six most important things to remember the next time you step outside your front door.
1. Wash your hands. And when you can’t, sanitize them
Washing your hands is no small thing: “We know that soap helps break down the viruses, because soap works by dissolving fats and lipids and so the viruses are surrounded in a lipid shell,” Russell Buhr, MD, PhD, a pulmonary and critical care physician at UCLA Medical Center, previously told Well+Good.
When you don’t have access to a sink and a bar of soap, hand sanitizers are obviously the next-best option (although they aren’t quite as effective at ridding your palms and fingers of germs as good old soap and water). Just make sure you choose a formula that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Otherwise, the product won’t be worth the nine different grocery stores you have to visit to find a single bottle.
“We’ve seen studies showing that a 10 to 30 percent increase in protection is available with a standard bandana cotton mask,” says Rand McClain, DO, chief medical officer of Live Cell Research. Ten to 30 percent isn’t much—but it’s certainly better than nothing at all. Face shields, meanwhile, add an extra level of protection by giving the virus a more circuitous route both in and out of your body. So consider which option (or whether a combination) might be right for you. Then wear your option literally everywhere outside your doorstep.
For many people who are self-quarantining, trips to the grocery store are now the biggest outing of the week. The activity also happens to be a source of immense stress, though—so drilling down some safety measures before you grab a cart can be really useful. Using a paper list instead of your phone, for example, can decrease your chances of carrying the virus out of Trader Joe’s with you. And sanitizing your cart or basket can also give you a little piece of mind.
Something else to think consider, says Dr. McClain, is that the workers are putting their own health at great risk. So when you are checking out, do so with the utmost respect to the plexiglass separator between the two of you and keep your six-foot distance intact. “In order to get daily life going, essential workers have to be at the grocery store—but they’re seeing people all day long, just like health care workers. For them, the poison is in the dose. Those minimal amounts of contact from one customer to another add up over time,” says Dr. McClain. Be respectful.
We all miss the dinner parties, movie nights, and happy hours that (let’s face it) we all kind of took for granted back in January. Things are different now, though: You owe it to yourself and the people you love to socialize responsibly.
“I know people are frustrated, and I know it’s getting a little old having these really extreme precautions that we’re taking, but people need to realize that we’re still pretty early in this pandemic,” says Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “We know that only a very small proportion of the population, probably like around 5 maybe 10 percent, have actually gotten ill, which means 90 percent of people out there have not had this infection, and are therefore at risk. We also don’t even know if you have had it, what kind of immunity you have and whether you might still be able to get it again.”
That said, health experts recommend keeping your group size to less than 10 people, gathering in fresh air, wearing your masks, and skipping activities that revolve around sharing just about anything (particularly food and spit). Six-feet-apart walks and porch or balcony happy hours (where everyone brings their own refreshments) are good options.
The truth is, medical experts still aren’t sure how much of a risk outdoor exercise poses for you and those running, walking, and biking around you. However, Erin Bromage, PhD, an immunologist and professor of biology at Dartmouth, wrote a blog post earlier this year, citing research that found you would have to be in a jogger’s direct airstream for a full five minutes to contract the virus.
Still, “It’s best to go to isolated areas as opposed to a crowded park or other area, and I’d keep some type of face mask covering on even though it’s uncomfortable,” Purvi Parikh, MD, infectious disease immunologist and allergist with the Allergy and Asthma Network, told Well+Good. As with everything COVID-19-related, it’s better to be safe than sorry and sick.
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