People are starting to leave their homes again. Here’s how to do that as safely as possible.
Laura Worcester,Jul 17, 2020 • 4 min read
Now that summer is in full swing and businesses are reopening from Covid-19, many of us are eager to get out of the house and reclaim a sense of normalcy. But public health experts warn that the pandemic is far from over—and that we must approach re-entry with caution. In the past few weeks, confirmed cases of Covid-19 have soared in the US South and Southwest and at least 25 states have paused or rolled back plans to reopen their economies.
Here, we break down the essential advice you need to know to stay healthy and safe this summer.
1. Assess your own risk
The safest thing anyone can do is still the same as it was a few months ago: Stay home as much as possible to avoid catching or spreading the virus until there’s a vaccine (and of course, practice social distancing and keep washing your hands). That especially applies to people who are sick, who should do all they can to avoid exposing others to the coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most recent list of underlying medical conditions that put someone at an increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 includes:
Chronic kidney disease
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Obesity (defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher)
Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
Sickle cell disease
Type 2 diabetes
A weakened immune system from an organ transplant
The CDC says the following health conditions might put someone at an increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19:
Moderate to severe asthma
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
Type 1 diabetes
Being in an immunocompromised state from things like blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, or the use of corticosteroids
We're learning that Covid-19 can affect anyone, but if you have an underlying health condition, take extra precautions to reduce your risk of infection. Eating right, physical activity, adequate rest, and taking care of your mental health not only improves overall health and wellness, but can make you more resilient.
2. Wear a face covering in public settings
We know that masking is essential to fighting the pandemic. Researchers from the University of California Berkeley found that if 80 percent of the population wore masks or face coverings consistently, Covid-19 transmission rates would decline 12-fold, a solution much more sustainable than a full physical and economic lockdown. Some retailers like Walmart, Kroger, Costco, CVS, Target, and Starbucks will soon require customers to wear masks while shopping. As a rule of thumb: Wear a mask or face covering whenever you mingle with people—at the grocery store, picking up takeout, using public transportation, or meeting up with a friend.
Note: Do not use a face mask meant for a healthcare worker. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.
3. Meet outdoors and travel locally
This summer, if you're itching to get out into the world, the American Lung Association recommends exploring a new, local neighborhood rather than venturing far from your home. Before you go, make sure that the rate of Covid-19 in that community is low or falling. To find out whether your state is meeting the testing criteria, go to your state health department website, or use this chart from Johns Hopkins University. The website Covid Act Now allows you to see positive test rates by county.
What about meeting up with family and friends? “Maintaining strong social ties is beneficial for mental health, so gathering safely is encouraged,” said Albert Rizzo, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “It's better to go for a socially distanced outdoor walk or picnic than to gather indoors.” If you're having people over to your home, keep the entertaining outside and the guest list small (10 people or less). You should stay six-feet apart and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking.
The same social distancing criteria apply when visiting pools and beaches. The CDC recommends maintaining a distance of six feet with others when swimming (there is no evidence that Covid-19 can spread through water activities). Avoid crowded pools, beaches, and play areas and wear a face covering when not in the water.
4. Clean, disinfect and repeat
Researchers have found that Covid-19 can live on surfaces such as cardboard for 24 hours, but up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel. So cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces is a step we should all take, even if we aren't leaving the house. Anytime items or people come in and out of your home, there is some possibility of exposure.
High-touch surfaces to clean and disinfect daily:
Hard dining chairs (seat, back, and arms)
Faucets and faucet knobs
Toilets (seat and handle)
TV remote controls
Cell phones, tablets, and computers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of disinfectants for use against the virus that causes COVID-19. These two Lysol products are the first to have been tested directly against the virus and proved effective.