With Coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeping through countries across the world at an alarming rate, it can be difficult not to panic. As of 4/8/2020, there are over 1,000 confirmed positive cases of Coronavirus in Delaware County, PA alone and about 14,600 cases throughout Pennsylvania. Every day we’re hearing about more deaths, more jobs lost, and more severe social distancing protocols being implemented. Small businesses are being forced to close their doors either indefinitely or permanently. 41 states have issued stay-at-home orders in an effort to flatten the curve.
Two questions on everyone’s minds are: how do I avoid getting sick and getting others sick? Our five tips below will help you as you navigate this strange new territory.
1) Wash your hands
The best way you can avoid getting sick is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This may seem like an obvious tip, but a recent poll of more than 24,000 US adults revealed that about 40% of Americans don’t always wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Yikes! If you were a member of the demographic that doesn’t always wash their hands, hopefully you’ve changed your ways by now in light of the current situation.
There’s an exact science behind washing your hands correctly which the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) lays out on their website. Here’s when you should be washing your hands:
- After using the bathroom
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick with vomiting/diarrhea
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal food, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
If you don’t have access to soap and water in these situations, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol instead. Studies have shown that hand sanitizers with 60-95% alcohol are better at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration. However, if your hands are heavily soiled or greasy after gardening, handling food, or playing sports, hand sanitizers may not work very well regardless of the alcohol concentration. Washing your hands with soap and water is recommended in this scenario.
2) Wear a mask/face covering
The CDC recommends that you wear a protective cloth face mask any time that you are in a public place and social distancing protocols are difficult to maintain. These cloth masks are used to help slow the spread of coronavirus as many people who have the virus are asymptomatic and unknowingly spread it to others. Wearing a cloth mask can also help you to avoid getting sick as it blocks large particles that are ejected after someone sneezes or coughs. Cloth coverings can be made at home using items you already have, so don’t feel the need to purchase a mask online.
Cloth face coverings should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Have multiple layers of fabric
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Coverings should only be worn once between washes. Because of this, it’s a good idea to make a few cloth coverings for yourself so that you’re not constantly running them through the washer and dryer. Remember: even if you aren’t concerned about getting coronavirus yourself, there are high-risk individuals everywhere and their exposure to the virus could be fatal.
3) Practice social/physical distancing
Depending on your preferred terminology, social distancing and physical distancing encourage the same behavior. To practice social or physical distancing, the CDC recommends:
- Staying at least 6 feet from other people
- Not gathering in groups
- Staying out of crowded places
- Avoid mass gatherings
Social/physical distancing is essential in our efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus because it mainly spreads between people who are in close proximity of one another. If you’re within 6 feet of someone for a prolonged period of time that you do not live with, your risk of contracting or spreading the virus increases. COVID-19 can be spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks, and droplets fly from their nose or mouth to someone else’s. You can also contract coronavirus by touching a surface that has been exposed to the virus and then touching your face.
Staying in your house is the best way to avoid getting sick and stop the spread of the novel virus. However, if you do need to leave the house for essential travel such as going to the grocery store, ensure that you are maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others.
4) Clean and disinfect surfaces every day
Get into a routine of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home that are frequently touched by you or anyone that lives with you. Examples are: doorknobs, counter tops, light switches, handles, faucets, keyboards, etc. Before you start cleaning and disinfecting your home, make sure you are wearing disposable gloves to avoid contact with any germs that may be present.
To clean the area, start by using soap and water. Then, use a household disinfectant or diluted bleach solution if appropriate for the surface to kill as many germs as possible. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s website has a helpful list of disinfectants that can be used against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. For soft surfaces such as bed sheets and rugs, run them through the wash machine at the warmest temperature the material will allow.
5) Avoid touching your face and mouth
The CDC recommends that we avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands to avoid getting sick. This may seem straightforward, but people touch their faces several times an hour without even realizing it. One study was done in 2015 in the South of Wales wherein researchers monitored via video recording the face-touching behaviors of 26 students during a lecture. They found that these students averaged an alarming 23 face touches per hour with almost half of the touches involving contact with the mouth, nose, or eyes. How do we stop ourselves from doing something so often that we didn’t even realize we were doing?
If you’re wearing a cloth face covering in public as we discussed earlier, that pretty much eliminates the risk of touching your mouth and nose. When you’re at home and not wearing a mask, however, you can’t be expected to wash your hands every time you touch your face… that would be wasting a lot of soap and water, and it isn’t even necessary. You mainly need to be concerned about touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when you’ve just been out in public. After coming back from the grocery store, for example, wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get back to lower your chances of giving yourself coronavirus by absentmindedly scratching your nose.
Essentially, you just need to be mindful of what you’re doing. It’s almost impossible to stop touching your face altogether, but as long as you’re taking appropriate precautions and keeping your hands clean, this shouldn’t be an issue.