Don’t let all the people flooding bars, restaurants and beaches trick you into believing that you can let your coronavirus guard down. “You shouldn’t think that because everyone else is starting to go out and mobilize that it is safe to do so,” Sharon Chekijian, MD MPH, a Yale Medicine emergency medicine physician and assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health. In fact, with coronavirus cases surging around the country and hospitals in some states hitting capacity, keeping yourself protected against COVID-19 has never been more crucial. The good news is, you don’t have to completely lock yourself up in your home and quarantine from the world in order to stay safe from the highly infectious and potentially deadly virus. If you take these five precautions before you leave the house, there’s a good chance you can not only remain virus-free but ensure the health of others as well.
Do a “Risk Assessment”
Before you think about leaving the house, Dr. Chekijian encourages you to do a risk assessment —basically analyzing the potential danger and determining whether it is worth it. Is it outdoors or in, who is going to be there, and have they been social distancing? “Your risk assessment should be dependent on your personal risk factors and the place you are considering going,” she explains. For example, if you are considering eating out, you have to consider the potential dangers. “We should all be limiting our exposure to crowded spaces especially when they are indoors. It’s getting tempting to go out, maybe even to visit your favorite restaurant but studies are showing that closed places like restaurants are some of the easiest places to pick up the virus. People have their masks off, they’re talking, and you run the risk of prolonged contact with many other diners.” If you must eat out, sitting outside would be the safer option.
Avoid Enclosed Spaces
Enclosed spaces like public transport, taxis, and elevators should still be avoided, points out Dr. Chekijian. “You may think because you are the only one in an elevator that it is safe but remember, aerosols in indoor spaces may be airborne for three hours,” she explains. And while you may be wearing a mask, if whoever was in there in the previous three hours, wasn’t, your health could be compromised. “If you want to know what that looks like, think about how the breath of a jogger looks when it’s cold outside. Those are the droplets that everyone is breathing out that we just can’t see,” she says.
Carefully Mask Up
Make sure your mask game is strong before stepping out of the house. “Be careful with your mask,” urges Dr. Chekijian. “You may be wearing a mask, but every time you put it on and off you risk contaminating yourself with your hands or with the outward-facing part of the mask.” Remember that frequent handwashing—especially before and after adjusting or taking off your mask—is important, as is washing your mask regularly.
Don’t Forget About Hand Hygiene
Some people are experiencing handwashing fatigue, which could have serious consequences. “Don’t give up on handwashing yet,” Dr. Chekijian instructs. “Even though public health authorities have downplayed the role that surfaces may have in the spread of COVID -19, we know for a fact that surface contamination, especially if you are prone to touching your face like we all are, is one of the common ways that many viruses including coronavirus can find their way to attack.”
Beware of Friends and Family
Last, but possibly most important of all, just because you are related to someone or they are one of your closest friends, it doesn’t give you a free pass to spend time with them in the eyes of coronavirus. “Everyone thinks that you are safe to interact with family members that you live with, but you have to think about where they’ve been and with who,” Dr. Chekijian points out. “Each person in your family can multiply the risk you face-especially if they have to leave the house to work or if they’ve been socializing.” She points out that this is often in issue with multigenerational families where teenagers or young adults are starting to see their friends. “Younger folks are the most likely to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. They may feel fine but be spreading the virus within their own household.”
As for yourself: Follow Dr. Chekijian’s checklist, monitor your health, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.