COVID-19: Safety Starts With You

COVID-19: Safety Starts With You

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Whether you’re heading back to the office or just heading out for dinner with friends, it’s normal to worry about exposure to the COVID-19 virus. As more people venture out, you’ll need to think about what you can do to stay safe.

It’s a good call to wear a face covering and stay a safe distance from others. But until a vaccine or treatment is found, the best way to prevent catching COVID-19 is to limit the number of people you come in contact with. That includes things others have touched, even if you haven’t directly crossed paths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given restaurants, stores and other public places guidance on how to sanitize for COVID-19 to keep their customers safe. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do more to make sure you are safe.

Here are some tips from the CDC on taking safety into your own hands: 

When Dining Out

Dining out comes with some risks right now. Getting food to-go or delivered is still the safest way to enjoy “going out” for food. If you prefer dining out, there are some things you can do to make it safer.

Call ahead or ask before you order. Do the cooks preparing your food wear face coverings? Do they wear gloves and change them between orders or wash their hands often? Are the dishes and cups sanitized after washing? What precautions are servers taking? All of these are good things to know when deciding if you want to eat there. They may have this information posted where you enter or order. If not, feel free to ask. Or better yet, call ahead.

Wipe it down. While the table may be cleaned between customers, you can’t be sure it was sanitized, too. That means it needs to be sprayed or wiped with a disinfectant that has at least 70 percent alcohol or strong bleach water, then let to air dry a few minutes before touching it. You’ll want to see for yourself that the table was both cleaned and sanitized.

You can also take disinfectant wipes with you, just to be sure. You can find easy-to-carry pouches, or you can grab some to put into a sandwich bag. Be sure to wipe the table top and the sides where you might touch. If the seat is wood, vinyl or metal, you can wipe down parts you may touch, too. And be sure to let it air dry before touching.

For young children, you can buy stick-on plastic placemats for the table when you go out to eat. Paper placemats for kids may be provided. Both may lessen the chance of their food coming in contact with the table.

Opt for disposable. Many cafés and restaurants are using paper or plastic plates, cups and cutlery. Restaurants should have steps in place to make sure the dishes and utensils are clean and sanitized and linens are washed. Still, you may like the option of using the disposable serving pieces that are used for to-go orders. You can also ask for a paper cup or bottled drink rather than using a reusable cup.

If you do use their utensils, you can wipe them with disinfectant before use. Just remember to let them air dry before using them.

Avoid commonly shared items. Menus, salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles and other condiments you might find on a table before COVID-19 may be gone. In their place, you may get them in packets that are normally used for to-go orders. If they are on the table, ask your server for packets of the condiments instead of using the table top items. These types of items are hard to sanitize and are often overlooked when the area is being cleaned.

Going in Stores

It’s normal to want to get back to your usual shopping routines. There are some things you can do that may protect you.

Wear a face covering. If there is ever a time to cover your mouth and nose, it is when going into a store. Displays are often close together, there is a lot of foot traffic, and merchandise is touched often.

Take hand sanitizer. Many stores are putting out hand sanitizer at the door or checkout counter. Just in case it isn’t available, invest in a travel size hand sanitizer and clean your hands before going in. Let your hands air dry.

Look, don’t touch. Half the fun of shopping is looking at what’s on the shelf or rack. Normally, you might like to pick up items to look at, grab the tag to check the price, or move things around to get to the item you want. But all those things bring you in contact with surfaces that others may have touched. Try to limit what you touch to items you know you want to buy.

Skip the pitstop. Try to avoid using public toilets, water fountains, ATM machines or other shared conveniences that are high-touch. If it can’t be avoided, use sanitizer wipes on anything you touch, like door handles, light switches, toilets and sinks, and keypads.

Out and About

Want to enjoy time with friends and family? There are plenty of things you can do that are safer than what you might normally do.

Take it outside. While it is safe for you and your family to stay indoors, gathering with people from outside your household are best held outdoors. When you have friends and family over, consider hosting the party outside. Make sure there is plenty of room for guests to spread out. Use disposable eating items. Offer cans or bottles rather than pour-yourself drinks. And skip the hugs and handshakes for now.

Enjoy outdoor events. Many events that were postponed are back on. Those that were being held indoors may have moved to an outside venue. Or they may be limiting the number of people who attend. Both allow safety concerns to be addressed better. Check the website or call ahead to find out what safety measures are in place. Avoid events that draw large crowds. More people in a small space mean more chances of getting the virus, even if it’s outside. And wear a face covering for any event you attend where you’ll be in close contact with others.

Downsize trips. For most families, now is the time to take a trip. This year, think about going somewhere closer to home that doesn’t put you around a lot of people. Rent a house on a nearby lake. Go camping where you can hike and fish. Visit parks that limit the number of people allowed in and have prevention steps in place. If possible, buy any tickets you need online to avoid standing in line and handling payment by hand. If a trip to a destination farther away was already planned, take extra precautions in airports and cabs.

Most businesses are doing everything they can to prevent the spread of the virus among their customers and employees. But only you can decide what makes you feel safe. So don’t be afraid to do what you need to do to protect yourself.

Sources: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Communities, Schools, Workplaces, and Events, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020; How to lower your coronavirus risk while eating out: Advice from an infectious disease expert, leaving site icon CNN Travel, 2020; Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting, leaving site icon U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2020; COVID-19: Tips for going out again, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020