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Posts Tagged ‘coronavirus’

COVID-19: Weighing the Risks of Going Out

COVID-19 Risk Chart
COVID-19 Risk Chart

Since COVID-19  lock downs began in the US, most Americans have drastically changed their patterns: following instructions to stay home, limiting almost all contact with others, and venturing out only for essential trips and exercise. Americans are getting tired of staying inside. All states have re-opened at different levels. As states begin to ease social distancing restrictions, people are beginning to have more options. Between those wanting to patronize newly reopened businesses or socialize in person, and more employers calling people back to work.

The safest thing anyone can do in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak 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 is a vaccine or effective treatment, or until the pandemic otherwise ends. That especially applies to people who are sick, who should do all they can to avoid exposing others to the coronavirus.

But for many people, it’s really not clear which kinds of gatherings are safe and which aren’t. And that uncertainty can spark anxiety. Fortunately, health experts know more about the COVID-19 than they did when the lock downs began, and they can point us to different levels of risk as we begin to reengage. First and foremost, the advice that has been repeated for much of the past few months remains true: Your home is still the safest place to be during this pandemic. You should continue trying to stay home as much as possible, because the virus is still circulating at a very high rate in many communities. But whether you need to for work or you’re simply tired of looking at your home’s walls, there are ways to mitigate risk when you go out.

if you want to do something outside your home, it’s better to take advantage of the fresh air and do it outdoors rather than indoors when possible. If you want to meet with certain friends or family, consider a pact with them in which you’ll both agree to minimize or eliminate contact with anyone else, to reduce overall exposure for everyone involved.

The most important thing: Avoid indoor spaces that bring you within 6 feet of people from outside your household for long periods. “It is about density. It is about duration of contact,” according to Cyrus Shahpar, a director at Resolve to Save Lives. So if you’re having friends over, consider hanging out outside (and keep it to a small group). If you want to eat at a restaurant, look for outdoor seating. If you’re going for a run, go to the park, beach, or streets instead of the gym.

After some mixed messaging from federal officials early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, there is widespread consensus that people should wear masks when they go out — a surgical or medical mask if they have one, a cloth one if they don’t.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” But other experts — and, in some cases, government mandates — go further, saying you should wear a mask in just about any setting outside your home as long as the pandemic continues.

The primary reason for a mask is to stop transmission from the wearer to others, particularly from people who are infected but asymptomatic and therefore might not even know they’re infected. If you wear a mask, you’re less likely to spray virus-containing droplets on surfaces or other people when you breathe, talk, sing, laugh, sigh, snort, cough, sneeze, and whatever else you might do with your mouth and nose.

One of the common pieces of advice throughout this pandemic has been to keep 6 feet or more away from people you don’t live with, summarized by the catchy slogan “6 feet distance determines our existence.” The closer you are to someone, the likelier they are to shed their coronavirus all over you, and vice versa.

Whether you’re leaving your home because you have to for food or work, or you’re going out because you can’t stand the sight of your apartment anymore, one way to minimize risk is to space out all your trips.

With every venture outside, you are putting yourself at risk of contracting COVID-19 in a world that’s still engulfed by a pandemic.

ALWAYS wash your hands frequently, and don’t touch your face. If you’re going to frequently venture far outside your home, that advice is especially pertinent. Take hand sanitizer to use religiously and wear gloves whenever possible.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home Whenever Possible

How to Keep Your Home Virus-Free

Coronavirus Safety

Coronavirus Safety

For many people, staying safe from the new coronavirus means staying home. But infectious germs can live in your house, too.

Although the CDC has not found evidence of surface-to-person transmission to date (which is good news!), the virus may live on surfaces for hours to days, making regular cleaning and disinfecting a wise practice during this time.

To minimize the risk of getting sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking action to disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as countertops, doorknobs, cellphones and toilet flush handles, since some pathogens can live on surfaces for several hours.

Here are some other tips for staying safe at home:

The CDC recommends washing hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of approved disinfectants to kill coronavirus. For surface cleaning, look for products such as wipes, sprays and concentrates that say “disinfectant” on the label and include an EPA registration number. These are required to meet government specifications for safety and effectiveness.  For a homemade disinfectant, the CDC recommends mixing a quarter-cup of household chlorine bleach with one gallon of cool water.

After disinfecting food-prep surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops, rinse them with water before use.

For laundry, use detergent and bleach (for white loads) or peroxide or color-safe bleach (for colors) to kill germs. (Be sure to read clothing labels to avoid damaging garments.) To boost the effect, some washing machines have sanitize or steam settings that kill germs. Drying laundry on the dryer’s hot cycle for 45 minutes also is effective.

If possible, operate dishwashers on the sanitizing cycle. Machines certified by NSF International, formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation, must reach a final rinse temperature of 150 degrees and achieve a minimum 99.999% reduction of bacteria when operated on that cycle.

Household air purifiers and filters that advertise the ability to kill or capture viruses can be useful but shouldn’t be a substitute for cleaning. Some purifiers use ultraviolet light, which has been shown to have germicidal effects, but their overall effectiveness can vary depending on their design, according to a 2018 technical summary of residential air cleaners by the EPA. While some filters advertise the ability to capture things like viruses, smoke and common allergens, they don’t necessarily kill microorganisms

Upgrade Hand-Washing Stations

Stock up every sink in the house to make hand-washing easier and more sanitary with:

  • A bottle of liquid hand soap (anti-bacterial soap not needed)
  • Stacks of fresh hand towels and a hamper for dirty towels, or a roll of paper towels and a wastebasket
  • A container of sanitizing wipes for daily cleaning of faucets and counters

Use the Right Products — and Follow Instructions

When it comes to cleaning, regular soap and water is all you need. But for the second step of disinfecting, it’s important to be sure you’re using the right product. Already have rubbing alcohol or bleach in your cupboards? Either one will fight the COVID-19 virus. (A word of caution on using bleach to clean surfaces: It can discolor laminate and may damage the seal on granite and other stone countertops over time.)

  • If surfaces are dirty, remember to clean with soap and water first.
  • To prepare a bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaners.
  • If using rubbing alcohol,choose an alcohol solution containing at least 70% alcohol.
  • Check expiration dates. Do not use expired products, as they may not be effective against the COVID-19 virus.
  • Follow label instructions. Clorox has issued specific recommendations for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including leaving bleach solution on surfaces for five minutes.

Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

Cleaning and sanitizing the entire house would be overwhelming — and probably excessive. Instead, focus on the surfaces that get lots of contact throughout the day. These areas include doorknobs, light switches, tables, remote controls, handles, desks, toilets and sinks. And if you have kids or housemates who play video games, include those video game controllers.

Start a Just-Got-Home Routine

Put your belongings down in one spot, paying attention to what you carried with you throughout the day — likely suspects include your phone, key ring and sunglasses. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, then wipe personal items with an EPA-registered disinfecting wipe and leave to dry. When cleaning electronics, keep liquids away from openings, never submerge devices, and be especially gentle with touchscreens.

Help Kids Follow the Recommendations

If you have kids at home — especially if they’re not so keen on frequent hand-washing — consider one or more of these to make the ritual more fun:

  • Let your child pick out a fragrant hand soap or put hand soap in a colorful container.
  • Tape the verse of a silly song to the mirror so they can sing for the recommended 20 seconds.
  • For younger children, cue up a song to sing along to on your phone.
  • Be sure a sturdy stool is positioned by every sink in the house to make the soap and water accessible.

Do the Laundry, Wash Your Hands

If you have a cloth laundry hamper liner, toss it in the wash when you do the laundry. Wash laundry on the warmest setting your clothes and linens can handle, and avoid shaking dirty laundry, which can spread virus through the air. And when you’re done handling dirty clothes and towels, be sure to wash your hands.