The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has grown exponentially to over 1 Million cases in the United States. Initially, it was thought that the young evaded contracting the disease, however, we now have evidence of children developing a potentially fatal infection as a byproduct of COVID-19.
Most of the infection control practices below on how to protect yourself and your families remain unchanged. What has changed are the masks we wear daily when out of our homes, in public, when social distancing is not possible or less than 6’ distance occurs. As the restrictions ease masks and social distancing will be monitored closely and enacted until such time that it is deemed safe not to do so or a vaccine is developed.
Here are preventive measures that people are considering at the moment:
It works. Use it often. Make sure it is at least 60 percent alcohol-based. There are some “natural” products designed to be less drying to your hands. These do not work.
This is always important, especially now. Wash your hands for 20 seconds on a regular basis. It is a good rule of thumb to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while washing. Note that soap works ideally in combination with scrubbing and heat, but cold water works far better than nothing. You do not need antibacterial soap; the coronavirus is a virus, not a bacterium.
It’s not a clearly threatening practice, and physical touch has its own value to consider, as do gestures of respect. Under the circumstances, however, it is a good source of protection to greet someone with a friendly nod and a smile.
Being able to avoid touching your face is a nice idea and would be very effective, but no one is going to stop touching their face.
Here’s an unproven suggestion that transcends this particular outbreak: All businesses and public spaces should turn their bathrooms’ doors around, so you push on the way out rather than the way in. If building codes or other safety codes prohibit this, install a foot pull. If none of this is possible, at least put the trash can for paper towels outside the door so everyone can use a paper towel to touch the handle.
The crux of all the focus on handwashing is that you’re unlikely to get the virus from someone who coughs or sneezes directly into your face. You are much more likely to catch the virus by touching something that someone else touched after having coughed into their hand. This can partly be prevented by disinfecting surfaces.
The most commonly touched surfaces in homes and offices, especially shared spaces, are priority. Countertops, remote controls, and refrigerator handles should be disinfected regularly. That said, it’s very possible to become compulsive about this in ways that have their own risks. Any given surface is very unlikely to harbor a dangerous virus, so it’s possible to overdo this and waste a lot of time, resources, and concern. But if you’re the sort to typically only clean things that look visibly dirty, do consider the invisible.
This one warrants its own special note because phone screens may be the surfaces that we touch the most. Other, similar coronaviruses are known to live on glass for up to four days. If you’ve been touching your phone with viral hands, and then do a beautiful job washing your hands, and then touch your phone again―you may have just re-contaminated yourself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends cleaning your phone once a day.
Masks seem logical as preventive measures because the disease is spread by respiratory droplets, which can travel simply by breathing but mostly distribute in plumes from coughs or sneezes. If you were sick and had to leave home for some reason, you would ideally wear a surgical mask. But even this precaution is far from perfect—the wearable equivalent of sneezing into your elbow instead of right in someone’s face. You’re still infectious and should behave accordingly.
It’s always advisable to avoid travel if you’re sick. But no “stay at home” directive is sustainable for long periods, and urgent life events will overlap with this outbreak. So guidance about this will be targeted, and ideally informed by easy screening and testing that can advise people who have the sniffles whether they are fine to get on a plane or should urgently self-quarantine.
This is an extremely imperfect directive, as so many people’s jobs and other obligations make it impossible. But no single recommendation is perfect or universally applicable. And as Americans have proven, flu season after flu season, many workplaces are not accommodating enough of staying home. If workplaces are not accommodating, businesses may suffer even more in the long run if additional shutdown measures are taken.
No matter your position, there are people who stand to lose much more than you do if they get sick. No matter how worried you are, there are people who are more worried. Look out for them and help make sure everyone takes these basic measures and doesn’t panic. Societies break down when people fear one another as simply bipedal distributors of infectious agents. See people as allies in this unique moment of uncertainty.
Check the CDC website for up-to-date information, especially if traveling.