Globally, 9.1 million people have contracted COVID-19. 474,000 have lost their lives fighting it. On June 21, the World Health Organization WHO reported 183,000 cases, the largest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases within the United States. Even if you’re tired of hearing about it, the virus continues to be dangerous.
It is hard to feel the gravity of these numbers when you’ve been isolated to your own bubble, causing fatigue when thinking about the virus. Though the safety measures needed now are the same from March or April, a refresher in how to be responsible during a pandemic never hurts. Well + Good compiled the six most important things to remember when leaving the house.
1. Wash your hands. And when you can’t, sanitize them
“We know that soap helps break down the viruses, because soap works by dissolving fats and lipids and so the viruses are surrounded in a lipid shell,” Russell Buhr, MD, PhD, a pulmonary and critical care physician at UCLA Medical Center, previously told Well+Good.
Although not as effective, hand sanitizers are the best alternative when not near a sink with soap. One important factor to remember— the sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective.
2. Wear a face mask and/or a face shield whenever you’re in public
“We’ve seen studies showing that a 10 to 30 percent increase in protection is available with a standard bandana cotton mask,” says Rand McClain, DO, chief medical officer of Live Cell Research. It’s not a whole lot, but it’s certainly better than 0%. If you want another layer of protection, add a face shield. Choose which of these options fits best for your life, then make sure to wear it whenever you leave the house.
3. Shop safely at the grocery store
Who knew grocery store trips would become such a big outing in our lives? In order to reduce risk when shopping, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Use a paper list instead of a list on your phone to prevent contact with the virus. Dispose of the paper when you’re done. You can also wipe down your cart or basket.
Social distance within the store, especially when checking out. Workers are taking on great risk by being there, so be respectful. “In order to get daily life going, essential workers have to be at the grocery store—but they’re seeing people all day long, just like health care workers. For them, the poison is in the dose. Those minimal amounts of contact from one customer to another add up over time,” says Dr. McClain.
4. Be smart about socializing
Though it gets hard, everyone needs to socialize responsibly. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones. While we all miss the parties we used to attend, things are different right now.
“I know people are frustrated, and I know it’s getting a little old having these really extreme precautions that we’re taking, but people need to realize that we’re still pretty early in this pandemic,” says Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “We know that only a very small proportion of the population, probably like around 5 maybe 10 percent, have actually gotten ill, which means 90 percent of people out there have not had this infection, and are therefore at risk. We also don’t even know if you have had it, what kind of immunity you have and whether you might still be able to get it again.”
If you are getting together with people, experts recommend having less than 10 people, gathering outdoors, wearing your masks, social distancing, and partaking in activities that don’t involve sharing. What does that leave? Consider going for a spaced-out walk or having a BYOB porch happy hour.
5. Be smart and respectful when you exercise outside
While experts still aren’t sure how high the risk of exercising outside is, Erin Bromage, PhD, an immunologist and professor of biology at Dartmouth, wrote a blog post earlier this year, citing research that found you would have to be in a jogger’s direct airstream for a full five minutes to contract the virus.
Still, better safe than sorry. “It’s best to go to isolated areas as opposed to a crowded park or other area, and I’d keep some type of face mask covering on even though it’s uncomfortable,” Purvi Parikh, MD, infectious disease immunologist and allergist with the Allergy and Asthma Network, told Well+Good.