As you head into the holidays this year, how do you plan to stay safe from coronavirus? How do you plan to celebrate safely?
In today’s world, everyone seems to spend every passing hour trying to stay safe from the virus. If you’re still brave enough to listen to the news every day, the number of people dying or getting infected is alarming.
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For a long time now, my twin sister and some of my friends are too scared to listen to the news. For many, the alarming rate at which many families have lost loved ones makes it so hard to turn the TV on at news time.
No one that I know of, including my 89-year-old uncle, admits to having witnessed anything so devastatingly catastrophic. And for many months, there’s been overwhelming helplessness as thousands of people lost their lives every single day in the USA alone.
Just before the Thanksgiving holidays in the US, there were warnings by the experts that people shouldn’t travel. Unfortunately, many did. That might have led to the new surge in higher numbers of new infections and more deaths.
One of my friends who invited her mom and other family members for Thanksgiving are now praying for their mother to survive the coronavirus infection she contracted after the Thanksgiving dinner. She is now in the hospital on a ventilator battling the coronavirus which she contracted while away from her home for the Thanksgiving weekend. What they hadn’t known was that her son-in-law had the virus on Thanksgiving day but didn’t realize it. He was diagnosed the following day.
My friend’s daughter had also flown in from Seattle for Thanksgiving, and she’s pregnant. She tested positive as well. This goes to show how infectious this virus is and how non-discriminatory it is.
New vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have just been approved and people have already started receiving them. It’s going to be a while before everyone has the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, we must all remain committed to staying safe from the coronavirus. As you celebrate the holidays, experts, doctors, and public health organizations continue to remind us of the following 25 steps to help you stay safe from coronavirus, to protect you and those around you.
The basics of staying safe from coronavirus
- Keep your hands clean.
Wherever you are, this should continue to be a priority. Keeping your hands clean and germ-free should remain the most basic self-help rule of thumb. Regular handwashing should be a part of your routine by now.
You should wash your hands before cooking a meal, after using the restroom, etc. Whenever you wash your hands, always lather with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
If there’s no soap and water readily available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. In the recent past, many sources of hand sanitizer had their products recalled because they contained less than the recommended 60% alcohol volume.
You should always read the labels before you purchase or use any hand sanitizers to ensure it conforms to having the right percentage of alcohol for optimal protection. Good quality hand sanitizers can be purchased from most pharmacies or from Amazon. If you’re traveling during the holidays or on-the-go from your house for work or errands, you should always carry a travel-size hand sanitizer. Leave some in your car too!
You must remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear a mask
As you already know, this can not be overemphasized these days. When you’re around anyone who’s not a member of your household, the CDC recommends that you wear a non-medical-grade mask. You should wear a mask whether you’re in public or not. Fabric masks and face coverings can now be readily purchased from almost every store or from Amazon.
- Social distancing – Staying 6 feet away from others.
This continues to be the CDC’s recommendation. Social distancing isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to help slow the transmission of COVID-19. Whether you’re at a grocery store, walking your dog at your local park, or at the airport boarding your next flight, you should always keep your distance from other people in public.
Close contact with others has been known to be the main mode of transmission and therefore spread of the virus. This usually occurs when respiratory droplets from an infected person’s mouth or nose land in the mouth or nose of someone nearby.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, are you able to stay six feet away from others? If you’re flying to your holiday destination, will you be able to stay six feet away at the ticket line, at the airport lobby, and while boarding your flight?
What happens while you’re inside the aircraft during your flight? Is it possible to sit six feet away from the next passenger on your flight?
These are all the questions you need to ask yourself before you take that next flight for your holiday trip.
- Rely only on trusted sources for information.
There have been myths and misinformation about the coronavirus, especially online in social media. You should never rely on information from sources other than trusted ones.
For up-to-date, evidence-based information, you should always rely on trusted websites like those maintained by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). Actually, the World Health Organization maintains an active COVID-19 “myth-busters” list. For example, remember that bleach and other disinfectants may be used to sanitize surfaces, but they should never be ingested or injected for COVID-19 treatment.
Staying safe while at home
If you’ve chosen not to travel for the holidays, you have made a wise decision. While you’re at home, you must adopt some rules and guidelines to keep yourself and your family safe.
- Limit gatherings in your home
If you’re entertaining families and friends, you should limit the gathering in your home. Take the party outside. As much as you can, host social gatherings outdoors, adhering to the same recommended 6-feet social distancing rules.
If it’s raining outside or other circumstances prevent you from being outdoors for your gathering and you have to be indoors, make sure the room where you are indoors is well ventilated. It’s important to remind all guests ahead of time that anyone who feels ill or who has been in contact with someone with COVID-19 should not attend.
- Sanitize high-touch surfaces
By now, you should have formed the habit of routinely cleaning “high-touch” surfaces in your home such as tables, doorknobs, toilets, chair hand rests, etc. Cleaning is particularly important after a caregiver, handyman, cleaning maid, family member or another guest has been inside your home. Remember, proper cleaning requires a wipe-down of a surface with soap and water before using a disinfectant.
- Social distancing for your pets
Because your pets are considered part of your household, you shouldn’t let them interact with people or pets outside of your household. They shouldn’t also interact with any family members of your family who become sick. Although the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from pets to people is thought to be insignificant, you should be aware that according to the CDC, a small number of pets have tested positive for the virus.
Stay Safe While Running Errands
- Safety at the gas tank
The CDC recommends that when you’re at the gas station to fill up your tank, you should use disinfecting wipes on gas pump handles and buttons before you touch them. Afterward, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for your hands. When you get home, wash your hands again.
As many others do, I personally use disposable gloves at the pump. When I’m done, I simply dispose of the gloves in the trash can usually by the pump, and drive away.
- Use online banking
Instead of visiting the local branch of your bank, consider creating an online bank account via your bank’s or credit union’s website or using their app. With an online account, you’ll be able to perform most day-to-day banking activities from your smartphone or computer. Activities such as checking account balances, making transfers, and paying your bills are easily done online from the comfort of your home.
- Make cash-free payments
When you make purchases, paying with cash requires handing off money to a cashier and possibly getting some change back. Because there’s no easy way to clean bills, you should consider making your payments with a card. You can safely swab your card with a disinfecting wipe.
You may also look into touchless payment options of payment. This lets you scan your card or smartphone to pay and there’s no swiping or keypad contact required.
- Use grocery alternatives
If you can, avoid in-person grocery shopping especially if you’re an older adult or someone with a high risk of COVID-19 complications. You should opt for alternatives to in-person grocery shopping.
These alternatives include delivery services, curbside pickup, or asking a family member or friend to shop on your behalf. If you need to shop in person, look for chains offering special opening hours for older customers.
Staying Safe At Social and Recreational Activities
- No handshakes or hugs
If you’re traveling for the holidays, remember that you should continue to avoid greetings and goodbyes that involve handshakes and hugs. I see some people exchanging elbow bumps as a way of greeting. Even something like an elbow bump means making contact with the other person and might not be appropriate in more formal settings like business meetings.
Remember, avoiding close contact is key to staying safe. You should device other means of greeting like a nod or clasping your hands together and putting them over your heart as you approach someone.
- Change to online activities
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most in-person hobbies have gone digital using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom. If you were previously part of a group or club that no longer meet in person, you should consider finding a virtual alternative. Ask your group leader about the possibility of moving meetings online if you’re not already doing so.
- Stop sharing
During a social outing, don’t share your towel, sunscreen, or other items that people would normally share when outdoors. This form of sharing used to be a sign of goodwill, not anymore. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, therefore such sharing is not advisable.
- Outdoors are better than in-home activities
Embrace the great outdoors during this time. It’s safer to hang out at the beach or a park than to gather inside someone’s home or at an indoor venue. Even if you’re at an outdoor activity or event, you should remember to keep your distance from others, and to wear a face-covering or mask when maintaining 6 feet of distance isn’t possible.
- Be smart when dining at restaurants
Some restaurants in certain states have returned to serving customers indoors or at outside tables. The CDC has recommended that you should opt for outdoor seating with 6 feet of space between the tables whenever possible.
If you’re not in the mood to cook, takeout and delivery are options available to you from many restaurants. Experts say the risk of contracting COVID-19 from food packaging or food is low.
Staying safe while traveling
Remember, the experts advise that we should all stay home for the holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic surges. If you must travel for the holidays or anytime during the pandemic, make a note of what you should consider before you leave home for your trip:
- Be aware of restrictions and mandates
You should be aware of prevailing advisories and conditions. If you’re traveling domestically, you may face restrictions like a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon entering certain states. Other forms of travel are discouraged by the CDC, including international travel and all cruises.
If you’ll be flying, get familiar with all applicable Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures before you leave for the airport.
- Be well informed before you book your hotel
Many hotels have adopted new sanitization procedures and other practices to help maintain health and safety, such as contactless check-ins. Condos and rentals homes are other popular options for travelers if you wish to avoid contact with staff or other guests and to cook your own meals.
- Make plans for “plan B”
Whatever your travel plans are, always have a “plan B”. You should have a backup plan in case you’re not able to access restrooms, restaurants, or trip activities as expected. You should plan for where to stop on our route for gas, food, and rest stops. You should also make arrangements ahead of time if want to visit places such as national parks.
Caring for your overall health and wellness
- Stay home if you’re ill
If you’re not feeling well, you should stay home. Whenever you develop symptoms such as a cough or fever, stay home. You should only leave your home to receive medical care.
If you’re planning to visit your doctor’s office, call ahead before heading out. According to CDC guidelines, if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should isolate yourself at home for 14 days after your exposure.
- Be familiar with office visit protocols
If you have an appointment with your primary care provider, you may be asked to wait in your car or outside the office until you’re called in for your appointment. Some clinics, laboratories, and even office buildings conduct a temperature check upon your arrival before they let you in.
- Consider telemedicine visits as an option
At this time, your primary care physician should be using telemedicine visits to diagnose and treat a variety of routine concerns and to monitor you if you have chronic conditions. Specialists such as dermatologists and mental health providers also offer telemedicine appointments.
- Know when to call 911
If you have a medical emergency, don’t put off medical treatment if you or a loved one is experiencing a medical crisis such as a stroke or heart attack. According to CDC guidelines, you should seek emergency treatment if you have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 and you’re experiencing warning signs such as trouble breathing or persistent chest pain.
- Reschedule nonurgent medical appointments
Even if you’re not traveling, you should consider rescheduling all non-urgent medical appointments. Some appointments can be safely delayed while others such as follow-up cancer screenings are important and should not be avoided despite the pandemic fears. Always get in touch with your doctor for help determining whether you should head in for an office visit or not.
- Use in-person pharmacy alternatives
If you have to pick up medication from the pharmacy, you should find in-person pharmacy alternatives. Instead of going to the pharmacy, you should consider the following options that are available to you:
- drive-through pharmacy windows
- curbside pickup
- mail-order pharmacies
- at-home delivery services.
Those are all alternatives to in-store visits. You may also ask your doctor about receiving a larger supply of your prescription medicine at one time if your health insurance will approve it. This means increasing from a 30- to a 90-day supply. This will reduce your visits to the pharmacy.