After months of quarantine intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, parts of the country are starting to open back up. Warmer weather is drawing people outside and into larger social gatherings. And experts are watching nervously, to see if that will lead to a second wave of infections. “People are relaxing their guard as though the threat of infection has decreased, but when you look at the data, outside of New York, the number of cases continues to rise,” says Leann Poston, MD, a physician with Invigor Medical in New York.
It’s not definite that there will be a second wave of coronavirus, although experts say it’s likely, if not this summer, then in fall or winter, as people head back indoors and colds and flu spread. Here are the mistakes to avoid if you want to stay healthy.
You know, you know, you’re tired of hearing it—you’ve washed your epidermis off at this point. But the fact remains that touching surfaces, then your face, is a very efficient way to get sick, and handwashing (or using hand sanitizer) is key to reducing spread of the virus. Wash your hands thoroughly every time you come home from a public place; if you wear disposable gloves on errands, discard them before touching anything in your car. “Keep a bottle of antibacterial gel in your car, and wash your hands a lot,” advises Teri Dreher, RN, iRNPA, a registered nurse and board-certified patient advocate in Chicago. “Hands spread germs, and I do not see many people wearing gloves.”
“The biggest mistake we can make as we reopen the country is to relax social distancing,” says Kellee Randle, DO, FACOI, a board-certified internal medicine physician in Dallas. “As businesses open and people return to the workplace, we need to make smart choices. We must continue to limit non-essential exposures. While it is important to support local businesses, it is equally as important to limit person-to-person contact, which is the way this virus is spreading. We need to utilize curbside services and online shopping as much as possible.”
When it’s time to get this season’s flu shot, go for it. It won’t protect you from the coronavirus, but it can reduce your chance of getting the flu by up to 40%. This has several advantages: avoiding the flu will keep your immune system strong and make you less susceptible to contracting the coronavirus; you’ll be less likely to confuse symptoms of one for the other; and you’ll be less likely to use medical resources that may be limited during another coronavirus outbreak.
Not only do you want to weigh the risks and benefits of summer leisure travel, but it’s a good idea to evaluate how many of your everyday trips are truly necessary—do you have to go to the grocery store twice a week, or could it be once, or could you use a delivery service instead?
“Proper use of PPE [personal protective equipment] is very important; many good videos are online. The main consideration would be to learn to wear a mask properly and change masks and gloves after every use,” says Dreher. “I see people in grocery stores all the time with their nose above the mask. You are not just protecting yourself, you are protecting those at risk all around us. You may be a carrier before you know you have the virus, so please do not expose others.”
After weeks or months of Zooming, FaceTiming and texting, you’re jonesing to see friends and family again in-person. But to be safe, you might want to push that family reunion or big bash off to 2021. “Do not start having big family parties right after restrictions start to lift. This will likely cause a big upsurge” in infections, says Dreher. “If you are in a high-risk group, stay home as much as possible.”
“As information on the virus evolves, there is so much contradictory information available that some people feel overwhelmed with the data and may choose to ignore all precautions instead of logically sorting through them,” says Poston. “This virus is here for the long haul. We need to weigh risks versus benefits.” Stay up-to-date local and national guidelines, but to avoid burnout, limit your consumption of COVID-related news.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.