If you're not practicing these practical tips for grocery shopping, opening doors and signing your name when you're out in public, now's a good time to start.
Even though you spend most of your day indoors while quarantined at home, chances are you still leave the house to run errands and get fresh air, setting you on a collision course with other people outside your household -- and a gathering of germs. You're all practicing social distancing and thoroughly washing your hands, and many of you might be wearing homemade face masks, but there are more precautions to take, too, as the US surpasses 320,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and there are over 1 million reported cases worldwide.
Remember, the highly contagious new strain of coronavirus can be passed along on by those who appear asymptomatic.
Here are smart, sound tips to follow when you do need to leave the house to run essential errands. And here's the current understanding of coronavirus when it comes to food delivery and mail, such as Amazon packages.
What's this about wearing face masks in public?
On Friday, the CDC reversed its position on who should and shouldn't wear face masks in public. Prior to this latest announcement, the CDC and other health experts maintained that there was no need for the general public to wear a face covering in public.
However, the rapid spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has caused the US authority on infectious disease to change course. The institute now recommends that people who reside in areas with high transmission rates, and those who are going to places where they can't maintain social distancing (e.g., six feet of space between you another person who isn't a household member) drape their nose and mouth with cloth or another type of breathable fabric, including face masks you make at home.
The CDC considers this a voluntary health measure, and a recommendation. While it isn't law, there is a strong grassroots movement that has circulated homemade face mask patterns and tips for weeks, for personal use and for donation to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
There's certainly nothing wrong with wearing a homemade face mask as long as you're also washing your hands and practicing social distancing, especially from high-risk groups like senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems. Just be aware that homemade face masks might be better at blocking large particles like sneezes and coughs, rather than the small particles that N95 respirator masks (reserved for health care workers) can block.
Moral of the story: If you feel well and don't have symptoms, wearing a homemade face mask in crowded public settings is recommended by the CDC. Most importantly, keep your distance and wash your hands.
If you're still pressing buttons for walk signs with your fingertips, stop. Any time you have to open a door, push a button, pull a lever or digitally sign for something, use a different body part instead. You have plenty.
For example, I'll often tap out a PIN code or make a selection on a digital screen with my knuckle instead of the pad of my finger. I'll push open a door with my shoulder, hip or foot instead of my hands.
You can usually flip on a light switch or sink faucet with your elbow or wrist, and you can wrap the sleeve of your sweater or jacket around the handle of any doors you have to physically pull open. It's easy enough to toss your clothing into the wash later rather than expose your skin now, especially if the chances you'll use your hands to touch food items is high (e.g., you're opening the door to a restaurant to oder takeout).
Distance, distance, distance
Did we mention distance? Social distancing can mean anything from hunkering down at home and refraining from seeing outside friends and family in person to keeping a boundary between you and others when you do go out.
The practice of keeping 6 feet away from those outside your home group extends to waiting in line at the grocery store, going on walks (you can momentarily walk in the bike lane if you're careful about looking out for street traffic) and picking up food to go.
Some states are enforcing social distancing in grocery stores and some businesses are doing that themselves. But if you need to keep more distance between you and someone else while on a walk or when reaching for an item at the store, take a step back and wait or politely ask the person to give you more clearance ("Oh, I'm trying to keep my distance from everyone.
Set aside your reusable tote bags
Increasingly, store policy excludes you from bringing outside tote bags and other bags into grocery stores -- or at least, using them in the bagging area. If you want to lessen your environmental impact, reuse the store's fresh bags at home.
The stores I shop at continue to make baskets and carts available, and only some offer sanitary wipes. Others have assigned gloved staff to wipe down carts and baskets for you with disinfectant, before you shop.
Regardless, it's a good idea to thoroughly wash your hands before you leave home to protect others, bring your own sanitary wipes if you have them and the store doesn't offer that option and be sure to wash your hands when you get home. Really, we can't stress that enough.
Don't sort through produce with your bare hands
At a time when face masks are increasingly common in stores and shoppers will give you the side eye for rummaging through lemons looking for the best one, here's a little advice: Don't poke the bear.
When sorting through food, use a glove or stick your hand inside a fresh, store-supplied bag and use the outside like a glove to pick up and inspect the garlic and bananas you want, so as not to touch every item with your bare hands. It'll make others feel more comfortable, and is just as likely to inspire them to follow suit.
Whatever you do, touching's off limits
Look, if they don't live in your household, don't touch. Most of us are observing this dictum by now, but on the off-chance you see a friend or family member, resist the urge to hug, tap elbows or get anywhere closer than 6 feet. Air huge if you have to. Blow a kiss (minus the actual exhalation). We have 13 clever and satisfying ways to safely greet someone that keeps you and loved ones safe.
Wash your hands every time you get 'home' -- seriously
Along with social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly is one of your best defenses against acquiring coronavirus. Give your hands a thorough scrub each time you get back. 20 seconds is the going recommendation, which may seem like ages, but if you wash slowly, it's easy to do.
I count five long seconds (one-one-thousand) of soaping each hand, in between the fingers and up to the wrists, then count another five seconds for washing each hand thoroughly to get the soap (and any dead germs) off. I often wash the soap dispenser pump and faucet handles, too.
That helps me feel safe enough to adjust my contacts, blow my nose and pick that nagging something or other out of my teeth in the comfort of my own space.
Stop handling cash
While it's believed that the highest risk of acquiring coronavirus comes from person-to-person transmission, we do know that shared surfaces can harbor the virus. Play it safe by setting the cash aside for now and relying more on contactless payments.
A large number of payment terminals accept Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and credit cards with the contactless logo on them. And remember, if a digital signature is required, you can use your knuckle instead of your index finger. For a physical signature, start packing your own pen.