Insights & Stories

Practical Tips for Staying Safe from COVID-19 as You Begin to Go Out More

Reading time: 4 Minutes

May 24th, 2020

While Hawaii hasn’t been untouched by COVID-19, our rate of new cases has been low compared to many other states throughout the pandemic, encouraging the state and county governments to loosen many of the shutdown restrictions.

But with reopening comes risk. While undue panic isn’t productive, it’s important to understand that our relative success so far has likely been due to social distancing and other precautions taken by a large percentage of our population. Moving forward, similar precautions should be kept in mind. Here are a few facts and tips to help guide you on staying safe in this new phase of our post-COVID-19-shutdown recovery.

Cover Up

Masks are now not just prudent—in many instances, they’re mandatory. That’s the case in Hawaii, at least, while visiting most businesses and indoor public spaces, or using public transportation. Simple cloth coverings are the Centers for Disease Control-recommended masks for individuals. (Surgical and N95 respirator masks should still be reserved for essential health care personnel.) The cloth mask is not, howevera replacement for social distancing, as it can’t entirely filter out virus-carrying particles or fluids. What a mask can do is help to slow the spread, and is designed to protect others from someone who may have the virus—and may not even know it! In other words: Good community members wear masks to protect their neighbors. (Note: Children under 2 should not be given cloth masks.)

Take it Slow

While many of the shutdown restrictions have eased, citizens should still limit their outings—and that’s going to mean some self-policing. Remember that the virus spreads easily from person to person, so, the more interaction you have with more people, the higher the risk to you and the community. While a grocery trip is technically considered “essential,” and coffee shops are now open for takeout, going to a crowded grocery store and the coffee shop every day misses the point. Patronize your favorite businesses, but do so selectively, and always keep in mind that you want to limit the total number of people you encounter, especially in large groups.

Space It Out

In a study done by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Laboratory of Virology, coronaviruses sprayed into the air were found to remain in the air for up to three hours. Social distancing, then, is key. Again, keep in mind facts like these about coronavirus spread as you follow the dos and don’ts of the state’s stay-at-home allowances. Swimming is considered O.K., but if the beach you’re at is packed with clumps of people every three feet, there’s a much higher risk than there might be in, say, a botanical garden that’s almost empty. Despite the fact that botanical gardens in general were considered higher risk and only opened recently, some popular beaches (like Kaimana Beach) can be much more densely packed. The larger the group—whether it’s a religious gathering, a family event or an exercise crew—the more it should be avoided.

Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect

Don’t overlook the classics we’ve been taught since elementary school: Cover your mouth. Clean household surfaces. Wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds each time). As you start to emerge into the world, consider the infection risks for each interaction: cardboard surfaces on takeout containers or credit cards, or face-to-face exchanges with shopkeepers. The more of these exchanges in the community, the more the risk of spread rises. Be vigilant and thoughtful of each. Perhaps that means discarding takeout containers and then washing your hands before touching your face or eating. Or limiting a shopping trip to one store at a time. Maybe it means bringing along alcohol wipes (with at least 60-percent alcohol) to wipe doorknobs, steering wheels, elevator buttons or other high-risk surfaces. (Remember that the virus can stay on some surfaces for up to three days!)

Don’t Dump Your Stock

All over the country, states are beginning to reopen. And yet CDC director Robert Redfield told The Washington Post that there is a possibility of a winter resurgence of the virus—one that may be even more devastating than the initial wave. The takeaway is to use this first stay-at-home order, which took most of us by surprise, as an instructive tool with which to prepare for the future. That pantry you got all stocked up in April? Maintain that essential food supply, and refresh as hard-to-find goods become available in the coming months, thus avoiding another panic-buying frenzy. Replenish your financial reserves. Ensure you have an emergency health plan and that you’re familiar with your local healthcare resources: What is the closest hospital emergency room to you? How does your insurance work? Do you have basic over-the-counter medicines stocked in your medicine cabinet to deal with coronavirus symptoms such as dry cough or fever? The time to plan is now.

Stay in the Know

The answer to many of our coronavirus questions about the future is, unfortunately: We just don’t know. New information is always being released, so stay up to date on the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. As new data and research emerges every day, new and more effective ways of protecting your family will be discovered. Together, we’ll get through this.

Disclaimer: The information and content provided herein are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment.

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