Joseph Pritchard on five ways to stay safe during the outbreak.
The more that’s known about the coronavirus and the spread of COVID-19, the clearer it is that all of us—young and old alike—need to be particularly vigilant in order to flatten the outbreak’s curve.
“The most important thing,” says Joseph Pritchard, the vice president of clinical operations for the Masonic Homes of California, remains the most simple: “Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and don’t touch your face.” (See more updates on COVID-19 from the Grand Lodge of California here; for a reminder on “hammering” down hand hygiene, see here.)
And yet those are only a few of the rules in this new world order.
We asked Pritchard to come up with a list of other ways people can do their part to avoid contracting or spreading the virus—and eventually stamp out the outbreak. He broke those down into a few key buckets.
1. Going out (only when absolutely necessary)
- Plan your trip: Be strategic and minimize the number of trips you take outside the house. Do errands all at once and only where you need to go. Try not to visit stores at peak hours (between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays), and consider shopping at stores that offer curbside delivery.
- Buy in bulk: Get supplies that will last you two weeks or more so you’re not making unnecessary trips to the grocery store. Have a list, but adjust based on what’s available, as many stores are experiencing shortages as people panic-buy. And try to buy items that can be stored safely—pantry staples go a long way right now.
- Clean up after yourself: Bring your own cleaning supplies with you and use approved disinfectants to wipe down everything you touch, particularly the grocery cart (not just the handle), the gas pump, ATM buttons, etc. If you don’t have wipes, a paper towel and a disinfectant spray should work. If you use reusable bags, clean them (wash and dry) between each trip.
- Keep your distance: Remember to keep a minimum of 6 feet between you and other people. Some stores are even marking 6-foot increments at cash register queues. Of course, absolutely DO NOT go out if you have any symptoms of illness, and DO NOT go out if you’re part of vulnerable population (over 65 years or with underlying health conditions). Ask your family and friends to help shop for you. And please, don’t touch anything unless you’re ready to buy it. Now’s not the time to test each piece of fruit!
- Wash, wash, wash: Remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water and soap before leaving for your outing, upon returning home, before and after unpacking groceries or any other packaging, and after you sneeze or cough. The CDC has other recommendations for hand-washing as well. Does it sound like a lot? Yes, but it’s the most effective way to kill the virus. So start washing!
2. Going to work (if necessary)
- Don’t stop: State and federal recommendations are to work from home if at all possible. However we know not everyone can do that, and many people hold “essential” roles that are exempted. If that is you, remember not to make extra stops between the house and work. If you need groceries or gas, get them after work, so you limit your exposure before entering a closed office or workspace.
- Stay clean: For the same reason, always wear newly washed clothes to the office. The coronavirus can live on certain surfaces for hours or days—even weeks (see more below). When you’re returning home from work, immediately change your clothes, leave your shoes near the front door, and take a shower. Wash your hands before going into work and after leaving, and if you feel ill, stay home!
3. Surface disinfection
- Target high-touch areas: In your home, office, and car, spot things you touch a lot—a doorknob, refrigerator, steering wheel—and clean them thoroughly with disinfectant. Wear gloves when disinfecting if possible—if you can’t or don’t, wash your hands after disinfecting.
- Virus lifespan: The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive for a long time on different surfaces. For example:
Steel: 72 hours (3 days). Examples: Hand holds on BART, handrails.
Plastic: 72 hours (3 days). Examples: Grocery Carts, plastic packaging.
Cardboard: 24 hours (1 day). Examples: Delivery Boxes, grocery boxes.
Glass: 96 hours (4 days). Examples: Door handles in grocery store, windows.
Copper: 4 hours. Examples: Bedrail handles for hospital beds, old swings.
Aerosol: 3 hours. Examples: Seen in some medical procedures.
4. Groceries and food delivery
- Be careful with packaging: There is currently no evidence that the virus has been transmitted through food products, but the packaging may be unsafe, or there may be other contaminants. It is best to be safe.
- Keep it outside: Don’t bring food inside if you can store it somewhere else until you need it. If you leave some foods in the garage, or other area for 3-4 days, then there is less chance it is contaminated. Keep your hands clean while disinfecting packaging, bottles, etc. Wash fruits and vegetables in soapy water for 20 seconds.
- For a practical video: Watch the YouTube video PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic – UPDATED!!!
5. A word on masks
- The official word: As of March 31, the CDC has not recommended that healthy people wear surgical or N-95 masks to prevent spread of the virus. However those directives may change.
- When to use a mask: Do wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 like cough or fever or if you are caring for someone experiencing symptoms. Healthcare providers should use a surgical mask if working with someone with respiratory problems, or an N-95 mask if performing a procedure that will generate respiratory droplets.
- Still wash up: Masks are just one tool among many, and they do not replace hand-washing and practicing other safety steps like not touching your face and practicing social distancing.
For more on the Masonic Homes and their response to COVID-19, visit here.