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It's likely that you're stuck inside right now, owing to efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus that's impacted every aspect of our lives. But the remarkable thing about recommendations to prevent its spread is that they're not far removed in principle from what we should do every winter during cold and flu season. So while the scale of the response is much larger, the ways you can assist in this public health effort are ones that you're already familiar with!
This is common knowledge, but not many people follow it. Did you know that people infected with this illness, as well as many others, may be able to infect others beginning day one - before symptoms even develop? That means you are able to spread these illnesses to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. If you or a family member develops any illness with symptoms similar to those of coronavirus, the CDC recommends that you or your child stay home for at least two weeks after you become infected.
Right now this seems like a moot point, because all workers in nonessential positions are staying home. But as these restrictions begin to relax (currently expected to be near the end of April), this guideline holds true. By staying home, you're reducing the risk of spreading germs to your co-workers, peers, and other strangers around you. That's vital right now, and something to remember even during the next flu season.
If you know someone who is sick, keep your distance unless absolutely necessary. If you live with that person, practice extremely thorough disinfecting and cleaning practices. Even if no one in your home is sick, it's important right now to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces with an EPA-registered household disinfectant every day.
Following up on that last point, if want to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs, disinfecting is another crucial practice to follow. Germs can live almost anywhere, but they tend to live on frequently-touched, smooth or flat surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards, shopping carts, and light switches for long periods of time.
This is another fairly common tip, but can easily be overlooked. Cleaning your hands thoroughly might be the most crucial aspect of staying healthy. Using warm water and soap, you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after you've been in a crowded area, or touched surfaces that are a playground for germs, such as a shopping cart, doorknob, any handle, or even your own cell phone!
Or, anything on your face, really. Germs can quickly and easily spread this way. This is basic hygiene, but it can be easy to forget. You probably don't notice just how many times you reach for your face during the day to scratch and itch or rub your eyes. This is even more frequent for those of us with glasses! We know people who have put a small sticker on their hand to give them a visual reminder when it comes close to their face -- it may sound silly, but it can be a great announcement of a habit you probably don't even notice you have.
Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze is important. You should always cough or sneeze into your arm or tissue to help prevent the spread of germs. If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, then you should immediately throw out the tissue and wash your hands.
All of these tips are basic information, but nevertheless, still critical to remember. As we get through these difficult times, we need to be able to rely on our neighbors to do the right thing. If we want a better world, we have to be better citizens. Use the necessary precautions to ensure your safety, your family's safety, and the safety of others.