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Published on May 12, 2020

two people wearing masks socially distancing

Remember Safety Basics as You Return to Life

Going back into society to shop, dine or enjoy entertainment won’t be the same anytime soon. The risks that come with COVID-19 remain – so it’s up to everyone to be smart and safe.

“We should focus on things we know can help – good physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings and thorough hand hygiene,” said Avera Medical Group family medicine physician Chad Thury, DO. “We have to protect ourselves, as well as others, and those basics we’ve learned over these last weeks will remain important factors as more businesses open up and more people get out.”

Start with Simple Things

Pack the hand sanitizer and a mask no matter where you’re heading. Face masks range from clinical ones such as the N-95 to cloth ones made on sewing machines in homes around the region. All can help keep particles out of your nose and mouth.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines go a long way toward staying safe as people leave their homes and go back to work or to stores,” Thury said. “Whether you’re going to a café, a shop or somewhere else, don’t assume anything. Protect yourself.”

When we all remain on guard to avoid spreading the virus, it is win-win for everyone.

“Problems will arise if we try to go back to the way things were before the pandemic,” said Thury. “It’s like a fire. We have plenty of small smoldering piles of ash around us. We want to avoid those growing into a huge forest fire of virus infection.”

No Ideal Location or Number

The guidelines of avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people remain a good rule of thumb. Coronavirus is known to be transmittable person-to-person, so if you’re around more people – you face more risk.

“Walking by someone in a store or on the street is not a likely situation for infection. But if you spend several minutes less than 6 feet from someone else, especially without a mask, you are increasing risk,” Thury said. “Spread is less likely when we have restrictions on the number of people in a space, and that’s why there are many guidelines to encourage businesses to remain below their maximum normal capacity.”

Higher Risk Populations

The threat that comes from COVID-19 is, in some ways, a time-warp. Each of us is experiencing the disease in real time, but what happens today might take two weeks to show up.

“You cannot see the virus and there are many patients who are positive who have no symptoms,” said Thury. “Older people and those who have chronic conditions have to be more careful than others. There is just no place out there with zero risk.”

From hand hygiene to masks, to keeping surfaces clean and limiting trips out – every one of the basic building blocks of prevention are going to help, especially for those who might have lower resistance to the virus due to age or a condition.

“Be an advocate for yourself and your loved ones. Research the steps a business or group is taking to make sure risk of exposure is low,” Thury said. “If you don’t think the steps they’re taking are enough to keep you safe – don’t go back. Safe and smart steps in the direction of reopening are all we have. If we’re short-sighted about our actions, it will lead to spread and bad outcomes.”

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