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Published on April 07, 2020

closeup of person washing their hands

Tips to Stay Safe in Public  

COVID-19 has interrupted our busy lives to an extent that we’ve never seen before. However, it’s important to continue moving forward with healthy precautions and avoid panic to enhance public safety. 

If Elizabeth Healy, infection prevention coordinator at Avera, could offer only two pieces of advice that would go a long way in protecting you and your family, they would be:

  1. Practice hand hygiene. Before eating, after you use the restroom, and if your hands are visibly soiled, you should wash your hands. In all other instances, hand sanitizer may be used.
  2. Avoid touching your face.

Because it’s so easy to transfer the virus from person to person, it’s essential to protect your family in your home as well as when you go out. A few extra precautions go a long way.

Healy recommends utilizing online ordering options as much as possible offered by restaurants and grocery stores for meals, food and necessities. Pay online so that you don’t have to exchange cash or cards. When going to the store for pick up, politely tell the attendant that you are practicing social distancing to keep everyone safe.

“Knowing that a business is taking steps to keep employees and customers safe might encourage you to support that business,” said Healy.

However, people living in more rural areas must venture into public more often for their goods. If you go to the store, implement these prevention tips:

  • Practice hand hygiene when you get home, and avoid touching your face.
  • Use hand hygiene after touching door handles, railings, buttons on a key pad, using the restroom, or pushing elevator buttons (or use your elbow).
  • Use disinfectant wipes on cart handles. Most open businesses are offering wipes; be considerate and avoid using more than what you need. Consider bringing your own as well. 
  • Stay 3 to 6 feet away from others, whether you know a nearby person or not.
  • Do not shake hands or hug an acquaintance you meet.
  • Rather than running to a store multiple times a week, write a list and go once.
  • When bringing takeout food home, put the food on your own dishes, discard the disposable containers, and then use hand hygiene.

Recently, Healy went to the store late to pick up a few needed items because there were fewer people. “I ran into my friend,” she said. “We kept our distance from each other, said ‘Hello,’ quickly asked about our families, and said ‘Goodbye.’” 

While wearing face masks is recommended in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, Healy said that barriers like masks and gloves are only one part of the equation. Gloves can carry germs on the surface. Face masks, while recommended, may cause you to touch your face more and expose your mouth, nose and eyes to germs if not worn correctly.

“If you don’t have access to a mask, you can still protect yourself by applying hand sanitizer or washing your hands, and being cognizant of how often your hands are casually moving toward your face,” said Healy.

Besides physical health, Healy added this note on mental/emotional health, “While you may not be able to go into public, stay healthy during isolation by getting outside into the yard with your family. A positive mindset and exercise keep our spirits strong during this unprecedented time.”

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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