- The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends “social distancing” to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
- Social distancing is a public health term used to describe taking intentional actions to track and prevent the spread of disease. It includes things like avoiding crowds and staying home when you’re sick.
- The novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic as of March 11, and as the number of cases in the US grows each day, CDC guidelines recommend minimising in-person human interaction.
- As of Sunday, the CDC recommends cancelling and postponing gatherings of more than 50 people. But what does that mean for necessary tasks like working, eating, and doing laundry?
- We asked experts the answers to all your burning questions about social distancing and how to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what they said.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Should I go out to dinner or the bar?
As of Sunday, the CDC recommends gatherings of 50 people or more be cancelled or postponed for the next eight weeks to prevent further spreading of the coronavirus. Some state and city governments are ordering bars and restaurants to close or provide only take-out and delivery, including NYC.
Amit Malik, former clinical director of operations for various hospitals and health systems including New York-Presbyterian Hospital, advises that people over 50 years old not eat out, but recommends that everyone avoid large crowds until further notice.
If you are eating out, Sue Ann Bell, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and expert on the health effects of disasters, recommends avoiding buffets and restaurants with poor ratings from food inspections.
Should I cancel the party/baby shower/wedding I’m throwing?
If the event includes 50 people or more, the CDC recommends cancelling or postponing the event until May. UK-based wedding coordinator Nina Beer recommends rescheduling rather than postponing weddings to avoid losing deposits.
If you plan to go through with the wedding, Leah Weinberg, owner of Colour Pop Events, said to be aware of the minimum guest count in any contracts you sign, since fewer people may be attending due to the pandemic.
Josh Spiegel, the creative director of a high-end decor, production, and floral company called Birch Event Design advises wearing gloves while dancing at weddings during the pandemic.
Can I still go to the gym, yoga, or other workout classes?
People are unlikely to go to the gym if they’re feeling sick, and people tend to be pretty spread out in gyms, so you don’t need to avoid gyms right now if you’re feeling well, according to Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist from the University of Nottingham. Just make sure you wipe down all surfaces before and after touching them.
At the same time, it’s important to note that the CDC recommends no gatherings of 50 people or more. If you’re in an area known for the outbreak, it’s smart to avoid gyms and walk or run outside instead, as long as you’re healthy and low-risk for the virus, Dr. Jebidiah Ballard, an emergency medicine physician told Insider.
But experts still suggest maintaining the social distance of six feet while walking or running.
“The general principle should be: Outside is better than inside, open is better than closed, fewer is better than more people, and stay away from sick people,” Dr. Erich Anderer, a neurosurgeon and a founding member of the North Brooklyn Runners, told Insider.
If I leave the house, how often do I need to be washing my hands?
“No matter where you go, just always be aware that any surface potentially could be contaminated with a virus,” Ball told Business Insider.
It’s also important to note that drying your hands is just as important as washing them, according to Miryam Wahrman, a biology professor at William Paterson University and the author of “The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World.”
According to Wahrman, this is because germs thrive in moist conditions. Research also shows that wiping your hands with a paper towel eliminates more germs than washing them alone because the friction of drying kills germs.
Should I be nervous about going to the laundromat or using laundry services?
Avoid the laundromat during peak hours to keep a safe distance from other customers, according to Business Insider California transplant and visual features reporter Brittany Chang.
The CDC recommends staying home as much as possible if you are over 60 or have serious chronic medical conditions including heart or lung disease or diabetes.
It’s also important to wash dirty laundry on the warmest setting possible and either use gloves when handling dirty laundry or wash your hands after, according to Business Insider health fellow Shira Feder.
How many people can be at my house at one time?
According to Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Erlanger and national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, you should ask yourself three questions: How many people will be there? How close will you be to all of those people? How well-ventilated is the space or how much can people move around? You should be in a well-ventilated area where people have room to spread out.
In addition to the CDC advisory against large groups of people, President Donald Trump recommends avoiding gatherings of 10 people or more, according to Business Insider reporter Eliza Relman.
Should I cancel my massage?
Mitchel Rosen, associate professor at the Department of Urban and Global Public Health told Insider that people should cancel all non-essential appointments, including massages, hair-cuts, and pedicures, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Rosen told Insider that even if you’re not high-risk due to underlying conditions or age, you should still cancel any non-essential appointments. The CDC recommends staying six feet from people who might be sick and distancing yourself from everyone if the virus is spreading in your community.
What should my roommates do if I’m quarantined? Should I move out? Should they?
While the CDC recommends complete isolation if you’re quarantined, most people with roommates can’t afford to just move out. In these cases, the CDC recommends the quarantined person stay in one room and avoid sharing a bathroom with others, if possible.
The CDC also recommends that the quarantined person avoids sharing dishes with other people and avoids any contact with pets.
Do I need to keep a 6-feet distance from my roommates?
If your roommate is experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus Gillespie said to keep six feet of distance from them to avoid further spreading of the coronavirus.
Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist who specialises in combating global health security threats, told Insider that you should make a plan with your roommates in case someone becomes ill since the coronavirus spreads through close contact.
Popescu also recommends deep cleaning commonly used surfaces with an EPA-registered disinfectant, like bleach or peroxide.
Should I avoid my partner/kids if I get sick?
Just like in a roommate situation, if you get sick, stay isolate yourself in one room and bathroom, if possible, and don’t share dishes with family members, according to the CDC.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Insider that this isn’t always feasible, especially with young kids.
“When you’re in a home, there are going to be breaks in technique. We should do the best we can and not punish ourselves if we have the occasional slip-up,” Schaffner said.
Schaffner recommended alternative ways to interact with children, like tapping elbows, kissing the tops of their feet, and or wearing masks while hugging them.
Should I work from home?
If possible, you should work from home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. According to the CDC, you should distance yourself from others if the coronavirus is spreading in your community.
According to Business Insider, some of the biggest challenges of remote work are communication, time management, and loneliness.
Apple, Google, Amazon, and several companies have asked employees to work remotely since the virus began to spread, according to Business Insider.
Should I take public transportation?
Trump said Monday that gatherings should be limited to 10 people to prevent further spreading of the coronavirus, but several experts told Business Insider that the number of people doesn’t matter as much as the space between them.
“I don’t think people should entirely avoid public transportation,” infectious disease specialist Avisheh Forouzesh who owns Advanced Infectious Disease Medical in New Jersey, told Business Insider.
Forouzesh recommends avoiding touching your face on public transit and carrying hand sanitizer with you and using it as soon as you leave public transit.
Should I avoid the grocery store when it’s packed (and potentially not get some groceries I need?)
If you are elderly or have underlying health conditions, you should avoid the grocery store when it’s packed, according to Tamika Sims, Ph.D., Director of Food Technology Communications at the International Food Information Council.
Sims recommends getting groceries delivered or going to the store when it’s less crowded. This will make it easier to keep a distance between yourself and other shoppers, which the CDC recommends.
Should I avoid my parents and other older relatives?
Older people are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. So Dr. Kelly Fradin, a paediatrician, told Business Insider that reducing contact with older people can help protect them. That’s why several states have limited visiting in nursing homes, according to Business Insider.
If you’re unable to access a loved one in a nursing home right now, Sean Morrison, the chair for the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, recommends trusting staff members and sending their loved ones care packages.
If you are able to visit a loved one in a nursing home, Morrison said to make sure you wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds beforehand.
I have a chronic illness. Should I avoid my doctor’s office or the hospital?
People with certain medical conditions have a higher chance of developing severe symptoms or dying from the coronavirus, according to the CDC.
These include HIV, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. So they should stay away from people who are sick to prevent exposure.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier recommends stocking up on a 90-day supply critical medications if you have one of these conditions or are over 80 years old.
What are the chances of delivered foods being contaminated?
According to Sims, food doesn’t carry the virus well, so you’re unlikely to get sick from it. Sims told Insider you’re more likely to get the virus from person-to-person contact.The CDC thinks the virus spreads primarily from person to person.
Some drop off food services, like Instacart, have implemented ways to minimise contact with deliverers, like leaving food at the door.
Twitter and Amazon are among 31 of the largest global companies who have restricted travel or asked their employees to work remotely as a precaution against the novel coronavirus. Here’s the full list.
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