Planning Without Panic
Remembering the litany of new safety precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19 can be overwhelming. The following ideas should help you reduce infection and stay sane as you keep your home and family safe from germs of all kinds.
Shop During Off-Peak Hours
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your home from germs is by reducing contact with other people. Grocery shopping is unavoidable for most of us, but planning your shopping trips at off-peak times is a great strategy for lessening your contact with germs and the people who carry them. Avoid weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and weekend afternoons, which tend to be busy times. Use your local knowledge, too: Shop when your particular store tends to be least crowded.
Keep Alcohol-Based Sanitizer in the Car
Don’t wait to get home before sanitizing your hands. Keep alcohol-based liquid, gel, or wipes in your car and wipe down your hands, the wheel, and your keys. In addition to hand sanitizer, you may wish to also keep clean plastic baggies and face masks in your glove compartment. After exposure to the outside world, wash your hands thoroughly, remove your used mask, and place it in a plastic bag for laundering and sanitizing.
Wear a Garment You Can Take Off and Wash
Reduce germs in your home by wearing an outer garment—jacket, sweater, sweatshirt, pants—that you immediately remove and wash when you get home. Germs spread in one of two ways: from person to person, and from person to surface to person. While it appears that Coronavirus spreads mainly by direct contact with other people—through microscopic droplets from the nose and mouth that can
Be Mindful of Your Child
While most kids are homebound these days, they may still be playing outside and coming into contact with germy surfaces. Teach your children the essential skill of thorough hand-washing: Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds every time you enter the house. Also show kids how to shield their sneezes and coughs with the crook of their elbow instead of with their hands. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a helpful page with hygiene strategies for kids and parents.
Certain areas of the home are more germ-ridden than others, and doorknobs are a worst offender. Through his research, microbiologist Charles Gerba found that germs on a single doorknob can spread a virus throughout an entire office building in a matter of hours. Washing your hands after touching a doorknob is absolutely key to stopping the virus from spreading. You may also wish to disinfect your outside and inside doorknobs with an EPA-registered disinfectant.
Be Cautious of Reusable Bags
Some states that banned disposable plastic bags are rescinding these laws temporarily in light of COVID-19. Lawmakers and governors are understandably worried that reusable bags may be more likely to spread the virus than single-use plastic bags. Be sure to follow your local grocery store’s policy on reusable bags, which should be displayed at check-out. If you do bring reusable bags, be sure to wash and disinfect them regularly to stop germs from entering—and leaving—your home.
Be Careful of Plastic Bags Too
While reusable bags have their downsides, single-use plastic bags are not without risks. It appears that “plastics are among the surfaces that human coronaviruses may survive on for the longest,” according to studies cited by Greenpeace. These highly contagious viruses can live on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, so you’ll want to be cautious when unbagging groceries at home. Set aside a designated spot to place grocery bags. When you’re done unbagging, wipe down any surface you touched with bleach or an EPA-registered cleaner.
Use Credit Cards or Contactless Payment
Viruses and germs can be transferred into your home via contact with surfaces like keypads and money, which are touched by countless hands. To limit your risk, pay using non-cash methods like credit cards as much as possible. Another option is contactless payment, which uses RFID (radio frequency identification) via smartphones, credit and debit cards, as well as Google Pay, Apple Pay, FitBit Pay, and mobile banking apps that support this feature. To reduce germs in your home even further, consider shopping online for necessities.
Create a Mail Zone
Germs can hitch a ride on almost any surface, including your letters and packages. However, it’s not clear whether coronavirus in particular can be transmitted via mail. It’s best not to over-worry and instead to have a plan of action. Designate an area of your entryway or garage as a mail opening zone and dispose of all packaging and unwanted junk mail there. This cuts down on potential risks, even unknown ones.
Set House Rules for Family and Friends
While we are all trying to obey rules and recommendations intended to keep us safe, many of us still leave the house for essential errands from time to time. We also may stop by a friend’s house to check on them—keeping six feet apart, of course. Make sure you set clear rules for family and friends who may enter your home, including these imperatives: Wash hands immediately after entry and dry hands using a separate hand towel or paper towels.
Seek Knowledge and Stay Sane
Keeping germs away from your home environment is important—and so is your mental health. A lot of unsubstantiated tips and rumors are flying around, so be sure to do your own research using reputable sources. Check the CDC’s official website for Coronavirus updates, and stay abreast of local news impacting your city and state. Beyond common sense hygiene practices, learn about additional measures for immunocompromised individuals. Your home should be your refuge, so try to leave undue worries at the door—along with germs.
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