States are opening back up. Some have already been for a while now, and some are slowly poking their heads above the ground to see if it’s safe – they’re taking their time. I was, honestly, very nervous about states re-opening at first. But when I went for the first time to a restaurant and shopping area – with a mask on – and saw the people out and about, I cried. I really did. I had no idea how much I missed seeing the world active. I hadn’t let myself think about how much I missed it because if I started that, I was afraid I’d lose my sanity. But humans are incredibly social people. We need each other for our mental wellness. We also need each other for our financial wellness. I’ve been fortunate to remain employed, but I had to pause and remind myself that, hey, I had the luxury of saying, “It’s not safe to re-open!” because I wasn’t one of the millions of people left jobless because of the shut-down. Ideally, we would have found a vaccine or a cure before re-opening. That didn’t happen. But the second-best thing, I believe, is that we re-open carefully, and both businesses and their customers remember that COVID-19 is at large, and behave accordingly. With that in mind, here are safety precautions you shouldn’t forget just because states have opened back up.
Keep people out of your home
This is not the time to start hosting dinner parties or all-out party-parties. Your home still needs to be your safe space. When people enter your home, they touch your refrigerator door, sink levers, toilet flusher, door handles…everything. If someone is infected, you’ve just created a very dangerous situation for yourself. If you want to see friends, you should still meet them outdoors, away from your home.
Keep masks accessible
Keep a face cover in every purse. Keep one in the glove compartment of your car. Hang a few by your front door. Think of the places you go often, and how you can make it easiest for yourself to make sure you always have a mask on hand when you need one. Keep in mind that many businesses require people to wear masks to enter right now, so driving all the way to a store to find you aren’t allowed in would be a shame.
Read menus before you go
This is a simple thing you can do to limit how much you touch when you’re at a restaurant. And remember that hundreds of others touch the physical menus, turning them over, scanning them, and running their hands over them. You don’t want to touch those. Look up the restaurant’s menu online before you go, and pick out what you want in advance.
Look before entering
Before entering any area, from an elevator to a boutique to a public restroom, just take a look from a distance to see how crowded it is. If it’s too crowded, don’t enter. If you see people standing outside of a public restroom, assume it’s because it’s crowded inside, and wait.
Keep your distance even outdoors
We’re all itching to get out, so you may want to go to the beach, hit the parks, or enjoy some hikes. But it’s still important to keep your distance in these situations. If you see oncoming hikers, step off the path to give them space and let them pass. If you go to a beach that’s swarming with people, drive further down to find a quiet spot.
BYO most things at get together’s
If you want to meet friends for a picnic, outdoor movie night, or backyard happy hour, it’s still best to bring most of your own items, from your own bottle of wine to your own plastic cups to your own utensils (these ones by Silvr are anti-microbial, reusable, and super chic). Pack your own food. Bring your own napkins. You don’t want to ask someone to use one of their items, as you don’t know whether or not they’re sick.
Don’t use cash
Be ready with contactless payment options, whether that’s Apple Pay, a credit card, Venmo, or other alternatives. This is not a time to be touching cash that thousands of other hands may have touched before you. Nobody sanitizes their cash, and it goes in your purse, where you have things like your sunglasses, masks, and other things that touch your face.
Check restrictions before you go
Always check on the restrictions of any type of business you patronize – gym, pharmacy, restaurant, dog groomer – before you go. You may learn that they aren’t allowing people indoors, and that you must call when you’re outside for curbside service. I just experienced this when taking my dog to the vet. I call when outside, and a vet comes to my car and retrieves my fur baby.
Limit travel to essential travel
This isn’t the time to take that postponed Spring Break vaca. Travel is ripe with the opportunity to get sick and spread the virus, between sitting in enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time with others on airplanes and trains, to standing around in a pool where it’s very hard to keep one’s distance. Just wait on this. Truly, if you have to get away, go on a road trip and camp. But still bring your mask, hand sanitizer, and be very careful when stopping at public restrooms and places to pick up food.
Let staff disinfect things
Many businesses require staff to disinfect surfaces after they’ve been used by customers. This can include gym equipment, slot machines, bank teller counters, and any area where customers put their hands. Before approaching a recently vacant space, pause to allow the staff to disinfect it.
Ask about safety practices
It’s always a good idea to call any place you’d like to visit, from a hair salon to a hotel, and ask what safety precautions they’re currently taking. You may find that, in some cases, you aren’t comfortable with the limited steps the business is taking to protect you. It’s better to find that out in advance, instead of when you’re already there, and feel you are at risk.
Wipe down these things
It’s not time to stop wiping down just about anything that others touch frequently. The gas pump. Your grocery cart. The ATM keyboard. Keep sanitizing wipes in your bag, and any time you want to pick up or use something in a public space, pause, and ask yourself if that’s something you should wipe down.
BYO towel to…
It may be a good idea to bring your own towel to the gym, or the pool at your swim club, or even your hair salon. While these places do launder their towels, and hopefully at high enough temperatures to kill bacteria, it’s always safest to just use your own, as you’ll put your towel up to your face.
Don’t crowd delivery people
Whether it’s your pizza delivery, your grocery delivery, your Amazon delivery, or USPS, do not crowd the person who is delivering anything to you. Give them their space. Even if you want to check the order before they leave, just announce that, wait for them to drop it off and step away, and then proceed to inspect it.
Protect the vulnerable
This is no time to play fast and loose with the vulnerable people in our lives, like the elderly, and those with preexisting conditions. In fact, cases are still on the rise. If you want to visit someone who is vulnerable, wear a mask, and meet outdoors, keeping your distance. Do not pressure these individuals into doing anything they aren’t comfortable with. If you visit such a loved one in her yard, use the restroom before you go, so you don’t need to enter her home to use hers.