Since March, nearly 90 percent of Americans have been under some type of stay-at-home order. These orders, issued by governors and local officials at the city and county level, compelled all non-essential businesses to close and required everyone to stay home except to purchase food or visit the doctor or pharmacy.
Two months later, most states are in the process of gradually reopening their economies. In Ohio, most retail stores were permitted to open on May 12, and restaurants with outdoor seating can start accepting diners on May 15th. Most Ohioans are able to go back to work. However, the threat of coronavirus still looms large—as of May 12, Ohio had over 25,000 cases of the virus. Given this reality, how can we stay safe during the reopening?
The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidelines for how to clean and disinfect public spaces—including offices, schools, and retail shops—as well as private homes.
“Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces that will require careful planning. Everyone also has a role in making sure our communities are as safe as possible to reopen and remain open,” the CDC says on its Web site. “The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed if you use the right products. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products that can be used against COVID-19, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. Each product has been shown to be effective against viruses that are harder to kill than viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.”
Using regular soap and water, especially for hand washing, is effective at reducing the amount of the virus on hands and commonly-touched surfaces. For even stronger protection, you can use a product approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The long list of products shown to effectively kill viruses includes everything from hydrogen peroxide to Soft Scrub. If these disinfectants are unavailable, a solution of one-third cup of bleach added to a gallon of water will work, as will a solution of at least 70 percent alcohol. However, the CDC and the EPA reminds the public to never combine bleach with any other cleaning agent, as this mixture can create dangerous fumes that are harmful to inhale.
While it is not mandatory, public health officials urge all Ohioans to wear face masks in public places—whether it’s the office, the grocery store, or a restaurant. You will also have to alter your routine to protect yourself from coronavirus. Here are some tips on staying safe in public spaces:
At work: If you can, avoid using public transportation to commute. Studies of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City pinpointed the subway system as a major hotspot for transmitting the virus. While in the office, wash your hands after touching common surfaces, and take the stairs instead of the elevator to minimize crowding. Avoid common spaces, such as the break room or cafeteria, as much as possible. Develop a morning routine for disinfecting your workspace, such as wiping it down with a disinfecting cloth or alcohol pads.
At restaurants: Consider outdoor seating. Wear a face mask, and only remove it to eat. Bring your own materials, such as alcohol wipes, to disinfect your menu and tabletop. Be careful to sit at least six feet from other diners, and avoid the bar if possible.
At retail stores: Consider visiting during off-hours, such as right before closing time, to avoid exposure to large crowds. Wear a face mask, and consider utilizing contact-reducing services—such as curbside pickup—when visiting a store. If possible, order online and pay ahead of time.
Public health officials have reminded the public that outdoor activities, such as biking or visiting the local Metroparks, are safe, as long as you continue to practice social distancing. As the weather warms, many of us will have more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, where the risk of transmitting the virus is much lower.
As many of us return to some semblance of a normal routine, we don’t have to live in fear of coronavirus, so long as we remain cognizant of social distancing rules and disinfecting protocols. Developing a few new habits—such as disinfecting our workspace first thing in the morning—can help keep us, as well as our friends, family, and co-workers, safe.