Since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan, China late last year, we have continued to learn more about how the virus works. Therefore, it should come as zero surprise that some prevention methods recommended several months ago are no longer applicable. Currently, the most important ways to slow the spread of the virus include social distancing, mask wearing, practicing hand hygiene, avoiding crowded spaces, and staying outdoors whenever possible. So what precautions should you stop wasting your time on taking? According to Sharon Chekijian, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine doctor with Yale Medicine and associate professor of emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine, there are 7. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus
Why the Rules Have Changed
"Now that we know that COVID-19 is primarily spread through aerosolized respiratory droplets you can relax some of the precautions you may have been taking," Dr. Chekijian explains. "That being said, other viruses like colds and flus are known to be transmitted by hand to mouth and eye contact so it's still a good idea to wash your hands frequently, avoid shaking hands with others and keep your hands away from your face. A good rule of thumb in cold and flu season is to not let your hands stray above your shoulders."
If you have been using coronavirus as an excuse to not break a sweat, stop immediately! "Although you may still want to avoid the gym or group classes indoors, it's a good idea to get back to regular physical activity," she suggests. "Try an outdoor yoga class, or a walk around the park or neighborhood."
Putting a Mask On…Your Pet
No matter how much you love your pet, Dr. Chekijian recommends resisting the urge to put a mask on them, citing CDC guidance. "Cases of transmission of Covid-19 to pets certainly make the news but assured that there have been very few worldwide," she explains. "A safer bet is to not let your pet interact with people or animals from other households and to keep your pet at a safe distance when out walking. If you happen to catch COVID-19 or another viral illness try to resist kissing or snuggling your pet just like you'd avoid human contact to avoid any chance of transmission."
Avoiding All In-Person Contact
Early in the pandemic many of us were avoiding seeing people who did not reside in our household. However, per Dr. Chekijian, you shouldn't completely isolate. "Humans are social creatures," she says. "It's estimated that the incidence of depression may have quadrupled in quarantine. It is okay to make necessary trips out to the store, doctors' offices, to exercise, and to visit friends and family." However, when visiting with others make sure to stay safe. "Always wear a mask, and practice good hand hygiene. If you are meeting up with friends and family from outside your household do it in an outdoor space. Take a walk, dine al fresco, chat on a bench six feet apart. It goes without saying to stay home if you have any symptoms that could be related to Covid-19 or any other viral illness. It's still a good idea to avoid large and/or indoor gatherings."
It is not necessary to wear gloves everywhere you go, says Dr. Chekijian. "A better bet is to carry hand sanitizer with you or to wash your hands on shared surfaces like door knobs, bathroom faucets, countertops, etc.," she says. "Gloves that you wear continuously can pick up germs from surfaces and give a false sense of security. Hand to mouth spread of COVID-19 is less common than we originally thought but proper hand hygiene is still a good idea to stop the spread of any viral illness."
Avoiding the ER
It is not necessary to avoid the hospital anymore. "Early in the pandemic we told you all to stay at home if it wasn't a true emergency so we could treat those who needed us most. We were thankful that you listened but now we are seeing cases of heart attacks, strokes, severe depression and injury go untreated because people are too afraid to go to the emergency department when they really need to," says Dr. Chekijian. If you have any medical emergency that you would normally seek treatment for, don't hesitate to call your doctor or 911. "Emergency Departments nationwide have protocols in place to keep all their patients safe from Covid-19 such as disinfection practices and separation of suspected Covid positive patients from the general treatment areas. Most hospitals are testing patients before admission or procedures to protect other patients and staff," she adds.
While indoor dining is still a no-go per Dr. Chekijian ("especially poorly ventilated areas"), you can still dine out. "Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is spread by handling or eating food but cooked food is certainly safest," she explains. Most restaurants are offering al fresco or take-out options that allow you to support your favorite places while keeping safe. She only suggests making sure the restaurant is following suggested guidance. "Look around to make sure your servers and kitchen staff are masked and careful. Most establishments have single use menus to avoid any potential of spread."
There is no need to sanitize your produce anymore. "The risk of getting COVID-19 from eating or handling food (including frozen food and produce) and food packages is considered very low, according to the CDC," she says. While you don't necessarily need to wash your produce, if you do, she urges the use of a produce safe product. "Avoid washing your produce with bleach, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, alcohol or chemical cleaning products. You risk poisoning yourself or others."
How to Avoid COVID-19
There are a number of simple ways you can prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19. Wear a mask when you are out in public, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds, practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.