Note: This story was originally published at hopkinsmedicine.org.
As businesses and public spaces begin to reopen, how can you return to more activities and still protect yourself, your family and others from getting COVID-19?
“Practicing physical distancing, washing your hands frequently and wearing masks in public are still critical steps to follow,” says infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis. “For the foreseeable future, when people are out, these are ‘musts’ to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.”
With that information in mind, Maragakis helps provide suggestions on what’s safer — and what to avoid — as you resume more activities outside your home.
It’s important to stay vigilant, comply with physical distancing and wear face coverings when visiting family and friends. This is especially important if friends and family members are at higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19 (such as grandparents or those with compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses). Virtual visits are still the safest way to socialize.
For those who are healthy and not at great risk, visiting friends and family still calls for physical distancing. Everyone, including children, should stay at least six feet apart, and get-togethers should be outside if possible or at least in a well-ventilated area.
What to avoid: hugging, going inside a friend’s house, or gatherings of 10 or more.
Exercising outside is generally safe, such as walking, jogging or bike riding alone or with a friend in a park. When others are nearby, be sure to allow at least six feet for them to pass.
An outdoor picnic with friends or family is safer when every household brings its own blanket, food and utensils and maintains physical distancing.
What to avoid: outdoor events that generate a crowd and don’t allow for proper physical distancing.
Attending services online is still the safest way to participate.
If you go to services in person, choose less popular times or less crowded settings where it is possible to stay at least six feet apart from others.
Make sure to wear a mask when you are inside among other people.
What to avoid: indoor services, including weddings and funerals, especially if many people are present; singing or being close to those who are singing.
If restaurants are opening where you live, opt for eating outdoors, where tables are six feet apart, which is safer than dining inside the restaurant.
While release of respiratory droplets as people talk, cough or sneeze is the most common way COVID-19 is spread, it may also be picked up from a contaminated surface by the hands and then transferred to the mouth or nose. Before you dine, check which added safety measures the restaurant has in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides considerations for restaurants as a supplement to guidelines from state and local agencies.
What to avoid: indoor dining, particularly in crowded spaces.
If you have to wait to be seen, do so outdoors or in your car.
Both you and your barber, stylist, manicurist or pedicurist should wear a mask, though your mask’s ties or ear loops might be moved aside or adjusted to allow the person to cut your hair.
As with restaurants, check to see what added precautions are in place, such as a way to avoid high-touch surfaces and how workstations are arranged to maintain distance from other customers and staff.
What to avoid: waiting in crowded waiting areas and holding conversations with your stylist, barber or other customers. Wait until your services are finished and you can be six feet apart.
If you’re determined to go to the gym for your workout, be sure to call ahead and find out what physical distancing practices the gym uses. For example, your gym may limit access to bikes and treadmills that are close together. Bring along disinfectant wipes and wipe off metal weights and touch points on any equipment you use. Some fitness centers may close their locker rooms and only leave bathrooms available.
For group exercise classes, virtual participation may be safer. Make sure you wash your hands before and after exercising, and consider bringing hand sanitizer to use during your workout.
What to avoid: using foam yoga mats or blocks, or equipment that cannot be easily cleaned and disinfected; aerobic exercise closer than six feet from other people who are exercising.
It is important to see your doctor or dentist for health concerns, especially if you are sick, injured or in pain. Health care practitioners are taking steps to keep patients safe from COVID-19 infection. At Johns Hopkins Medicine care facilities, rigorous new measures are in place to help keep patients safe.
What to avoid: canceling or delaying care for your health concerns or those of your children.
Depending on where you live, malls may be opening. Always wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer when you are inside any building where people are gathering or moving about. Here are some more tips:
What to avoid: shopping at peak hours when stores are likely to be crowded; spending a long time indoors browsing.
Taking a public bus, train or subway is generally considered a somewhat risky activity, especially if the vehicle is crowded.
Try to travel during off-peak times when possible, and maintain physical distancing as much as possible. Wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly, or use hand sanitizer when you leave the vehicle.
What to avoid: being close to people who are not wearing masks.
Traveling might increase your chances of getting or spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, especially if you are traveling to or from an area experiencing a surge in the number of cases, or the plane originated from such a destination.
Driving somewhere in your own car with members of your household is generally safe, but be careful to physically distance, wear a mask and wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly after stopping to eat, using a public restroom, or filling your gas tank.
Cruise ships, trains, and planes involve significant risk since you are in a confined space with others for a prolonged period — especially cruise ships, where passengers share close quarters for days at a time.
Many airlines are taking steps to minimize risk, so you should review their safety information. If you can avoid or postpone a trip that requires air travel, it is best to do so. But if you must fly, in case of a family emergency for example, a short flight might be preferable to a long drive, which could involve multiple stops at public places. When planning your flight:
What to avoid: All cruises, unnecessary long flights, crowded trains, buses or subways and trips to destinations where COVID-19 cases are on the rise or remain high.
The coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is not likely to be transmitted through water, especially chlorinated water. It is important to practice physical distancing when you’re relaxing on the beach or by the pool. Be very careful in public bathrooms, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after using them.
What to avoid: pools and beaches where physical distancing rules are not followed.
Drive-in movies are safe as long as you stay in your car. Outdoor concerts where people can maintain proper distance from one another are safer than indoor events.
What to avoid: activities that bring large groups of people together in an indoor environment where physical distancing is not possible; close contact with people who are not wearing masks.
Workplaces vary greatly in how much risk they pose to employees. Many employers are putting features in place that allow for physical distancing and minimizing contact with high-touch objects. Here are some more ways that you can help protect yourself and others: