Protecting Yourself from COVID-19
Wash your hands
The most important precaution to take is to wash your hands regularly. As soon as you return home from being in public, wash your hands. If you don’t have quick access to soap and water, hand sanitizers (containing 60% to 95% alcohol) are a good backup option, but soap and water are better.
The CDC has produced a helpful guide to how to wash your hands. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
Avoid touching your face
COVID-19 enters your body through your mouth, eyes, nose, or lungs. A common way for the virus to enter your body is for you to touch an infected surface and then touch your face. So always wash your hands before touching your face. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#How-COVID-19-Spreads
An important action you can do to avoid COVID-19 is social distancing. In the 1918 pandemic, social distancing was clearly one of the largest factors in avoiding getting the Spanish Flu. Here are two articles that report on the effectiveness of social distancing in the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic by comparing cities that had early social distancing to cities that did not.
- Los Angeles compared to San Francisco (1918 Spanish Flu response). Los Angeles had early stronger social distancing. Los Angeles experienced a lower excess death rate (The number of deaths above yearly expectations) of 494 per 100,000 residents compared to San Francisco which experienced 673 excess deaths per 100,000. This article explains the differences in approach. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-19/coronavirus-lessons-from-great-1918-spanish-flu-pandemic
- How St Louis and Philadelphia handled the Spanish Flu second wave differently. St Louis implemented social distancing earlier than Philadelphia and experienced a lower death rate. https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-pandemic-response-cities
Recently most agencies have started recommending masks for everyone. The CDC guidance on this is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html
This change is because we now have community spread. During the incubation period of COVID-19 you can spread it even if you have no symptoms. A mask protects others from you. However, wearing a mask doesn’t mean you can stand closer to others. Social Distancing is still important. If you see someone without a mask, stay away from them.
N95 masks are in short supply and should be reserved for Health Care Professionals. Since you are wearing a mask to avoid contaminating others you just need an effective physical barrier. There are a lot of “how to make a mask” videos on the internet so I won’t repeat a full list here. I will just reference the CDC instructions on how to create and wear a cloth mask at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
Wearing a mask is also a helpful reminder not to touch your face.
Gloves are a one-time use item to protect your hands from getting the virus on them. You can put on a pair of gloves before you go into a store and the virus on their surface will transfer to the gloves. When you leave the store, take off the gloves and dispose of them – not on the ground. Then either wash your hands and if soap and water are not available use a disinfectant.
If you don’t use gloves and still disinfect your hands as soon as you are out of a store, you basically get the same effect as wearing gloves.
If you use the same pair of gloves twice you are just potentially spreading the virus.
Use Disinfectant on Surfaces
You should try to disinfect the high-touch areas in your kitchen and home on a regular basis. The EPA currently lists 402 different disinfectants that are effective against COVID-19. Now the problem with the EPA list is you have to know the EPA registration number to look up the cleaner. It should be noted that the contact time for the cleaner to be effective ranges from one to ten minutes. The searchable list is at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2 Site last updated: April 30, 2020
If you can’t find the EPA Registration number just follow these guidelines:
- “For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
- Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Prepare a bleach solution by mixing
- 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.”
Use care while cleaning electronics. If the manufacturer’s instructions aren’t available, use an alcohol-based wipe or a 70 percent ethanol spray to clean electronics. Be sure to dry them thoroughly so the liquid doesn’t accumulate inside the device.
When doing laundry, you can use your regular detergent. Try to use the warmest water setting that’s appropriate for the type of clothes you’re washing. Allow washed clothes to dry completely before putting them away.
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