If you decide to go — whether your destination is a festival, concert, coffee shop, fast-food restaurant, or conference — here’s what you need to know to reduce your risk of catching anything, including the coronavirus.
- Avoid close contact at family reunions, birthday parties or other celebrations.
Reconsider kissing relatives on the cheek to say hello, suggests Dr. Englund. Viruses like the coronavirus can be spread by close contact, which is considered anything in the range of six feet. This doesn’t mean you have to keep your distance from everyone — that would be nearly impossible in a situation with loved ones — but rethink the habits that increase the risk of spread, including kissing.
- When riding public transportation, keep your distance from sneezers
Some cities are making an effort to keep their public transportation clean. That’s great news, but you’ll have to do more. Common advice is to avoid sick people, but you can’t always do that when you’re in close quarters on public transport — and you still have to get to work. If there’s someone coughing or sneezing within six feet of you, it’s a good idea to turn yourself away from them or even remind them to cough into their elbow if they’re not covering up appropriately, says Dr. Englund. That said, if the person coughing is across the car (more than six feet away), you do not have to get off — they’re far enough that you don’t have to worry, she says.
- When visiting a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop, wash before you eat
In public places, there are “high-touch areas,” which are basically the things that everyone puts their hands on, like door handles, railings, self-order kiosks, and the credit card reader. If someone has a virus on their hands, they can deposit it on these surfaces, which you can then get on your hands. Wash or sanitize your hands before eating or touching your face.
“You don’t want to take those germs that can stay on objects for several hours up to your nose, eyes, or mouth,” says Dr. Englund. Most of us don’t wash correctly. You’ll have to use both soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds, says Dr. Treitman. “Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice,” he says. If using hand sanitizer, choose one with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- If taking an airplane, skip the mask
Many people may want to wear a surgical mask, especially when traveling. “It’s not recommended to wear surgical face masks because they do not prevent you from getting sick,” says Dr. Treitman. What’s more, they could theoretically contribute to you catching something: “Wearing face masks could increase your chances of getting sick because we naturally touch our face when something is on it,” he adds.
- If you have concert or festival tickets, and are sick, stay home
This is sage advice during cold and flu season as well. Your threshold for staying home and avoiding others should be low, suggests Dr. Treitman. Because it’s not just you who’s affected in all of this, but it’s other people — the elderly, those with underlying medical problems — that you should look out for, too.