Coronavirus infections now exceed eight million globally, with over two million positive tests for COVID-19 in America alone. With cases still rising in at least six US states including Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, the CDC has updated its social guidelines, titled Deciding to Go Out, on how Americans can protect themselves from the coronavirus when venturing out for work, errands or pleasure this summer.
With that in mind, the CDC has divided its updated guidance into three areas: how to interact safely with others, how to practice everyday preventive actions when taking part in public activities, and learning which coronavirus safety items to keep on you when outside.
These are the three essential items the CDC now recommends you should keep in your bag or on your person each time you venture out:
- A cloth face covering (protects others; their mask protects you)
- Hand sanitizer that's at least 60% alcohol based
- Disposable tissues (for coughing and sneezing into)
If you are displaying coronavirus symptoms or you have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and stay away from other people. The CDC has specific recommendations for how to quarantine yourself if you think you have the virus or have been exposed to it. Fever is a major symptom, so consider getting one of the best digital thermometers for fever monitoring.
There’s no way to reduce your risk to zero, but there are things you can do to protect yourself as much as possible. General speaking, the closer and longer you interact with people outside of your household, the greater the risk of COVID-19 spread, especially if you live in one of the States that is currently seeing a spike in the number of confirmed cases.
CDC states that your risk of catching the coronavirus increases if you are interacting with multiple new people daily, or you are amongst a group of people who aren’t social distancing or wearing masks. Remember, some people have the virus but don’t show any symptoms (asymptomatic). That could include you too.
How to stay COVID safe when interacting with others this summer
Whether it’s a picnic in an outdoor space, an extended grocery shopping trip, or you’re returning to work in an indoor environment, the CDC is now encouraging all of us to think about the types of activities we’re taking part in and whether they pose a higher or lower risk from the coronavirus.
Generally speaking, indoor spaces are riskier than outdoor spaces because there is less ventilation and it’s harder to keep people apart, so before you accept an invitation to an indoor event or gathering, find out how many people will be attending, what social distancing measures will be in play, and whether people are being told to wear fabric face masks to protect each other. If you don’t own a covering, here’s where to buy reusable fabric face masks.
Also think about how long you will be interacting with those people. Why? The more time you spend with people outside of your household who may be infected, the more you risk being infected, and vice versa - you could infect them if there’s a chance you have the coronavirus.
The risk increases in communities where COVID-19 is spreading, and is higher for persons at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Here’s a list of the main questions the CDC advises everyone to run through before agreeing to take part in a public activity (including work), gathering or event:
How to practice preventive actions when venturing out
To keep yourself as safe as possible, try to only accept social invitations to meet-ups or activities that are taking place in a large outside space, and where social distancing will be easier to maintain. Ideally, if the activity will take place over a longer period of the day, people will wear face masks as an extra preventive measure to keep everyone in the group safe. Remember: the longer you spend with others who may be infected, the greater the risk of infection to you.
Pack the CDC’s recommended three essential items of a cloth face covering, tissues, and hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol based). Cleanse your hands immediately if you have touched an item or tool that has been handled by someone outside of your household, then wash your hands thoroughly for at least 30-40 seconds with soap and water as soon as you are able. Do not touch your face with uncleansed hands if you have handled an item that another person has touched.
Face mask use in America: A nation divided
Despite a new study published this week showing that proper face mask use, in conjunction with other preventive measures, reduces the spread of the coronavirus, many Americans remain divided on wearing a face mask. In fact, face mask use and COVID-19 has become one of the most hotly contested issues of the pandemic so far, even though many states now have active face mask mandates.
According to researchers behind the new study, titled, Community Use of Face Masks and COVID-19, an estimated 230,000 to 450,000 cases of COVID-19 were prevented in states that enacted requirements for face mask use between April 8 and May 15.
While face masks are not advised for children under the age of two or for people with breathing issues, the World Health Organization recently changed face mask guidance for over 60s by recommending they wear medical face masks, which are different to basic cloth coverings. However, for healthy people, when it comes to homemade face masks vs surgical masks, fabric masks that follow CDC guidelines remain effective.
Still, there are many Americans who refuse to wear face masks, and others who believe the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax. When speaking to NBC News, cardiothoracic intensive care nurse Sarah Curran was approached by a man in a grocery store last week who wasn’t wearing a face mask. "You know COVID is a hoax," he said, according to Curran’s retelling to NBC. "I don't understand why people are still wearing masks."
There’s a deepening divide across America between people who are following official health guidelines and those who aren’t, for reasons ranging from sheer frustration to believing the guidelines are over the top. Hop onto any social media platform and you may see two hashtags in use: #MaskItorCasket, used by people who are pro-masks, and #NoMaskDay for those who aren’t wearing a mask when venturing out.
For some, wearing a face mask is the least they can do to help slow the spread of a virus that has already taken the lives of over 117,000 Americans. For others, it’s viewed as one measure too far.
The cost of COVID-19 treatment is a concerning issue for many Americans. If you are without coverage, or are looking to switch providers, take a look at our guide to the best health insurance providers, as well as the best Medicare Part D plans for prescription drugs cost coverage.