COVID-19 changed how the world operates — from remote learning to grocery deliveries. But as states peel back restrictions and businesses reopen, some have questioned how they should safely resume their daily activities.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new set of guidelines addressing what that might look like within the confines of a pandemic.
Some say it was long overdue.
Julia Marcus is a Harvard medical school professor who advocated for public health guidelines on how to navigate everyday life during the pandemic in an article for The Atlantic last month. On Friday, she told the Associated Press “she was delighted by the CDC’s tips.”
“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” Marcus told the AP. “These guidelines are really directed toward ordinary Americans trying to make decisions about risk every day.”
What to ask yourself before going out
The CDC warns there is “no way to ensure zero risk of infection,” but the agency recommends Americans think carefully about the circumstances before making the decision to eat at a restaurant or go to a gym.
Knowing that interacting with more people for a long period of time in a closed-in space increases your chance of exposure, the CDC says to ask yourself:
How many people will be in attendance?
Can you adequately socially distance six feet apart from others?
How long will it last?
The agency also encourages people to be aware of what’s going on in their community. That means knowing whether COVID-19 is spreading and what local orders are in place to ensure their safety.
People with severe illness or who live with people with severe illness should also weigh the risk before going out, the CDC says.
Everyone should additionally consider the need for shared items, having to take public transportation and interacting with people outside their communities when making that decision, according to Friday’s guidelines.
What to bring
The CDC and public health experts have reiterated the need to practice “everyday preventative actions” like washing your hands and wearing a mask.
If you decide to go out, the CDC says you should always have these three things on hand:
A cloth face covering
Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
What activities are safe?
There’s no definitive list of safe activities. According to the CDC, that can depend on a number of factors, such as ventilation, the ability to socially distance and whether people are wearing masks.
Here’s what the agency says about the following activities.
Banks: Opt to complete transactions over the phone, online or at a drive-thru when possible; check to make sure the bank is following preventative measures (i.e. plexiglass barriers at teller windows); wear a mask; stand back from other customers; use hand sanitizer; wash your hands when you get home.
Restaurants: Make sure staff are wearing masks, wear a face covering when you’re not eating, avoid valets, wash your hands when entering and exiting, sit outside if you can and avoid self-serve establishments.
Hanging out with friends: Host outside when possible, wear masks and provide them for your guests, have hand sanitizer readily available, wash your hands when entering and exiting, arrange furniture six feet apart, bring your own food and drinks, have one person serve food, have single-use items on hand (like plastic plates and mini ketchup packets); use touchless garbage cans, keep soap refilled in bathrooms and provide paper towels for drying instead of a cloth towel; keep a list of everyone in attendance for possible contact tracing in the future.
Going to the gym: Reserve a time slot online when possible; look for outdoor space to exercise; limit indoor group training classes; stay six feet apart from others; wipe down equipment thoroughly after use; don’t share items that can’t be cleaned; don’t shake hands, high-five, hug or otherwise touch fellow gym-goers; wear a face covering when doing low-intensity workouts.
Going to the nail salon: Make an appointment; wait in your car — not the lobby — before appointment begins; wear a mask; wash your hands; use cashless payment options when possible.
Visiting the library: Make use of online reservations or advance-order checkout; choose digital over print; request curb-side pickup when available; wash your hands after exchanges; clean and disinfect shared and personal materials; use computer stations one person at a time.
Overnight trips: Use online reservations and a mobile key when possible; look for extra preventative measures in places where multiple guests might interact (i.e. check-in counter); wear a face covering; avoid public places such as lounges and dining areas, pools, hot tubs, spas and fitness centers; take the stairs or wait for the elevator to empty.
Visit the CDC’s website for more information on specific activities.