How to Stay Safe When Going Back Out in Public
No matter where you live, you’ve been asked to make an array of adjustments in the past six months to deal with the pandemic.
You’ve started wearing a mask everywhere you go and learned to practice social distancing. You’ve changed your shopping habits to account for supply-chain issues and shortages. Maybe you’re caring for aging or at-risk loved ones — or receiving that kind of care, yourself.
Now, however, transmission rates are slowing in some areas. A new vaccine may be on the horizon, and other treatment methods are being researched. Soon it will be time for many of us, once again, to create a new routine.
With quarantines being lifted and some businesses reopening, we face the prospect of venturing back out into the world while also trying to stay as safe as possible. Here are some methods to help you do just that.
Understand Your Risk Factors
The virus doesn’t pose an equal threat to everyone. Those of us dealing with certain risk factors must go above and beyond to keep ourselves safe from the virus. High-risk groups include those with:
- Respiratory illness
- Autoimmune disorders
- Heart conditions
- Kidney disease
If you or members of your family fall into any of these categories, be careful to limit your exposure and interact with the outside world only when necessary. This may not be easily avoided, of course, if your job requires you to work outside the home or share space with those who do.
For example, Latinx and Black people in America are more likely to be essential workers and experience other disparities that make it difficult to prevent exposure. Crowded living conditions, food and housing insecurity, wealth and educational gaps all contribute to the racial and ethnic disparities that make the virus and pandemic more dangerous for people of color.
Maintain Proper Precautions
It’s important to keep doing what’s kept you safe so far. Even if your company’s reopening and returning to a semblance of normalcy, the virus remains a pervasive and serious threat. Outside the home, be sure to continue taking these precautions:
- Wash your hands often
- Use sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands
- Wear face masks
- Practice social distancing
- Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly
- Remain outdoors whenever possible
Adjust Your Hygiene Routine
When venturing out, it’s easy to see how much has changed. There’s the obvious emphasis on washing hands and disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs and dashboards. But spaces and logistics are changing, too.
For instance, with more events held outdoors, porta-potties are increasingly used to reduce traffic in permanent restrooms. You may dread them, but know this: Although conditions differ across facilities, each unit is sanitized on a regular schedule that’s built into the rental contract. Regardless, you should use hand sanitizer liberally after each visit — and if you feel the state of any restroom is unacceptable, speak to the event or facility manager.
Logistics and density are changing everywhere else. Many airlines are using staggered seating arrangements, filling no middle seats. Transit systems are ramping up disinfecting services throughout America, and nearly every establishment requires patrons to wear a mask.
Safeguard Your Home
Many of us have grown anxious and fearful, not just of the virus, but of “outside life” in general. This can cause stress, which can weaken your immune system and leave you, ironically, more susceptible to illnesses — including COVID-19. By getting your house in order, you can reduce some of this stress.
One step you can take is purchasing a home warranty. It won’t prevent problems from occurring, but it can ensure that you’re never short on the cash needed to repair major systems. A home warranty can cover the cost of fixing your heating, air conditioning, plumbing, or electricity, and it can protect major appliances, such as your refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, and dryer.
Other home protection steps can include:
- Having seasonal checkups done on your HVAC systems, and replace filters regularly (especially important in view of the link between ventilation and virus transmission)
- Caulking and weatherstripping doors, windows, and other openings to prevent air leaks
- Testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing batteries regularly
- Checking for water leaks around sinks, tubs, toilets, and faucets
- Reading through your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to make sure you have the coverage you need
Protect Your Money
In a world full of economic uncertainty, getting control of your finances has never been more important. Budgeting, cutting costs, saving, and reducing debt are no longer just good ideas; these days, they’re essential survival skills.
Good credit also can be a crucial lifeline when you’re at your most vulnerable. By building your credit, you can ensure that you’ll be able to handle unexpected bills and expenses of all kinds. Rather than waiting until you’re in dire need to focus on your credit, take steps now to save yourself time and turmoil later.
Venturing back into the public in the pandemic age can be downright scary. But by taking the proper precautions, you can rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself and your family.
There are no foolproof methods to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe right now; we all incur a degree of risk just by getting up every day — and more so, every time we step outside our homes. Still, there are common-sense steps to take that can enhance your health, safety, and security.
By practicing sound hygiene, recognizing the risks you face, stewarding your finances, and protecting your home, you can put yourself in a better position to withstand any adversity you may face in the months or years to come.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.