How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19

It has been a dizzying past month for the world thanks to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Many businesses have had to slow or halt operations as governments impose stay-at-home sanctions to keep people safe. For many of us, this rapid change in how we go about our daily lives has been confusing, to say the least. We want to take time to make sure everyone is armed with the knowledge they need to stay safe.

Child in mask receiving hand sanitizer from adult outdoors.

What Exactly is the Coronavirus/COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.” You may be hearing coronavirus and COVID-19 used interchangeably. Let’s clear up any confusion. COVID-19 is the illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus. Coronavirus refers to a group of similar viruses that, in humans, cause respiratory illness. Mild versions of coronavirus include some strains of the common cold, whereas more serious versions include MERS, SARS and COVID-19.

As scientists have been studying this novel coronavirus for a few months now, we can see that most individuals infected will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and will likely recover without needing medical treatment. However, certain populations of people are more at risk, including:

  • The elderly
  • Those with cardiovascular problems
  • Those with diabetes
  • Individuals with chronic respiratory disease
  • Individuals with cancer
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • Those with kidney or liver disease
  • Individuals who live in nursing homes/assisted living communities

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

This coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets of moisture containing saliva or nasal discharge. Droplets are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When another individual encounters these virus-carrying droplets of moisture in the air, they can inhale the droplets into their lungs and become infected. The droplets can also land in an individual’s mouth or nose, which will allow the virus to spread into the respiratory tract.

As scientists have discovered, it is possible to be infected with COVID-19 but be asymptomatic, meaning that one can be carrying and spreading the virus without showing any symptoms. A recent research letter set to be published by the CDC found that over 10 percent of people infected with COVID-19 contracted the virus from someone who either had not started showing symptoms yet or who was completely asymptomatic. Knowing this, it’s crucial that all individuals acknowledge that they may be a carrier of the virus and take the necessary steps to avoid spreading it.

How to Avoid Infection

Although COVID-19 spreads exceptionally well among humans, there are still several things you can do to protect yourself and help slow the spread of the virus. The CDC asserts that the best way to protect yourself from illness is to avoid exposure to the virus and to know how it spreads. We have already examined how the coronavirus spreads. Here are the best ways to avoid exposure:

  • Avoid leaving home except for essential activities
  • Wear a face mask when leaving home
  • Avoid coming in close contact (within six feet) of individuals you don’t live with
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you are in a situation where you can’t wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth or any part of your face with unwashed hands
  • Cover all coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces every day, including phones, computer keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, desks, toilets, faucets, etc.
  • Talk to your doctor on the phone or online before going into the office
  • Arrange to have medications delivered rather than visiting pharmacies in-person

When you do need to leave the house, be sure to follow CDC guidelines on how to keep yourself and your community safe:

  • Shop during non-peak hours
  • Find out if the store you’re visiting has set aside hours for “high-risk” shoppers
  • Use online orders and curbside pickup when possible
  • Wear a face covering
  • Observe social distancing standards by maintaining a six-foot distance from others
  • Disinfect any shopping carts or baskets used and don’t touch items other than what you’ll be buying
  • Do not touch your face or any personal items such as your phone while in the store
  • Use touchless payment when possible
  • Use disposable gloves when getting gas and throw them in the proper trash receptacles afterwards (if you continue to wear the gloves, you will spread germs to other surfaces)
  • If no gloves are available while getting gas or touching other objects that are frequently touched by others, use disinfectant wipes

Many medical experts have been talking about the need to flatten the curve of transmission of the coronavirus. Slow the spread of the virus by following the above guidelines and staying informed about recent developments in your state and county. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, so it’s important to think of flattening the curve as a collective action that we are all working together to achieve.

Finally, follow your local experts’ guidelines on social distancing. Most states agree that social distancing includes keeping at least a six-foot distance from other people, avoiding crowded areas including parks and outdoor areas, and refraining from gathering in groups (including having guests over to your home). Essentially, maintain a physical distance from other people you aren’t living with.

What to Do If You Think You’re Infected

If you think you may have come down with COVID-19, don’t panic. The CDC has created guidelines on what to do in this case. Most importantly, continue observing the methods outlined above to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

If you are sick, here’s what to do:

  • Stay home, except when medical care is needed – most people who contract COVID-19 will not require medical care and will be able to recover at home. Call your doctor if you are unsure of whether medical care is needed
  • Take good care of yourself – rest and drink plenty of water
  • Call your doctor and arrange to get care if you show any emergency signs: trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, and blushed lips and/or face. Be sure to call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency
  • Avoid public transportation
  • Stay in a separate room of the house from any others who live there
  • Wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth if you have to be around other people
  • Monitor your symptoms
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid sharing personal items with other members of the household
  • Continue home isolation the entire time you are sick

If you contract COVID-19 and the virus runs its course without any complications at home, you will no longer be contagious after you have been fever free for at least 72 hours or at least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

If you are caring someone who has COVID-19, here’s what you can do:

  • Monitor their symptoms and frequently check for signs of worsening condition
  • Have their primary healthcare provider’s information on hand
  • Avoid sharing personal items with the sick person
  • Have them wear a cloth face covering when they are around you
  • Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds with water and soap
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Sanitize all surfaces regularly
  • Wash laundry thoroughly
  • Avoid having any visitors to the house
  • Make sure the sick person drinks plenty of water
  • Stay home as much as possible to avoid spread of the virus. When going out, wear a cloth face covering

Next Steps

As many states start to see that social distancing has been effective and that the curve of transmission is flattening, it becomes clear how important our individual efforts are in reducing the spread of coronavirus. Protect yourself, your organization, your colleagues and your community by staying on top of relevant news from the CDC and by taking KnowledgeCity’s course, “Coronavirus: Guarding Against COVID-19.” This course will help you more fully understand the virus and why it’s important that every individual do their part to help slow the spread and save lives.

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