The new normal – staying safe during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shaped how we live our lives for the foreseeable future. While sheltering in place, wearing masks, and becoming homeschool teachers overnight – in addition to the harsh economic impact of the pandemic – is taking its toll emotionally and mentally, we are learning to adapt to the “new normal” for the health and protection of ourselves and our community.
While it can be tempting to simply return to life before the pandemic, especially as certain counties begin opening up schools and businesses, the risk of spreading COVID-19 still remains. This is especially important to keep in mind as autumn arrives. During the summer months, the warm weather made the outdoors an inviting place to play and see friends (from a distance). Now as cooler weather arrives, it can be tempting to bring those interactions indoors. However, the risk of spreading COVID-19 increases in indoor settings and other areas with poor ventilation.
Your risk not only varies based on your location; it also depends on the activity you are doing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has considerations and guidance for those participating in gatherings, as well as best practices for staying safe as you venture out of the house. It’s also important to stay informed about COVID-19 risk in your community and keep current with updated community ordinances. Read on to learn more about staying safe during the new normal.
6 feet is still the standard
Eating a meal on a restaurant’s outdoor patio. Shopping for new clothes. Taking an outdoor yoga class. Each of these can feel like a breath of fresh air as we stretch back out into something resembling everyday life. But even as we eat out, buy a new shirt, or inhale while in downward facing dog, it’s important to still maintain at least 6 feet of distance between one another, since physical distancing is one of the best ways to reduce exposure risk.
Other aspects to consider when assessing the risk of certain activities include:
- Density: risk increases as the number of people increases
- Duration: risk increases as length of time interacting with others increases
- Distance: risk increases as the ability to physically distance decreases, i.e. it’s harder to maintain distances in indoor settings than in outdoor ones
Understanding the potential risks of certain activities can help you make an informed decision about which events you want to attend. In general, virtual events pose the lowest risk, followed by outdoor in-person events with few local attendees. Next come larger events with more people coming from out of the area, and lastly, large in-person indoor events with many out-of-town attendees pose the highest risk.
To mask or not to mask (hint: wear a mask!)
If you have to go out amongst the crowds, then wearing a covering over your mouth and nose is key to helping curb the spread of COVID-19. Primarily, this means cloth face masks, which are linked with helping to reduce the spread of the virus to others. This is especially true if you are participating in an event where you are shouting or singing, which can increase risk of spreading COVID-19 more than simply talking or breathing. So when you wear a cloth mask, it might not be for your direct benefit; however, you are doing your part to protect your community – especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Even if you don’t feel sick, you might be an asymptomatic COVID-19carrier. So mask up!
Note that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – such as N95 respirators and surgical masks – should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. Also, children under age 2, people with severe respiratory diseases, and anyone unconscious or unable to respond should not wear masks.
Protect your community
As mentioned, wearing a cloth mask and physical distancing are major keys for curbing the spread of COVID-19 while in public spaces. This becomes especially important when protecting those most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus. These populations include:
- Older adults, especially those age 85 or older, but those above age 50 are at greater risk as well
- People with underlying health conditions, especially cancer, kidney disease, COPD, HIV and other conditions that compromise the immune system, heart disease, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes
Additionally, other factors might require that certain populations receive extra precautions against the spread of COVID-19. These factors can include:
- Low-income or socioeconomic status
- Breastfeeding or pregnancy
- Behavioral or developmental disorders
- Living in a long-term care facility
- Being a refugee
The level of risk in your community can affect your local shelter-in-place restrictions. It’s important to stay up to date on local ordinances and follow the guidelines.
Should I get tested?
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 – which can include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath – it’s important to contact your primary care physician (PCP) immediately. They can help diagnose your condition and offer guidance on where to get tested, if necessary, within your plan’s network. Using a virtual care service, like Teladoc, to consult with your PCP also helps you maintain physical distancing while you get care.
If your PCP determines that testing is necessary, they will likely recommend a viral test to determine if you have the virus. This will let your provider know what your next steps for treatment should be. As we learn to navigate the new normal, information is key for protecting our health and the health of our communities. Stay informed on the current risk and local ordinances.
Want to know more about Blue Shield’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency? Learn more about coverage, care, and prevention on our dedicated COVID-19 website.