By Andrew Tripp, Industrial Hygienist at TriMedia Environmental and Engineering
COVID-19 has caused a drastic adjustment to the daily lives of people around the world. In my case, I can recall my body temperature reading for the last three days off the top of my head (97.1°F, 98.6°F, 96.8°F), all because I’ve had to monitor it routinely. It’s safe to say that life has changed.
During this crisis, people are working from home, no longer working, or carrying on essential duties, like the first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines. My wife is one of those (amazing) essential healthcare workers. Every workday, she goes into a hospital that’s treating patients with COVID-19.
Our situation has led me to think about how we can protect ourselves from contracting and spreading the disease. My expertise in safety and industrial hygiene includes protection from hazardous materials, which uses many similar principles as infection control. So in this article, I want to share some basic protective measures that my wife and I have instituted into our daily routine because we have a high risk of COVID-19 exposure.
|The methods outlined in this article are based on information provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s critical to educate yourself on approved best practices. Take some time and review vital information about COVID-19 provided at https://www.cdc.gov/.
Screening for symptoms
COVID-19 presents in several ways, so there are different methods you can use for symptom screening. Here are habits I’ve implemented into my daily routine:
- Monitoring temperature daily for fever
- Heightening consciousness of potential respiratory distress, such as chest pain and trouble breathing
- Staying mindful of sense of taste and smell
Disinfecting after public interaction
We’re all familiar with social distancing guidelines, but there’s more to protecting yourself from COVID-19.
We all need to eat. So if you have stores in your area that provide curbside pick up or delivery services, use them to limit public contact.
If you must head to the store, remember to:
- Visit the store’s website before heading out. Many stores have instituted specific hours for those who are especially vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly and immunocompromised.
- Sanitize your cart before touching it.
- Have a list ready. This will limit unnecessary merchandise handling.
- Don’t touch your face after touching any items or surfaces.
- Use hand sanitizer after using public use devices like self-checkout screens and card readers.
- Consider using a digital payment system (e.g., Apple Pay) so you don’t have to handle cash or cards.
- Keep hand sanitizer in your vehicle and apply every time you get in.
|How long does coronavirus stay on surfaces?
Viruses can live on various surfaces and often stay active for extended periods of time. According to the latest update from the National Institute of Health, COVID-19 can stay detectable on surfaces like cardboard for 24 hours and up to 3 days on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel.
Disinfecting items before bringing them inside
After a grocery trip, if you don’t need an item immediately, drop it in a designated place, preferably outside of your living space, to give potential viruses time to become inactive.
If you need immediate access to items or don’t have an isolated storage area, you can disinfect your items before bringing them inside.
- Remove all your items from shopping bags and dispose of the bags.
- Wash or sanitize your hands.
- Sanitize a tote or crate for bringing your items inside.
- Sanitize each item and place them into a tote or crate.
- Wash or sanitize your hands again and bring your items into your house.
- Wash any surface you or the items touched after interaction with the public.
|Cleaning and disinfecting your home is essential after any public interaction. The CDC has detailed guidance about what to clean. Further, the EPA has a comprehensive list of household disinfectants that are effective against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.
I’ve been asking myself, “What am I going to wear?” more often since the COVID-19 outbreak, as clothing can transport the virus. If you do need to go out in public, here’s what you can do.
- Designate a specific jacket, sweatshirt, overcoat, and shoes you can wear out in public.
- Upon returning home, remove your designated layers outside and keep them in an isolated area (e.g., a garage) and leave them there until the virus becomes inactive.
- If you cannot keep the clothes somewhere out of the way, remove the clothes you wore out in public and wash them as soon as you get home.
If you or someone in your household works in healthcare or another essential job and doesn’t have a chance to decontaminate at work, there are a few extra steps to take.
- Identify an isolated area of your home, like a garage or entryway, as the only point of entry after work.
- Remove all work clothes in this area.
- Immediately wash work clothes in hot water OR leave them in an isolated place until the virus becomes inactive and then wash.
- Clean any surface you touched after returning home per CDC disinfection guidance.
- Take a shower immediately to ensure complete disinfection.
|Roommates and significant others can reduce the workload in this process. For example, they can open doors and handle the washing machine, staying careful not to handle any work clothes or touch the person returning from home until decontamination is complete.
For more information on at home protections and up to date best practices against COVID-19, visit the CDC website.
Note from the author:
The new processes that my wife and I have adopted involve more work than what we’re used to. However, they’re important, not only for peace of mind, but to ensure we are taking appropriate care to limit potential exposure to COVID-19. Hopefully these tips can be helpful to other people with high risk of exposure. Let’s flatten the curve!
And to those on the front lines of this pandemic — healthcare workers, first responders, essential service employees, and volunteers — Thank You!