With stay-at-home orders lifted, you’re likely wondering if it’s safe to resume activities outside of your home.
WellTuned spoke with Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee for guidance on navigating public spaces.
“Even though we all want to get outside, we should continue to work to minimize the risks of bringing COVID-19 back to our homes,” she says.
So before going out in a public space, Dr. Willis recommends asking yourself these 4 questions.
1. Do I have risk factors that make me more vulnerable to COVID-19? Or, will I be potentially putting someone in my home at risk if I were to contract the virus?
If anyone in your home is an older adult or has one of the following underlying health conditions, they may be at higher risk for contracting severe illness:
- serious heart conditions
- lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- obesity (BMI > 30)
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease
- sickle cell disease
Even while at home, make sure you are keeping up with routine care and focusing on your chronic health conditions.
2. Am I aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 or have I experienced any symptoms?
Even if you’re experiencing slight symptoms, it’s better to stay home. Symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Those symptoms can include:
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- muscle or body aches
- new loss of taste or smell
- sore throat, congestion or runny nose
- nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
3. Have I been around anyone that has been ill with COVID-19? Were they diagnosed or have symptoms that resemble COVID-19 symptoms?
The Tennessee Department of Health updates their website daily with new cases, testing and more. Review this information to help you understand the conditions in your community.
4. Will I be able to take precautions including social distancing in this environment? Is the venue observing local social distancing policies?
COVID-19 spreads most commonly among people that are in close contact, but we are still learning about other ways it may spread. If you’re considering a public space such as a restaurant or gym, call ahead or check the businesses’ social media pages to make sure they are following local recommendations.
And, if you do go out in a public space, remember these 4 tips.
1. Practice social distancing.
Avoid closed spaces. Where possible, choose locations that are outdoors and conducive to maintaining an appropriate distance from others. If you are indoors, look for arrows or markers along the floor or walls that indicate where you should stand to avoid close contact.
2. Wear a face mask when going out in public.
The CDC recommends everyone, except children under age 2 or people who have trouble breathing or are incapacitated and unable to remove a mask, wear a cloth face covering to help slow the spread of the virus.
Face masks work to block the respiratory droplets that carry the virus. We’re still learning exactly how effective they can be, but some studies show cloth masks can reduce transmission by 50-75%. And since people can spread the virus before they know they have it, wearing a mask can help limit the impact of COVID-19.
“Face masks are to aid when you aren’t able to socially distance, but should not take the place of social distancing,” says Dr. Willis.
3. Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds and continue to disinfect frequently used surfaces.
Take hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol in case soap and water are unavailable.
4. Follow local guidance – limit interactions with people you don’t live with, especially in large groups.
Some people may have the virus and show no symptoms. That’s why the more people you are around, and the longer amount of time you spend with them, the higher your risk becomes of contracting COVID-19.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, stay home and separate yourself from others. Next, call your provider’s office or local health department and tell them your symptoms. If they think you need to be tested, they will give you instructions for where to go and what to do.
For the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee response to COVID-19, visit: BCBSTupdates.com.
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.