Now that a COVID-19 vaccine is here, many people are starting to let their guard down and returning to all of their regular pre-COVID places and activities. However, until the country has achieved herd immunity—which isn’t likely to happen until at least the fall, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert—many of your favorite old haunts still aren’t 100 percent safe. The Mayo Clinic, the nonprofit American academic medical center focused on integrated health care, education, and research, has issued warnings and suggested guidance for a variety of places. Read on to find out what they have to say—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
“Wide-spread vaccination holds promise for ending the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but it won’t happen overnight,” the Mayo Clinic points out. “In the meantime, continue taking precautions to protect yourself and others, especially if you must travel.” They encourage asking yourself a variety of questions prior to travel. For example, whether COVID-19 is spreading where you live or at your destination. “The more cases in your community or at your destination, the more likely you are to get and spread COVID-19 during travel,” they point out. Also, if you are at risk for severe illness or live with someone who is, you should reconsider. “Anyone can get COVID-19, but older adults and people of any age with certain medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” they say.
“While it is understandable that people are trying to find ways to safely socialize together in the same physical space, we have seen multiple cases of COVID-19 transmission among people who attended outdoor gatherings where they tried to maintain social distance,” says Dr. Melanie Swift, a Mayo Clinic preventive medicine expert. “Despite the best efforts of the hosts and attendees, it is almost impossible to maintain COVID-19 precautions at a gathering such as this.” Indeed: “Being in large gatherings or crowds of people where it’s difficult to stay spaced at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart poses the highest risk,” according to the Clinic. “The larger the group and the longer people are together in these situations, the higher the risk. Weddings, festivals and parades are examples.”
No, camp is not the same as school, explains the Mayo Clinic. “Camps are generally high risk because campers come from different locations and spend a lot of time together indoors, in close contact,” they warn. However, they do point out that risk can be reduced if campers are from the same area, avoid sharing objects, wear masks, and camp activities are kept outdoors while maintaining social distancing.
While the playground might seem like a good idea for an outdoor activity with your kids, the Mayo Clinic warns against them due to “many frequently touched surfaces” of the equipment, which could theoretically spread the virus that causes COVID-19. “Children who use playground equipment should maintain distance from others, avoid touching their faces and wash their hands afterward to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” they say.
Before you walk into a restaurant, sit down, and order food, the Mayo Clinic warns that you need to do your homework and check their safety practices. This includes making sure employees wear face masks, regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces and practice social distancing, that there is good ventilation, tables are socially distanced, and that menus are digital or disposable. Also, dine outdoors when possible, avoid dining during busy times, and keep your visit brief.
While group worship may be an important part of your life, it is incredibly important to be cautious before walking into a church, temple, or mosque as these types of settings have been linked to numerous super spreader events. “Before going to a place of worship, check to see if the size of gatherings is being limited and how that might affect your visit,” they suggest. “Seek out services held in large, well-ventilated areas or outdoors. Continue social distancing during services.” They also suggest avoiding contact with any frequently touched items, such as books, placing donations in a stationary collection box, and avoiding communal food.
While exercise is an important component of health, the Mayo Clinic points out that they can be risky. “If you’re at higher risk of serious illness, you might consider waiting to return to the gym,” they warn. If you do go, they suggest selecting a time when it isn’t busy, opting for outdoor exercise instead of indoor, making sure social distancing is implemented, cleaning all equipment before and after use, limiting high-intensity activity indoors, and also consider virtual group exercise classes. Also, make sure the gym has cleaning/disinfecting policies and is taking member’s temperatures before entering the facility.
The Mayo Clinic suggests calling your salon ahead of time and asking about safety measures. Certain policies—like requiring clients to arrive alone, having them wash their hair at home, asking them to wait in their car until their appointment, staggering appointments, or eliminating blow drying—can significantly reduce risk. “Wear a face covering at all times when you are inside the salon,” they instruct. Also, make sure they are disinfecting properly, the staff is wearing masks and washing hands, and nail technicians are using single-use gloves and other tools.
While going to the grocery store may be essential, to reduce risk the Mayo Clinic suggests visiting the store when it isn’t crowded to make social distancing easier. “At the store, disinfect the handle of the shopping cart or basket. Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others while shopping and in lines. If possible, pay without touching money or a keypad or use hand sanitizer after paying. Also, apply hand sanitizer after you leave the store. When you get home, wash your hands. If you use reusable shopping bags, clean them before each use.” And, they also suggest ordering your groceries online for home delivery or curbside pickup.
The Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding contact with an actual banker. “During visits to the bank, use the ATM, if possible,” they say. “Clean the ATM keyboard with a disinfecting wipe before using it. When you are done, apply hand sanitizer. Wash your hands when you get home.”
Before touching any handles or buttons at the gas station, be sure to wipe them down. And, after you finish fueling, apply hand sanitizer and wash your hands when you get home or the next time you are near a sink, the Mayo Clinic adds.
The Mayo Clinic suggests ordering and picking up your medications at the same time. “If possible, call in prescription orders ahead of time and use a drive-thru window, curbside pickup, mail order or other delivery service,” they suggest. “Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can get a larger supply of medication so that you don’t have to visit the pharmacy as often.”
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Before having a massage, the Mayo Clinic suggests asking about what precautions your massage therapist is taking to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. “Ideally, the number of people in the space will be limited to allow for social distancing and you’ll be able to check in and out using virtual tools,” they point out. “Massage rooms, communal areas and any objects you might touch should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and sanitized. Ask about the laundry policy for linens, towels and other washable items. Massage therapists should follow hand-washing and hygiene protocols and use equipment to protect themselves, such as gloves and masks.”
So follow the public health fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.