By Jarita Hagans, M.D.
To date, there are more than 6.7 million global cases of Coronavirus (COVID 19) and over 1.9 million confirmed in the U.S. So many people have been affected by this virus, or know someone who has been. The statistics are sobering. There have been over 395,000 deaths worldwide, with over 110,000 of those in the United States. Round numbers are being used here because there is an uptick in the totals daily. It has been a long three months, and people are ready to get back to normal.
Many states and municipalities are rolling out Phase 1 of reopening. Per whitehouse.gov, one of the criteria for reopening is a “downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period”. We’re seeing that parts of a state can be ready to open, while their neighboring city or county may not be. During Phase 1, vulnerable persons (the elderly and those with a compromised immune system) should continue to shelter in place. People going to public places should maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet. Many stores are using floor stickers to keep people separated by 6 feet when in line. Avoid large groups or gatherings that don’t allow you to distance yourself from others. Schools, camp, daycare and youth activities should remain closed during phase one. Visitors to hospitals and senior homes are still prohibited. Movie theaters, places of worship, sit-down dining, gyms and other large venues will be allowed to operate under strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols. Elective surgeries can resume in Phase 1 reopening. With all of these venues reopening, there is nothing to stop persons from area with a high infection rate from travelling to another part of the state. So, people have to be ready to protect themselves when coming in contact with the public.
Try to do your shopping and errands at a time when stores are less crowded. That might be early morning, late at night or midday when others are working. Wear a mask. Make sure it properly covers both your mouth and nose. If you have to remove your mask for any reason, wash or sanitize your hands first. Try to avoid touching your face when out in the public. Do not wear gloves all day. Wearing gloves can pick up the virus from surfaces and transfer them to your personal items like your purse, steering wheel, etc.
Choose the dirty activities during which you will wear gloves, like pumping gas or wiping down your grocery store cart. After the activity is done, remove your gloves and wash or sanitize your hands. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces like your car steering wheel, doorknobs, light switches, credit cards with wipes or alcohol frequently. Resist the urge to eat on the go without washing your hands first.
Re-entering the Workplace
Your job may be re-opening soon, and that could make you understandably nervous. But you can do this safely if you follow the guidelines. Stay home if you feel sick or have a fever, which is defined as a temperature of 100.4 or more. Contact your doctor by phone or telemedicine to discuss your symptoms and find out if you should be tested for Coronavirus. If you have been ill, your job will probably require a note from a doctor to return to work. If your doctor’s office isn’t open, you can use Urgent Care or Telemedicine for this purpose. If you can telework, exercise that option. Wear a mask at all times, even around co-workers that you know and feel comfortable with.
If you have a shared workstation, sanitize the desk, computer keyboard, mouse and phone with wipes or alcohol pad before you begin working and then wash your hands. Wash your hands before eating. Use your elbow or the end of a pen to press elevator buttons. Wash your hands and change your clothes as soon as you get home. Leave your shoes and bags by the door. If you work in health care or another industry wear you come in close contact with the public, take a shower before interacting with your family or sitting on your couch or bed.
The New Normal
Because of COVID 19, this country and our world will never be the same. Masks are becoming part of our daily outfits, so people are finding fashionable ones. We’re finding creative ways to connect with other through social media and other virtual platforms. This virus is changing the way we live, move and work. As we move through the phases of reopening, we’ll begin to catch glimpses of our former lives. One day, children will return to school, churches will be open, antibody testing will be widely available and hopefully we will have a vaccine.
I look forward to the day when social distancing is a thing of the past and we can be together, hug each other and breathe the same air without fear.
Jarita Hagans, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, foodie, author and artist. She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. for undergraduate and medical school. Afterwards, she completed a surgery internship at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. Eastern Virginia Medical School/Portsmouth Family Medicine is where she received her Family Medicine training.
She had the honor of being Intern of the Year and Chief Resident while training there. Operating a clinic for a battered women’s shelter and providing medical care for a homeless shelter were two of her favorite projects.