Edward-Elmhurst Health: How to live in the “new normal” of COVID-19

June 30, 2020

Experts say it could be more than a year before people can resume normal activities without masks and hand sanitizer at the ready, though they don’t know for sure.

In the meantime, how do people avoid infection from the virus that causes COVID-19?

Fortunately, there are temporary steps people can take to stay healthy and still enjoy life.

The most important things to remember, regardless of activity, are that everyone should strive to maintain a 6-foot distance from people they don’t live with, wear a mask when they can’t maintain that distance, continue being vigilant about hand washing, clean frequently-touched surfaces and use hand sanitizer.

One warm-weather tip: Be mindful of face masks. If masks (either surgical or cloth) are fully saturated or damp, use a new mask. Dispose of the saturated surgical mask or launder the cloth mask.

Can people get check-ups or annual health screenings?

Yes. There is no reason to delay medical care out of fear of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. No one should delay care that can keep them healthy. Edward-Elmhurst Health is scheduling health screenings and doctors are seeing patients again — in person, via video appointment and by phone. There are a number of measures in place to ensure patients can visit their doctors’ offices safely and minimize their risk, including deep cleaning, staggered appointment times, entrance screenings and socially-distanced waiting areas.

Can people have friends over for a cookout?

It depends. If the group is small, stays outside and maintains a 6-foot social distance, it would be safest. Making the cookout bring-your-own-silverware/paper plates/sides would be even safer. Sharing food increases the chance of transmission.

Can people go to the beach? What about a pool party?

Again, the issue is social distance. Experts say it’s unlikely that anyone will get sick from pool water or even lake or ocean water. The danger lies in getting too close to other people. So — is the beach packed with people on a hot day? Probably not a great idea to lay a towel down in that crowd. The pool is hopping and it’s tough to keep a 6-foot distance from all the kiddos? Also not a safe place to be.

Should people visit grandparents?

Because COVID-19 generally hits the senior population harder than other age brackets, it’s important to be careful visiting older relatives that don’t live in the same house. An outdoor visit is safest, along with maintaining a 6-foot distance, wearing masks and passing on hugs and kisses for now.

Is it OK to travel?

This depends on the mode of transportation. Driving is safer than hopping on a crowded train or airplane (and trying to socially distance in an airport). Of course, a long car road trip also requires the inevitable fuel and bathroom stops, which increases the risk of illness.

Before traveling, check whether the virus is spreading in the destination community. Before driving, make sure the vehicle includes masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Wash hands frequently and pack enough food to minimize stops.

Air, bus and train travel bring their own sets of concerns. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers advice for travelers and answers frequently asked questions about travel on its website.

Should kids go to summer camp?

Many day camps and childcare facilities were given the green light to resume operation when states like Illinois moved into the current phase of their reopening plans. Before deciding to send a child to daycare or camp, parents should find out what the organization running the program is doing to make things safe.

The CDC recommends camps keep small groups of kids together, the same groups every day, and that kids stay outside if possible, avoid sharing toys or food, and maintain 6 feet of distance between each other.

Kids should also wear a cloth face covering and be instructed to frequently wash their hands, avoid touching their faces, and use hand sanitizer.

The safest option is staying home. This will not be a “normal” summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever. Taking these temporary precautions will help reduce the spread of the disease.

For updates on COVID-19, check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.