Coronavirus: How to Stay Safe



As I watch our collective Covid19 response unfold, my nursing and public health radar are in overdrive. Excellent public health/prevention advice is being shared (CDC, NIH, State and local health departments) and reshared through many other organizations. While so much is closed down, places that provide essential goods and services – food, medicine, health care – remain available. I get it – if we’re hunkering down, you need groceries, toothpaste, laundry detergent, your favorite comfort food. But – my public health eyes have been a bit alarmed at what I’ve seen.


The current state of our knowledge about Covid19 indicates that a 14-day self isolation period is the minimum each of us must do to protect…everyone. The incubation period – time from exposure to the emergence of symptoms – seems to be about 10 days, give or take. From the time we self-isolate – without contact with others or possibly contaminated surfaces – to the end of 14 days with no symptoms – we’re presumably safe. But every contact – with people or things – restarts our personal clocks.


Covid19 appears to be droplet spread – which is why the ‘social distance’ is 6 feet. In healthcare settings we generally say 3’-5’ – along with personal protective equipment (gowns, gloves, masks) and cleaning surfaces frequently.


What I see – people in public spaces not maintaining social distance, not wearing gloves, not wiping down surfaces before and after contact. I’m in my fourth year as an MCPS teacher – Medical Science with Clinical Applications, part of MCPS’ Academy of Health Professions (AOHP) programming. Every one of my students – past and current – could easily advise Giant, Food Lion, Wegeman’s, any business remaining open now, and their customers:


· The virus lives on surfaces – medical term “fomites”, right AOHPers? – which is why frequently wiping surfaces in our homes, wiping down public equipment before and after use AND wearing gloves is so important


· If you’re going out – to the grocery store, to the CVS, to get gas – wear gloves – either disposable or not. Toss the disposables, put the regular in the laundry as soon as you get home


· Remember - wash hands before donning gloves, and as soon as you remove them


· In stores - Clorox wipes – everywhere – so people can wipe down shared equipment before and after use. Grocery cart, self-checkout touch screen, etc. Take your own wipes to be safe – because I’m not seeing stores take this commonsense step – or, unfortunately, they ARE taking those steps and customers are taking the supplies.


· When you bring things into your home – from the store etc. - wipe down the packages, wash the fruits and vegetables, discard outer packaging (wearing your gloves).


Re-emphasizing - social distancing is essential. 6 feet. No exceptions. If you’re supporting local restaurants with take-out or delivery --- you can’t meet the DoorDash driver at the door – arrange no contact delivery. Same with take-out – they can’t hand that bag/box to you.


It may sound daunting, but I would also say -- none of these steps is difficult, we just have to stop and think a bit about things we normally don’t stop and think about. We will all get through this. We’re also seeing folks really stepping forward with kindness and concern for their friends and neighbors, and many our concerned about the very real issue of food insecurity, which is a greater challenge now. Manna Food Center has been combatting hunger in Montgomery County for nearly 40 years, and they are developing an ongoing response to Covid19. Check their website for information about how you can help make sure no one is going hungry during this time of uncertainty.


Finally, there’s a lot of information circulating from many sources in this continually evolving situation. MCCPTA has created a Covid19 Response Facebook page – on which they are continually collating and updating information and resources, including information from MCPS.


Be safe everyone!

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Lynne Harris

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