Dr. Priyanka Chakrabarti, DO, Physician at Iora Primary Care, discusses the new CDC recommendations, how to unpack groceries and packages, hand hygiene and what to do if you are exposed.
Experts are still learning new things about the coronavirus every day, but Dr. Chakrabarti shares some of the latest CDC Recommendations to keep you safe.
“As of now, the CDC does recommend masks for people who are going out in public, especially places that could be crowded like the grocery store or the pharmacy,” Dr. Chakrabarti said.
There has been a shortage of N-95 respirators and surgical masks in the healthcare industry, as well as in the general public, so a cloth mask can be used as a substitute. There are instructions on the CDC Website on how to create an effective cloth mask.
“You want it to cover your nose and your mouth and you don’t want to touch it either,” Dr. Chakrabarti said. “You want to limit any touching of your face when you’re out in public and that includes the front of the mask.”
Unpacking and Sanitizing Groceries and Packages
There has been a lot of concern about the spread of COVID-19 through the surface of packages or groceries. So far, there has been no evidence of the coronvirus being spread on the surface of packaging, but there are still precautions you can take.
“Whenever you’re handling any packaging you want to wash your hands afterwards especially before you eat,” Dr. Chakrabarti said. “If you are concerned you can always wipe down the packaging when you get your groceries, or any packages delivered to your house, or just take it out of that packaging, put it in something that you have at home and get rid of it, and then wash your hands.”
The virus can live on different types of surfaces and materials for different amounts of time, so while it’s good to be cautious there’s no need to be paranoid about receiving packages or getting groceries.
Hand Hygiene and Cross Contamination
Hand hygiene is trying to keep your hands clean as much as possible especially when touching something that isn’t yours. Effective hand cleaners include hand sanitizer that is at least 60% ethanol or alcohol, or washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
“If you don’t have hand sanitizer that’s okay,” Dr. Chakrabarti said. “Recommendations would be to try and wash your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water before you get into your car, but definitely first thing when you get home, so nothing that got on your hands is spreading around your house.”
Dr. Chakrabarti said although people have been great about wearing gloves, there is a right way to do it. You have to consider the outside of the gloves as dirty, so it will be just like having dirty hands.
“Anything you touch with the gloves could potentially have virus on it so that’s also something you want to keep from touching your face, touching the food you’re going to eat, wearing it inside the house and touching things inside your house,” Dr. Chakrabarti said.
If gloves aren’t used properly it may be a better idea to just wash your hands often and try not to touch your face.
What if I’ve been exposed or I’m feeling sick?
If you are sick or you think you’ve been exposed the first step to take is to call your doctor’s office. In Houston, they’ve opened up testing to everyone who wants it. The Houston City website has a phone number to call to get information and directions to the nearest testing location.
“If you are not certain you need to be tested or are worried about waiting in the long lines or if it’s going to help you, just call your doctors office and they can definitely help guide you through that,” Dr. Chakrabarti said.
If you think you’ve been exposed or are feeling sick it’s recommenced to self-quarantine, which just means limiting your exposure to others until you have further information on what to do.
Social Distancing, Home Isolation and Home Quarantine
All these terms can get confusing, and what do they actually mean? Social distancing is something that pretty much the whole world is practicing right now. Social distancing is limiting gathering sizes, limiting how much you go outside and working from home.
Home Isolation is usually for people who may have been exposed but are not sick. It lasts about 14 days and the person would stay at home during that time to monitor themselves. This could include staying in a room away from your family, unless they have also been exposed, using a different restroom and using different silverware. The CDC has more tips on their website.
Home Quarantine is similar to Home Isolation except in this case the person has shown symptoms of being sick. People in this category should stay in their own room and wear a mask when around others, even if they are in your family. Visit the CDC website for more information on the differences between quarantine and isolation.
“Although it’s a really uncertain time and there’s a lot of fear out there over what’s going on, there’s still a lot in your control.” Dr. Chakrabarti said. “Trying to practice good hygiene, trying to wear a mask, these are all things we can do to protect ourselves, and not just that but also others like your family or anyone who might be immunocompromised that you’re around. Things aren’t as helpless as they may seem.”
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