Eight Ways to Go Out During the Pandemic and Stay Safe

People are starting to loosen their social distancing practices and mask wearing—but the pandemic is not over. Here are some tips on how to go out while staying as safe as possible.

It’s been two, almost three months since the first stay-at-home orders. Summer is approaching, and people are getting tired of staying inside. Support for social distancing is decreasing, and cellphone data shows people are beginning to leave their homes. Most states are beginning to open their economies, ready or not.

At the beginning, experts’ guidance was absolute, says one Vox article. People were told to stay home and avoid interacting with anyone you don’t live with. Now, with a vaccine who-knows-how-far away, people are leaving their homes and saying we need to focus on harm-reduction techniques.

There’s no question that keeping people indoors is the most effective way to manage the spread of a disease. However, people are beginning to abandon that recommendation—either because they cannot or will not follow it anymore.

Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard, compared the choice to the idea of abstinence versus advising on safe sex during the worst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Completely avoiding sex would keep someone safe from HIV, but given that most people won’t do that, it’s better to give them the tools to practice sex as safely as possible.

“There’s been a polarization between two purported options of staying home indefinitely…versus going back to business as usual,” Marcus told me. “The idea of harm reduction gives us a way of thinking about risk as a continuum and thinking about the middle ground between those two options.”

So, the article addresses one major question: What can people do to minimize the harm to themselves and others if and when they choose to go out?

General advice reiterates what we have heard before: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask, avoid shared surfaces and crowded settings and keep at least a six-foot distance from people you don’t live with.

Here is a breakdown of settings by lowest, moderate, higher and highest risk:

Lowest: Home Alone (with housemates)

(This includes physically staying home and not leaving your house to protect yourself and others.)

  • try to allow only people you live with into your home
  • wash your hands
  • if you’re sick, stay home and isolate from housemates

Moderate: Outdoor Activities

(This includes walking, running, biking etc. outside.)

  • stay at least six feet from others
  • wear a mask
  • avoid shared surfaces like swings or benches

Higher: Outdoor Gatherings

(This includes any gathering of people outside, like picnics, beaches, sporting events etc.)

  • wash your hands and don’t touch your face
  • stay at least six feet from others
  • wear a mask
  • don’t share food, toys and other items, and avoid shared surfaces
  • participate in these events infrequently

Highest: Indoor Gatherings

(This includes any medium or larger gatherings indoors.)

  • wash your hands and don’t touch your face
  • stay at least six feet from people you don’t live with
  • wear a mask
  • don’t share food, toys and other items and avoid shared surfaces
  • open windows for better ventilation
  • try to avoid gathering indoors as much as possible
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OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - September 2020

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