We are so proud to post this piece written by LMS alumnus, Laura Hegarty-Moore, RN, MPH. In addition to being a Public Health Nurse, Laura is an Infection Prevention Specialist at MarinHealth Medical Center in Greenbrae, CA working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
- Cover your face in public.
- First, let’s talk about masks-yes, they ARE effective! Masks, even cloth masks, are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. While hospital-grade masks provide some more protection, cloth masks are sufficient for your everyday encounters out in public. Studies have compared cities that used masks with ones that didn’t and the masks proved effective at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
- When should I wear a mask? In any indoor public space, when waiting in line, when getting healthcare, and outdoors if you can’t stay 6ft away from others not in your household.
- When can I take off my mask? When engaged in strenuous outdoor work or recreation, when giving birth, when outdoors with those you live with as long as you maintain a 6ft. distance from others not in your household, when driving in your car alone or with those you live with, when eating or drinking, or in your house with those you live with, provided everyone is COVID-19 free. Here's a country by country comparison of mask wearing as well, updated June 15, 2020.
2. Do not wear gloves in public. This is a big pet peeve for me! The CDC doesn’t recommend routine glove use. Wearing gloves in public actually spreads more germs around on more surfaces, increasing your risk of getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many people studied removed their gloves incorrectly or thought they didn’t need to wash their hands, causing more germs to spread. For example, while wearing gloves at a grocery store, people often touch many dirty surfaces without cleaning their hands in between. Then they reach for their phone and start typing a message. Now the phone is contaminated. The next time you put the phone to your face, it’s covered with all the germs from the grocery store! Ew!
3. Cleaning your hands frequently and properly is your best defense against COVID-19! Clean with either soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel. Both are effective. If you’re washing with soap and water, scrub for at least 20 seconds (hum “happy birthday” twice!) making sure to scrub all surfaces- between all your fingers and under your fingernails. If you’re using an alcohol-based hand gel, rub the product between your hands until it’s dry (no time limit on this one!) making sure again to cover all surfaces of your hands.
- When should I use soap and water vs. alcohol-based hand gel? Use soap and water when your hands are visibly soiled (e.g. after gardening, playing outdoors, or cleaning up baby puke), after using the restroom, after changing a diaper, before and after preparing or eating food, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
-You can use alcohol-based hand gel any time your hands are not visibly soiled and handwashing isn’t an option, such as before and after going to the store, before and after visiting someone in the hospital, and after touching shared surfaces like computers or shopping carts.
4. Don’t spread rumors, and always check your sources. Spreading misinformation is almost as bad as spreading germs! Some good ways to know if a source is legit is to ask yourself these questions: First of all, does this information come from the CDC, the WHO, or another similar guiding organization? They combine all the research to give you the best recommendations. Next, find out- is this a study? Studies are the best source for evidence-based research, and a randomized controlled trial, or RCT, is considered the gold standard. Some click-bait headlines will claim to show you horrifying results of “a new study,” but when you click on it, there’s no real study to be found! Fake news!
Next, if it’s not a study, but an article, check out the author’s credentials. Ask yourself, is this person an expert in the field? Not all doctors specialize in infectious disease, and not all public health professionals are doctors. You want to look for credentials in Epidemiology, Public Health, and/or Infectious Disease. Also, see if there’s any potential bias. For example, if there’s an article on a new drug written by a drug company, you may want to take it with a grain of salt. Lastly, you want to ask yourself- is this material current? Information about COVID-19 has been changing rapidly and you want to make sure what you’re sharing is the most up-to-date.
5. Only get tested if you need to. If you have no exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 positive person and no COVID-19 symptoms, you shouldn’t get tested. Exposure is defined as spending longer than 15 minutes with someone, closer than 6ft apart, while one or both of you weren’t wearing a mask. If you meet these criteria or you’re having symptoms, consult your doctor on whether or not you should get tested.
Many people recover at home with no need to be tested and no need for medical intervention, but if you have risk factors; like you are an older adult, you’re pregnant, or you have asthma, you may want to be tested.