The COVID-19 pandemic has been an adjustment, as everyone has shifted their lifestyles drastically this past year, since the Safer at Home order was issued on March 19, 2020. We have adjusted to this “new normal” and will have to continue this lifestyle for the foreseeable future.
COVID-19 primarily spreads from person-to-person contact. Practicing good safety and hygiene protocols are still important, even after receiving the vaccine. These practices include washing your hands often, avoid touching your face with unclean hands, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Your personal risk depends on your age, your health, virus presence in your community, and the safety measures you use (Aubrey et al., 2020).
Every outing, gathering, and activity will carry some level of risk, as being indoors and around more people can raise your risk. In general, the closer you are to an infected person and the more time you spend in close contact with them increases your risk of becoming infected. Our everyday lives will continue to be different though, so here are some tips to keep in mind.
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Assess Before Going Out
(Aubrey et al., 2020)
The CDC recently provided new recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals. Those who are fully vaccinated are able to gather with other fully vaccinated people (i.e. two weeks after receiving the final dose of the vaccine) or those with low risk of severe COVID-19 disease without masks of physical distancing. However, remember that the vaccine does not prevent you from getting COVID-19, instead it can help protect you from serious illness from COVID-19. In the event that you do decide to go out, here are some things to keep in mind to help you determine the amount of risk the outing carries and how comfortable you are going out:
Is the outing in an indoor or outdoor setting? Outdoor activities carry less risk than indoor ones.
Example: Dining in a restaurant indoor vs. a backyard barbeque.
Will you be in close contact with someone outside of your household? Are others you will be meeting with vaccinated or at risk of severe COVID-19 disease? Staying physically distant lowers your risk of infection compared to close contact with others.
Example: Getting a haircut vs. grocery shopping while keeping distance from other shoppers.
How long will you be around other people? The more time you spend in contact with people, the greater your risk. Note that staying physically distant can help lower this risk.
Example: Watching a movie at the movie theater vs. mailing a package at the post office.
Keep risk factors in mind while assessing the following activities if you are considering going out. Fully vaccinated individuals still need to wear masks and maintain physical distance while out in public. Additionally, medium and large sized gatherings should still be avoided as of March 2021 (CDC, 2021).
- Exercise (Aubrey et al., 2020)
- Exercising outdoors is a low-risk activity if you wish to stay active outside.
- Activities such as walking and golfing are safer because they allow for physical distancing. Be aware of your local area’s rules about wearing face masks while outside.
- Continue practicing the same precautions: planning your outings ahead of time, making a list of items you need, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
- Going into a bank or using an ATM exposes you to other people and having to touch shared surfaces. (Martin, 2017)
- Online banking is a good option if you are comfortable using technology. Be aware of scams and protect your personal information.
- Eating in Restaurants (Aubrey et al., 2020)
- Dining-in carries more risk since you will be around people you do not know for a longer period of time. In addition, people will not be able to wear their masks as they eat and drink.
- Restaurants are required to implement safety and distancing measures, but there is still a risk. Be sure to follow your local guidelines on dining or gathering with other households.
- Takeout remains the safest option for eating out especially for nonvaccinated individuals.
- Religious Services (Aubrey et al., 2020)
- Some religious organizations may be transitioning to limited indoor services. This may be on a reservation basis to limit capacity, but keep in mind that you may be around others who are not yet vaccinated.
- Wearing masks and staying physically distant can lower the risk of infection, but if your church or temple has transitioned to online or virtual services, consider continuing to use those options for the time being.
- Keep in mind that religious organizations have guidelines they must follow when reopening. Thus, there may be changes to how religious services are done as well as how many people can attend the service at a time.
- Health Care Appointments
- More doctor’s offices are resuming non-emergency appointments. If you need to be seen in-person, check with your provider about the precautions they are taking in their office.
- Consider using telehealth in place of in-person appointments. It is another option to assess whether in-person appointment is necessary or not. For more information on telehealth, read the Telehealth Factsheet.
- Other telehealth articles:
- Haircuts (Aubrey et al., 2020)
- You will be in close contact with another person for an extended period of time, which poses a higher risk than other activities – even if both you and the barber/hairdresser are wearing masks.
- If you do decide to get a haircut, make sure the salon or barbershop is implementing protective policies for their employees and customers.
Continuing Etiquette to Remain Safe
(New Etiquette Rules, 2020)
Continue these etiquette practices especially in public spaces.
- Reduce physical contact with others not in your household. Continue to refrain from hugs and handshakes, and instead wave to each other or give other types of greetings.
- It is okay to feel uncertain or even awkward while meeting up with others. A wave does not replace a hug, but it will limit your contact with others, and increase your safety.
- Mask will continue to be essential to increase your safety for yourself and others in public spaces. Even though we cannot see one another’s smiles, consider gestures to express yourself such as a thumbs up.
- Your personal comfort and safety are very important during this time.
- Do not feel obligated to say yes to invitations to events or outings. If you feel uncomfortable going out, meeting with people, or scheduling appointments, it is okay to say no.
- Read more about how it’s ok to say no.
Socializing and Staying Connected
Continue utilizing platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, etc. for meetings and events like virtual dinners, birthday celebrations, or game nights with friends and family. Handwritten cards and letters could be alternatives as it adds a more personal touch and remind people that you are thinking of them. Consider the following however if you are thinking about connecting with others in person:
(Aubrey et al., 2020).
- You should only gather with people outside of your household if it is allowed in your area.
- If gathering with others is allowed, consider having it outside. Open spaces decrease your risk of infection and allow for more physical distancing.
- Encourage everyone to bring their own drinks and utensils to limit sharing items.
- Remember, interacting with a greater number of people increases the risk of the gathering.
- Similar to other activities, the risks of visiting with grandchildren vary. Children can spread COVID-19 easily and may not display any symptoms. (Aleccia, 2020).
- Keep in mind that children currently cannot get vaccinated.
- The CDC’s new guidelines allow for in-person gatherings with other fully vaccinated people and those at low risk for severe disease with COVID-19. Discuss with your family what everyone is comfortable doing.
- If possible, meet outdoors, which will help lower the risk of the visit.
Resources on Keeping Older Adults Connected Through Technology:
- Teaching Technology to older adults
- Zoom Resources
- Free iPad Curriculum – 4 lessons covering basics
Public Health Orders Updates and Masks
As of March 30, 2021, Los Angeles County and Orange County are in the orange or moderate tiers, based on the state’s guidelines. This allows for more places such as hair salons and movie theaters to start opening up. Ventura County remains in the red or substantial tier. As things continue to change rapidly, stay up to date on your area’s public health policies and health officer orders.
For LA county’s latest public health order: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/coronavirus/reopening-la.htm#orders
For Orange county’s latest public health order: https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/article/oc-health-officers-orders-recommendations
For Ventura County’s latest public health order: https://www.venturacountyrecovers.org/
Review what kind of masks you should be wearing here.
Everyone in California must wear a face mask or face covering while in the following situations
Source: California Department of Public Health (Guidance for the Use Face Coverings):
- Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space.
- Obtaining health care services such as from a hospital, pharmacy, clinic, physician or dental office, etc.
- Waiting for or riding on public transportation or while in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle.
- Engaged in work (at the workplace or off-site) when:
- Interacting in-person with any member of the public
- Working in any space visited by members of the public
- Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others
- Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities.
- In any room or enclosed areas where others outside of your own household are present and not able to physically distance.
- While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of six feet from people outside of your household or residents is not possible.
There are a few individuals who are exempt from the face covering mandate:
- Children who are ages two or younger.
- Children of these ages must not wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation.
- Those with medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.
- This includes those with medical conditions in which wearing a face covering would obstruct breathing.
- This includes those who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
- Those who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Persons seated at a restaurant or establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking, provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from those outside of their household or residence.
- Those who are engaged in outdoor work or outdoor recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running while alone and are able to maintain a distance of six feet from others.
(Coronavirus in the US, 2020)
There are COVID-19 cases in all 50 states. Traveling increases your chance of both coming in contact with infected individuals and spreading the virus. If possible, avoid any unnecessary travel out of your region.
- If you are considering traveling, ask the following questions:
- Is COVID-19 spreading where you are going?
- Is COVID-19 spreading in your community?
- Will you be in close contact with others during your trip?
- Are you traveling with at-risk individuals?
- Does the state or local government where you are traveling to or from require a quarantine period after arrival?
- Types of travel (Coronavirus in the US, 2020)
- Air Travel: traveling by air requires you to wait in lines at the airport, share communal spaces with others, and use frequently-touched surfaces.
- Viruses and germs do not spread easily on flights due to the air filtration system. However, physical distancing may not be guaranteed or possible (Coronavirus in the US, 2020)
- Bus or Train Travel: physical distancing may not be possible in this form of travel, depending on seating arrangements. The longer you spend near others, the greater your risk of infection.
- Car Travel: you may be traveling with people in your household and expect a low-risk experience. However, stopping for gas, food, and bathroom breaks brings you in contact with both other people and shared surfaces.
- If you are thinking about traveling internationally, keep in mind that there continues to be ongoing transmission of COVID-19 in the majority of countries around the world.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all travelers avoid nonessential travel to all global destinations.
- If you are thinking about traveling within the United States, visit the CDC’s travel planner, linked here, to find the different guidelines and local rules for traveling to a specific location.
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Ultimately, it remains your decision to go out and what activities you take part in. Do not be afraid to say no or avoid handshakes. Even though we might be returning to normal activities, the way we interact and socialize has changed immensely. Keep washing your hands frequently, and wear a mask. Choose to gather in outdoor spaces, with fewer people instead of smaller spaces with more people. Together, we will continue adapt to our “new normal.”
Aleccia, J. (2020). ‘We Miss Them All So Much’: Grandparents Ache as the COVID Exile Grinds on. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/we-miss-them-all-so-much-grandparents-ache-as-the-covid-exile-grinds-on/
Aubrey, A., Wamsley, L., & Wroth, C. (2020). From Camping to Dining Out: Here’s How Experts Rate the Risks of 14 Summer Activities. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/23/861325631/from-camping-to-dining-out-heres-how-experts-rate-the-risks-of-14-summer-activit
California Department of Public Health. (2020). Limited Stay At Home Order. Retrieved from https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/limited-stay-at-home-order.aspx
CDC, (2021). Interim Public Health Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
County of Los Angeles Public Health. (2020). Revised Temporary Targeted Safer at Home Health Officer Order For Control of COVID-19: Tier 1 Substantial Surge Updated Response. Retrieved from http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/coronavirus/docs/HOO/HOO_SaferatHome_SurgeResponse.pdf
Coronarvirus in the US – Considerations for Travelers. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html
How to Protect Yourself and Others. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
Martin, E. (2016). The Ins and Outs of Online Banking. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/money/investing/info-2016/online-banking-101.html
Parker-Pope, T. (2020). When Can I See My Grandkids? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/20/well/family/coronavirus-grandchildren-grandparents-when-can-i-see-my-grandkids.html
Reopening Safer at Work and in the Community for Control of COVID-19. (2020). Retrieved from http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/docs/HOO/HO_Order_COVID-19_Safer_at_Work_and_in_the_Community_05292020_FINAL_WithAppendices.pdf