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pRACTICAL ADVICE

How to stay safe during self-isolation

Some tips - Ask us for more

Face Masks & Coverings

CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States.  We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Can I order takeaways?

The Covid-19 virus is borne by droplets transmitted through, for example, coughing and sneezing. There is a unique challenge for food delivery couriers who are potentially traveling between multiple sites: from restaurants and from house to house. Especially if they are making deliveries to families who are in quarantine because they’ve tested positive for the infection. Given the number of people they see daily, the deliverers are probably among those at greatest risk of exposure, so they do need to be careful. If we can minimize unnecessary food delivery, we should.

It’s impersonal, and perhaps seems extreme, but a food delivery could be left in front of the door (and a tip left similarly for the delivery person), much as we do with other packages, so there’s no need for face-to-face contact. There may be transmission through inanimate objects, which we can try to minimize with good hand hygiene.

If the no-contact approach makes for too impersonal an interaction, keeping some distance (3-6ft, arm’s length if both delivery person and recipient extend their arms?) is an alternative to consider. Delivery people should be washing their hands or using a suitable hand sanitizer after making deliveries. Along with healthcare and law enforcement/fire personnel, that may be a good group for more intensive testing.

The early evidence suggests that the virus is inactivated by heat [Note: this does not mean hot weather etc]. So I think cooked foods minimize the risk of any transmission from the food itself.

I don’t have any data to be able to say yes or no regarding food containers. But again, I think it’s a good idea until we get more information to still maintain some vigilance. So it’s not a bad idea to wash your hands before you look through containers and potentially to wipe down some of the exterior surfaces. That’s erring on the side of caution. But I think in this time of uncertainty, it’s the prudent thing to do.

Whether or not you order won’t change the calculus for workers who have no choice but to do it either way. So the best you can do is be considerate. Here’s how:

  1. Tip – that makes a huge difference. In London, £2 is really the bare minimum, £5 is OK, but in this situation I really think £10-15 would be fair considering the danger of every single trip.

  2. Social distancing – delivery apps now provide the option to ask for a no-contact drop-off. Whether you use an app or call over the phone, make sure the courier can drop it off in the lobby or outside the door and that will minimize the risk to both of you.

  3. Be considerate – If there are delays or mistakes in the order, please just forgive the delivery worker, they are under a lot of pressure right now. Please don’t give them a one-star rating that could jeopardize their employment.

“The average survival time of coronavirus now, given what we have known from SARS and MERS, is it could range anywhere from five hours to a day or two,” Khubchandani said.

Thus, if someone coughed on a plastic container or spoon, the virus could stay active for up to a couple of days. Khubchandani suggested taking precautions like wearing gloves to open takeout containers, letting boxes of fresh groceries sit for a day or so before reaching for them (but of course, always refrigerate or freeze perishables immediately), and using your own silverware as opposed to disposable plastic cutlery that may have been tossed loosely into a bag.

“Ingesting food with the coronavirus isn’t the biggest risk, as it spreads through your respiratory system (rubbing your eyes, touching your face),” said Keith Urbowicz, director of culinary operations and executive chef with Privé-Swiss Wellness. Thus, he recommended continuing to wash your hands “as often as possible and always before eating.”

Cooking at home is ultimately the safest option. “Coronaviruses generally do not get transmitted by food but the challenge is: Can you trust the person who is giving you the food?   If they are infected, the coronavirus has a tendency to survive for a day or two on different types of surfaces.

In the USA for example, while restaurants are sending out emails noting that they are taking extra precautions, that may not always be the case.  The bigger danger is how 20% of the food workers [in America] and 20% of the general population has food-borne illnesses every year, which tells us how poorly regulated our food industry is. So avoidance is best but, if not, then any precaution is not rude or overreaction.

The information above is taken in part from an article in The Guardian, to whom we send our acknowledgements.  You can read the article in full by clocking the link below.

Contributors: Lauren Casey, Gig Workers Rising, organizer; Wilfred Chan, courier; Stephen S Morse, professor of epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; Thomas Tsai, assistant professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Global Health Institute, surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Who can work at my house?

Yes.  You can work safely at home during lockdown as long as you follow the guidelines in our ‘Keeping Safe‘ section and the advice in this section.

Yes, as long as they are part of your household, live with you and are following the same rules as the rest of your family during self-isolation.

No, if they are coming from outside your home each day to work for you.  See the next question…

No.  This is not safe.  the UK Government, the NHS and all responsible bodies (such as Transport For London) have expressly requested all except essential workers to stay at home.  Asking anyone to come to your house is to put your health and theirs at unnecessary risk.

It would also be impossible for someone coming in to your home to practice social-distancing.  And it is always possible they are infected but showing no symptoms, in which case everything they touch could spread the coronavirus.

Can I go to the Park during self-isolation?

The official advice can be confusing. On one hand, we’ve been told to stay home as much as possible. On the other hand, we’ve also been told that it’s important to keep exercising – and that a walk or run in the park is OK.

Boris Johnson has stressed that parks and open spaces are “crucial for our country and for our society”, and urged people to use them responsibly.

Caution: Brian Labus, a professor in public health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, stresses that you have to treat “going outside as a risk every time you do it”.

But, he adds, there are ways to reduce the risk to close to zero if you plan your trip carefully.

“If you’re outside walking by yourself, you’re not exposed; if you’re out walking the dog by yourself, there’s no risk… it’s when you have contact with other people that you need to be concerned.”

Running or cycling as a group – and running past others – is a no-go, due to the need to maintain a 2m distance at all times.

“If you’re running past somebody and they sneeze, that’s going to land on you. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re running – you can’t outrun a sneeze,” says Prof Labus.

Instead, he recommends runners and cyclists “look ahead”, and pace themselves where necessary, so they can work out how to keep a distance between themselves and others on the street.

Can I get coronavirus from Deliveries?

With a few smart precautions, you can make your deliveries safe. First, just pretend that every package or order was packaged and delivered by someone coughing coronavirus onto your goods. Gross. But manageable!

New research from the NIH—so new that it’s not yet peer-reviewed—shows that COVID-19 lives for 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel. This is great news for nonperishable deliveries. It means that if you simply let cardboard-packaged items sit for 24 hours before you touch them, and plastic packaging sit for 72 hours, you are safe.  The same study finds that COVID-19 lives for 3 hours as an aerosol (i.e. in the air).  Bonus points for having the delivery left at your door—ideally for 3 hours—which negates the possibility of accidental airborne transmission. 

For perishables, simply put the items directly in your refrigerator (not on your tables and counters! not hugged against your clothes! not touched by three family members!), and then thoroughly wash your hands. If you can, remove outer packaging and throw it directly in the trash before placing items in your refrigerator. Wash any surfaces that have been touched by grocery bags or packaging.