Do you know how to protect yourself and your family from contracting COVID-19?
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to protect yourself so I’d like to share with you my personal protection plan.
My household has a unique situation – I’m living with someone working on the frontline of this pandemic. My daughter is an ICU nurse. And she has an infant. So we’re all in one house to help her with childcare.
And I realize that it’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN she’s exposed to Covid-19 so we’re taking pretty moderate measures of protection.
1. Wash your hands
I know you’ve heard a lot about how important it is to wash your hands to prevent spreading coronavirus. But is it really effective?
YES! Because coronavirus is a bit of RNA protected by spikes of protein in a ring of fat. And soap will dissolve the fat protecting coronavirus – effectively destroying any virus on your hands.
By hand washing I mean for a whole 20 seconds with soap and water completely washing in between your fingers and on every surface of your hands. After using the bathroom. Before preparing meals. Anytime coming into the house from outside and especially if dealing with anything that could possibly be contaminated by another person, wash your hands.
Then moisturize. Because dry cracked hands are more likely to hold onto microbes. I’m a big fan of coconut oil. But any moisturizer will do.
2. Clean fomites
Fomites are surfaces – doorknobs, countertops, floors, steering wheels… Anything we touch gets decontaminated with a 10% bleach solution. Pour four teaspoons of chlorine bleach in one quart spray bottles and fill them with water.
Use clean opaque spray bottles, washing them very well if they’re not already completely empty and clean, because bleach does not mix safely with any other chemical – it creates a noxious gas.
Why bleach? It’s cheap, readily available and the most effective disinfectant proven against nearly every microbe humans have been infected with – HIV, SARS, Influenza, coronavirus.
We keep a spray bottle of 10% bleach solution at every doorway out of the sun for immediate decontamination before entering the house. And we use the same solution to sterilize hard surfaces.
First I thoroughly sterilized our home – cleaned every surface then disinfected with bleach solution.
Thanks to my granddaughter, we’re a little bit ahead of the game. She’s been crawling since February and I couldn’t keep the floor clean enough so I actually began cleaning with a 10% bleach solution before we were put on lockdown.
And we leave all shoes and jackets outside because she is into everything. And since there’s no way we’re going to keep her little hands out of her mouth, we’re protecting her by not bringing those things in. But even if you don’t have a crawling baby, if you’re touching the floor inside where your dirty outside shoes have been, you can recontaminate yourself by touching your face.
3. Keep outside stuff outside
We are emulating Mr Rogers – being kind, looking for helpers, and changing our outside jackets to inside sweaters and outside shoes to inside slippers.
Except the change happens on the porch. And outside shoes and outside jackets are kept outside. We don’t bring them in.
We also change any outer clothing that may possibly be contaminated by droplets. Like the clothes we wear to the grocery store for our twice a month supply runs.
You see, coronavirus can be spread through droplets. When someone who’s infected with the coronavirus coughs or sneezes, the virus is released from their upper respiratory tract in droplets. These droplets can land somewhere where you may place your hands – countertops, handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs, plastic food containers – just think about all the things you unwittingly touch during the course of a day.
If there’s droplets carrying coronavirus on those surfaces that you touch and you then touch your face, mouth, nose or eyes – you will become infected too.
And your clothing can carry the virus. That’s why my daughter changes out of her contaminated scrubs before coming home.
4. Decontaminate everything before bringing it inside
I know this seems extreme. But the coronavirus can be infectious within a droplet on a hard surface like glass, granite, metal or plastic for up to three days. On porous surfaces like cloth, paper and cardboard – the virus is infectious up to 24 hours. That’s because porous surfaces dry up the moisture from the droplet within a day making the virus inert.
Unless you shake your clothing which will aerosolize the dried virus then if you breathe it in, or get it in your mouth or eyes, your moist mucus membranes will reanimate the virus.
So anything that comes from outside that could have been possibly touched by another person goes through our decontamination processes.
If it is a hard surface like metal, glass, plastic, including plastic bags, we wipe it down with the 10% bleach solution before bringing into the house. If it’s a porous surface like cloth or cardboard or paper, we leave it out for 24 hours before dealing with the packaging. And we open everything outside – including mail and deliveries.
And we recycle the outer packaging right away. Then anything that’s inside the package gets decontaminated with the bleach solution. Unless we don’t need it right away, we let it stay outside for three to four days to clear any coronavirus that may be within the plastic wrapping on the inside of the package.
Then of course we follow up the decontamination process by washing our hands vigorously and making sure we’re using the same bleach solution on the door handles that we might have touched.
5. Protect yourself during supply runs
So, what happens if you have to go on a supply run – you know, shopping for food and necessities? How do you go out safely?
We’re wearing masks. Studies show that mask wearing countries have a much slower rate of spread.
I wear a mask to protect others. And I appreciate when others are wearing masks in crowded places like the grocery store. Because it’s not easy to stay six feet apart.
Six feet seems to be the spew zone. That’s why you’re being asked to stay six feet away from anyone outside of your household.
I know we’re not contaminated. At least not yet. But I also know that this virus can be silent without symptoms for two weeks, meaning I can unknowingly infect others. So I want to protect others from my droplets. And I want to see other people wearing masks if we’re in the store together even though we try not to get within six feet of one another.
Because if you’re passing through the aisles and you cough or sneeze and then I pass through within three hours of you being there I could breathe in your virus.
So let’s keep our droplets to ourselves by wearing a mask.
Any mask will do to protect others. You can use a well tied bandana or a homemade sewed mask. No, these masks will not protect you from aerosolized coronavirus but the idea is you’re protecting everyone else and if they’re wearing masks then they’re protecting you. So, that way we’re not all spewing droplets everywhere.
Although only well fitting N95 masks can protect against inhaling infectious aerosolized coronavirus, we’re saving N95 masks for healthcare workers. We want there to be enough health care workers alive and well to take care of the sick.
Of course, if you’re ill, have a fever, or an active cough, then please stay home.
I also wear gloves when we go on a supply run.
I prefer wearing gloves that I consider to be dirty, like gardening gloves. The reason for wearing gloves is to keep your hands off your face. Most people will not touch their face when they have dirty gloves on. And being in the healthcare field, whenever I have gloves on, it’s automatic- I hold my hands up.
So by wearing gloves I’m really trying to keep my hands off my face because I’m going to be touching products in the store, trying to get the things that we need that may have droplets on them. If I touch my face, I can get the coronavirus. So the gloves help to remind me not to touch my face.
That’s how we’re protecting ourselves when we go out to get supplies. We’re also limiting how often we’re going out – only doing major grocery shopping every two weeks. So we keep a running list of things we need, try to order what we can and limit our exposure to others.
So, we do one run. We usually only have one of us go. We’re all bundled up in our outside garments that will NOT come into the house. And I cover my hair. Hair is a microbe magnet. So a tight braid or bun and cover it.
And we try to stay at least six feet away from anyone else.
Now I’m a big believer in using reusable bags at the grocery store. But right now, I don’t want to bring them into potentially contaminated stores so we’re using cardboard boxes that we’re getting from our deliveries. And leftover plastic bags. And keeping them outside, not bringing them into house. Of course some reusable bags are washable. And washing our outside clothing regularly is key. We just fold them inside out, bag them and they go straight into the laundry. Soap and water will kill the virus.
When our shipping run is done, we decontaminate our supplies outside. We set up a folding table, with a bucket of water with some bleach in it and a rag and we wipe everything down. And if it’s something that can’t be wiped down, we’re letting it sit.
For instance, some of the produce that doesn’t necessarily need to be refrigerated can sit for 24 hours to clear any coronavirus. If it’s in plastic I wipe down the plastic but then let it sit. If it needs to be refrigerated, I wipe down the plastic wrap or container and then put it in the refrigerator and don’t touch it for at least 48 hours to allow any virus that might be on the picked produce to lose it’s virulence.
Now there are no studies showing that you can be infected through food. It’s the containers that are the issue. But there are studies that demonstrate coronavirus in feces, so I’m not taking any chances because not everyone washes their hands well enough.
6. Practice social distancing
We know we need to stay six feet away from people. Of course, you may go outside and stay close to your family and other members of your household. Just stay six feet away from people who do not live with you. That’s how we help keep the virus from spreading.
Just two weeks into lockdown and San Francisco is already reporting a slowing down of viral spread. Social distancing works – if we all do it.
I know it’s hard to be parted from our friends and loved ones.
And it can get pretty boring when you’re having to stay far away from people.
And we still need to check in on each other.
So this is our temporary social interaction – virtual meetups.
Like my daughter who just attended a virtual cocktail party with her friends.
Six of them all met in a video chat room with a beverage of their choice. Half of them had little ones who scampered in and out of view, but they were able to meet as a group and connect for a good 90 minutes. You can do that too.
Grandparents who may be most vulnerable can meet virtually with your grandchildren. Interact over video conference, maybe play games, talk to each other, tell stories. I know we can’t hug right now, but at least we can still see each other, talk to one another, and connect.
It’s a blessing that we have video technology at this time.
It’s been estimated that at least half of the population will probably get infected with the coronavirus and almost 80% of us will be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. And then we will have developed immunity against it. And that’s what happens to new viruses all the time. It’s just that this one is spreading before people even know that they’re sick. And that’s why we have to protect each other, and maintain the social distancing. It may be eight to twelve weeks of social distancing before we can flatten this curve.
I know we can do it, if we do it together with a common goal of protecting one another. So I hope you stay safe. And we can continue to stay in connection, please join me in our Hormone Support Group and we can be there together, figuring this out. And I am doing Facebook lives on a weekly basis now to try to help answer your questions.
One question that came up is a difficult one. And I think a lot of people may be feeling this, especially if they have large extended families. What if your family lives in four or five different households – they’re all one family, can they still get together?
Unfortunately. no. Because they’re living in separate households where every time one of their members goes out to collect goods they may get exposed to the coronavirus. And getting together means not just a family of four gets exposed but an entire family of 30 including very vulnerable seniors. It’s multiplying the amount of exposures for everyone else. So unless these are members of your own household – your roommate, your family – who live in your house, it’s not really safe to have outside household members interacting.
That’s not social distancing.
Social distancing is the most effective way we can protect ourselves. Of course, my daughter being on the frontline as a nurse may become infected and bring it home to her baby and us. And once she’s sick, she won’t be able to help care for her patients for at least a month.
That’s another reason why we all need to stay safe at home. To protect ourselves and to protect our health care workers. Otherwise they may not be there to take care of you or your loved ones.
Thank you for taking care of yourself and your family members and your community by social distancing.