Headed Out? How to Stay Healthy When Running Essential ErrandsPosted on by
Millions of people living in the United States are being told to stay at home to help slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
While these stay at home orders can be different by state (contact yours to learn more about the order where you live), the message is the same—avoid travel, needless shopping trips, and social visits. In other words, do not leave home unless you must. And if you must, wear a cloth face covering and keep a safe physical distance of at least 6 feet between you and other people when in public places.
Here are some tips to help you stay healthy when running essential errands to places like grocery stores or pharmacies to shop for personal needs and refill prescriptions, restaurants to pick up takeout, and the doctor’s office.
Personal needs shopping
Home delivery is the safest choice for buying groceries; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to prepare and protect your health and others’.
- Stay home if you are sick with a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Ask someone else to go shopping for you. Taking care of a family member, friend, or neighbor is considered an essential errand under most stay at home orders.
- Avoid peak shopping hours. Shop early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds. Typically, the most crowded times are midday on weekends and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays when most people are getting off work.
- Send only one person to the store. Prepare them with a cloth face covering, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfectant wipes, and a cotton swab to use at checkout.
- Disinfect your shopping carts with a wipe.
- Keep a safe physical distance (at least 6 feet) between you, other shoppers, and the cashier at the checkout line.
- If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, and use hand sanitizer right after. A cotton swab can be used to enter your debit/credit card PIN number into the keypad. Just like with a used tissue, throw used swabs away in a lined trash can.
- Sanitize your hands when you leave the store.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home, and then again after handling your groceries.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces like kitchen islands, tables, countertops, or other surfaces that came into contact with your groceries or grocery bags.
- Call prescription orders in ahead of time.
- Use drive-thru windows, curbside pickup, mail-order, or other delivery services to fill prescriptions for yourself and your pets.
- Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about getting an emergency supply of medications so you do not have to visit the pharmacy as often. Many states have emergency prescription refill laws that authorize pharmacists to dispense early refills of certain medications when under an emergency declaration.
As with groceries, the current best option is to eat the food that was delivered to your home. If that is not possible and you opt for takeout, your best bet is to order and pay for food online and have it delivered. When picking up your takeout is the only option, take steps to prepare and protect yourself and restaurant workers.
- Send only one person to the restaurant. Prepare them with a cloth face covering and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfectant wipes, and a cotton swab (if available).
- Do not leave your vehicle if possible. Pay online or over the phone when placing your order and use drive-thru and curbside pickup options.
- If you must enter a restaurant to pick up your food, wear a face covering, keep a safe physical distance (at least 6 feet) between you and other customers, and use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad).
- After bringing home your takeout food, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Doctor’s offices, urgent cares, & emergency departments
Most people with COVID-19 will experience mild illness and should recover at home. But there are good reasons besides COVID-19 to visit a doctor’s office, urgent care, or emergency department (ED). Injuries and illnesses that are not COVID-19 still happen every day.
If you can’t recover at home and telemedicine isn’t an option, a trip to a doctor’s office, urgent care, or emergency department is essential. So is the need to prepare and protect yourself and our health care professionals. Here’s how:
- Call your doctor first, instead of going to the office or the ED, if you or a member of your household has signs of COVID-19. Call 911 if you believe it is an emergency.
- Send only as many people to the doctor’s office as is necessary. Prepare them with a cloth face covering and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfectant wipes, and a cotton swab (if available). Children under age 2 should not wear a face covering.
- Use disinfecting wipes on frequently touched surfaces such as handles, knobs, touchpads.
- Keep a safe physical distance (at least 6 feet) between you and other patients.
- If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying. A cotton swab can be used to enter your debit/credit card PIN number into the keypad.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when you get home.
For more information on how to prepare and protect yourself when running essential errands, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/essential-goods-services.html
Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.
Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.
- Page last reviewed:April 22, 2020
- Page last updated:April 22, 2020
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