As Long Island opens up and summer starts to heat up, how can you keep yourself and your family safe on the East End? First, it’s important to remember that, although it’s better, the COVID pandemic is not yet over! Thankfully, the numbers of COVID cases in New York continue to go down but there are concerns of increasing numbers across the country as states open and distancing policies become more liberal. Here are some tips to help you have a safe, healthy, and fun summer…
COVID is a virus which attacks the respiratory tract and is spread by droplets (a small amount of liquid produced by exhaling). These tiny droplets can become aerosolized and fly through the air, where they can be inhaled by others. The newest research shows that these droplets can even be spread through casual speech. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to be vigilant about wearing masks.
It’s best to save medical masks for healthcare providers—surgical masks protect the wearer from droplets and filter some larger particles in the air, while N95 masks block 95% of small particles in the air. Here’s the catch—N95 masks are only effective by those who have been properly fitted for them and are trained on how to use them. The best thing to do is to wear a cloth mask (either purchased or homemade). The only way that a mask can protect anyone is to wear it correctly…this means masks should cover your mouth and nose at all times and fit snugly. Try not to touch your mask while wearing it, and wash your hands if you do! When you remove your mask, remove it by the ear loops or tie—don’t touch the front of the mask (where the germs are) or your face. Wash or sanitize your hands after taking off your mask, and make sure to launder your mask regularly.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that gloves only be used for those caring for or cleaning up after those who are sick. When wearing gloves, make sure to dispose of them after one use and wash your hands well after taking them off. It is not necessary to use gloves when running errands, shopping, or using the ATM. In fact, wearing gloves in these settings may actually make you less vigilant about your exposure. And, if you are wearing gloves and touch your face, you may make things worse! Instead of gloves, remember to wash or sanitize your hands frequently (with a product that is 60% alcohol). Washing your hands is one of the best ways to not only prevent COVID, but a whole host of other illnesses.
This is still the most important way to keep yourself safe! Avoid gathering in large groups (even with masks)…this is the time to plan smaller, intimate events, preferably outdoors. When opting for outdoor dining venues, make sure the venue has spread-out tables and the staff are wearing masks. Be mindful of wearing masks in stores, avoiding unnecessary touching of merchandise, follow arrows in store aisles, and don’t crowd cash registers. If you are venturing out to beaches or parks, choose times that are less busy and keep your distance from others.
As we enter into a new normal on the East End, remember to stay safe and enjoy your summer!
Dr. Rina Meyer is a board certified pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Stony Brook Children’s and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Her views are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Stony Brook Children’s and the Renaissance School of Medicine.