3 Practical Tips to Stay Safe From COVID-19 (Pro Advice)

Background

The existing pandemic which we call Coronavirus, also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-COV-2) or Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus (World Health Organisation, 2020).
Globally, as of early April, there have been almost 1.5 million people infected with the virus and approximately 100 000 deaths.

The challenge with COVID-19 is that there is no existing vaccine which means no one is immune to this virus. This means it spreads like wildfire and is particularly dangerous due to the way it infects the respiratory system. The primary issue is that as someone’s lungs fill with mucus it hinders the lungs ability to exchange important gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide which impacts how the body and organs operate.

Transmission

According to the World Health Organisation (2020), the SARS-COV-2 virus is transmitted via droplets. That means when someone coughs or sneezes they produce small clusters of fluid which contain the virus and are sprayed into the air or live on surfaces in the environment. The virus can then infect another person by inhaling the droplets or from touching an infected surface then touching one’s own mouth, nose or eyes.

What can you do about it?

The following are things I have implemented through discussions with my colleagues who are healthcare professionals in the Intensive Care Unit, Infectious Disease Departments or Emergency Departments:

1. Dedicate one person

One person in the house should be dedicated to doing the grocery shopping or essential tasks outside of the home

Ideally, this should be a younger person of good health as we know the elderly and those with other health problems are at a higher risk of having adverse outcomes from the virus. This limits the number of people repetitively exposed to the public and minimises the chance of multiple community transmissions in or out of a single household.

If you do not have the luxury of someone in your house being able to execute essential tasks for you and you are immunocompromised, elderly or in forced isolation then ask a friend or family member to do it for you. Communities have really come together to support each other in these difficult times so even reaching out to a neighbour might just do the trick!

Alternatively, supermarkets such as Woolworths offer a Priority Assistance programme and are providing free delivery for ‘seniors, people with a disability and those with compromised immunity or who are required to self-isolate. To register for Priority Assistance please log in, complete the form and include any supporting documentation’ (https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/discover/priorityassistance, 2020)

2. What to do when out in public:

For those of us out in public, either working in essential services or doing our families grocery shopping, hand hygiene and social distancing are your friends. The existing advice from the World Health Organisation (2020), is to frequently and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water (and don’t forget drying is just as important – a wet hand is not a clean hand!) or use alcohol-based sanitizers.

The best way to manage this for grocery shopping is once you’ve arrived imagine your hands are soiled. They must not come in contact with your face and limit touching things like your clothes, handbags, phones etc. Just think, your hands are dirty until you’ve had the chance to clean them. 

After your shop is complete and as you go to pack your car clean your hands and use wipes to wipe down the handles of the bags, your phone and open your car. Now all of the things you’ll touch or take home are clean. 

This is essentially the basics of infection control that we as healthcare workers use to minimise the spread of infections. Once you’re ‘dirty’ ie in contact with an infected patient or sample you behave as if you’re dirty or infected and are ok to continue to touch the dirty items (communal trolleys, products in the shops etc) until you’re clean by removing your PPE and cleaning your hands. 

Another nifty trick is to put your phone and EFTPOS or credit card in a clear snap lock seal bag. That way you can keep using your phone to check your grocery list and use the card to tap and pay without contaminating those products. You would, of course, open and empty the bag taking caution to not touch the inside contents. After the bag has been emptied, dispose of it and clean your hands. This technique is just like a scout nurse who opens a sterile pack in an operation.

3. Maintain infection control and social distancing within your household

An unexpected community acquisition is possible and therefore we should be limiting contact with our loved ones inside our own household. It has been WEEKS since I’ve hugged either of my parents for their protection. I am the designated grocery shopper in my family and I can’t take any risks with accidentally acquiring the virus at work or while I do their weekly grocery shop.

Do not share drinks or cutlery, maintain wiping down surfaces if anyone sneezes or coughs onto something and limit physical contact. Continue to wash your hands regularly and keep 1.5m from other individuals. It may mean sitting a little further away from each other at the dinner table and being mindful of sharing utensils etc.

I know it’s a lot and it seems crazy but just imagine finding out that you’ve likely had the virus for 2 weeks and your family are now highly likely to contract the virus. If you act as if you already have the virus you’re able to keep everyone else safe.

In summary

COVID-19 is an infectious virus that has potentially harmful outcomes. The lack of herd immunity and no known treatment or vaccination exacerbates the effect of this virus. It is important to follow the WHO and local Government guidelines to ensure you are up to date with the public health advice. It is important to understand how to manage life as it is under new restrictions in order to minimise your contact with potentially infected people and spread within your home or in the community.

References:

Woolworths Group Limited, 2020, Priority Assistance request form, viewed 9/4/2020

https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/discover/priorityassistance

World Health Organisation, 2020, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic, viewed 9/4/2020

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

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