No, you do NOT have to walk around in a hazmat suit 24/7 to protect yourself from COVID-19.
Recently, a photo of two women in completely protective hazmat suits shopping at a Costco location blew up all over the internet. While many people took the time to retweet this image (which I must say is quite hilarious) or post about it on Facebook, the duo paid a very responsible and considerate service to all of the shoppers around them. Undoubtedly, the women looked ridiculous, but every single person who made a butt joke about them knew in the back of their minds that they were doing the right thing. No, I’m not saying that you need to walk around like a waddling blue penguin 24/7. And it is not entirely necessary either. However, there are some very small but necessary protocols that every single individual should consider in the midst of this pandemic crisis. Furthermore, these precautions will not only help keep you safe, but your family, loved ones, and most importantly, the elders in your life that are most susceptible.
According to tests conducted by the US government, the virus can stay on surfaces for up to 3 days, and can last in the air for several hours even after aerosolization. More concretely, the study found that:
We found that viable virus could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. HCoV-19 and SARS-CoV-1 exhibited similar half-lives in aerosols, with median estimates around 2.7 hours. Both viruses show relatively long viability on stainless steel and polypropylene compared to copper or cardboard: the median half-life estimate for HCoV-19 is around 13 hours on steel and around 16 hours on polypropylene. Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for multiple hours and on surfaces up to days.
This means that if you are infected, or if you had previously come in contact with an infected individual, and touched your phone for example, the virus could potentially linger on your device for up to 72 hours. This is why it is of the utmost importance to regularly sanitize your devices with Isopropyl Alcohol, especially after you have gone to the grocery store to do shopping. In addition, it is unknown as to what individuals may have come in contact with your grocery products. Therefore, a simple and necessary precaution that you can take to mitigate the potential of infection is to spray your groceries with Hydrogen Peroxide before you enter your home. Moreover, if you are still working in an office environment at this juncture, you should consider spraying your clothing lightly with Hydrogen Peroxide (you don’t need to go crazy on this, just a few spurts will suffice) prior to entering your house. Remember, the virus clings to surfaces for a long period of time, and your clothing is no exception. And now, allow me to go on a small tangent.
I was raised in a Russian household, and from a young age I became acquainted with the concept of “домашняя одежда” (domashnyaya odezhda) or “clothes for the home.” Essentially, the concept of having a separate set of clothing to be worn strictly in the house, and not externally, has its origins in the Soviet Union and scarcity. Citizens had few outfits (and belongings for that matter), let alone the option to properly clean them. Therefore, in order to avoid dirtying one’s work uniform, people created a system were they allocated clothing for work, and clothing for the home “домашняя одежда,” in order to keep things clean. Ever since I was a little girl, I followed this concept as well. Schools were always known to be cesspools of germs, so why would I choose to enter my home in clothing laced with gross adolescent germs? The same concept applies to this pandemic: you were at the store, you know it’s not clean, you know there are potentially infected people, and that the virus could be stuck to your sweatshirt by the time you get home. Having another pair of clothing strictly designated for the house is not a bizarre idea or protocol to follow, nor is it difficult. If I can do it, then I guarantee that you can as well. Now, moving on.
If you are in the presence of elderly people, which I am on a regular basis because I see my grandparents quite often, then you should exercise all of the precautions that I stated above, and…. wear a mask. Social distancing is not comprehensive enough to protect the elderly. The simple act of speaking can cause saliva to be ejected from your mouth, which can land on nearby surfaces, and if you happen to be infected, the virus can stay in the air for multiple hours and days on surfaces (as mentioned above). And if your grandma comes in contact with your saliva, she may become ill. Remember, especially us young folks, we might not be at risk for the virus, but our sweet old grandparents might. Please, do not be selfish and think about the elders. Protect the elders in your family and do the right thing: wear a mask (or a scarf if you do not have a mask) whenever you are around people of age. And if you manage to touch any surfaces at your grandparents house, make sure to sanitize those surfaces as well.
As a result of this virus, I have been staying indoors 95% of the time. The only instance where I might leave is if I have to go to the store to purchase something, or to visit my grandparents. Otherwise, I follow every single protocol that I have laid out above. I change my clothes when I get home, I use peroxide to clean groceries and foreign objects, I wear a mask and sanitize surfaces when I see my grandparents, and you are also capable of doing these things. While these precautions are small, they are easy to implement and provide powerful results. Please heed my advice and keep yourself, your family, your loved ones, and your community safe. We can only fight COVID-19 if we are smart as a collective. Share this knowledge, and above else, remember: no precaution that you take is stupid, even if it makes you a joke on Twitter.