Phase two of Virginia's "reopening" begins Friday, June 5. The change moves most of the Commonwealth (Richmond and Northern Virginia remain under phase one guidelines) from a "Stay at Home" order to a "Safer at Home" strategy that includes a 41-page list of requirements for businesses.
But what does it mean for individuals and families?
Essentially the guidelines are the same. Virginians' embrace of hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing are the reasons phase one was successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19. And they remain the three best tools for health and safety under phase two.
Wash Your Hands
Hand hygiene remains the single most effective way of preventing the spread of infectious disease worldwide. To prevent COVID-19, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is more effective than wearing gloves as you go about your day. Donning and doffing gloves incorrectly can transfer bacteria and viruses from the outside of the glove to your skin, and with a false sense of security, you may not wash your hands afterward. Instead, skip the gloves and wash or disinfect your hands regularly.
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
During the COVID-19 pandemic, they also recommend washing hands:
- After you have been in a public place
- After touching frequently touched items or surfaces, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts or electronic cashier registers/screens
- Before touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Cover Your Face
The new guidelines—as well as advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Carilion Clinic's Infectious Disease experts—recommend wearing a face mask anytime you will be in a public place or around people who do not live with you.
It is important to wear a mask even if you feel fine. COVID-19 symptoms may not appear for up to 14 days, and some people remain asymptomatic throughout the course of their infection. Without a mask, you could be spreading the virus without knowing it—and you could be near someone at risk when you do so. Wearing a mask is considerate of those around us, just as they wear masks to protect you and your loved ones.
- Washing your hands before you put it on, and before and after you take it off
- Avoiding touching or adjusting it while you have it on
- Washing it with soap and water each time you wear it out
We will be wearing masks throughout the coming months, so it would be wise to make or purchase several so that you always have a clean one at hand. Think of masks like socks and underwear: own several and launder them after each use.
Keep Your Distance
Phase two guidelines allow for gatherings of up to 50 people rather than the 10 allowed in phase one. So if you've been dreaming of a block party with the neighbors you've been waving at from a distance, now is the time!
But keep in mind that you'll still have to keep your distance. The virus and its means of transmission has not changed. So set your lawn chairs six feet apart to enjoy each other's company—and a minimum of 10 feet apart when exercising.
And if you set up a backyard karaoke machine, be sure to require masks of all the singers and wipe down the mic and screens in between uses.
This article was reviewed by Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, M.D., medical director of Carilion Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control Department.