15 Things You Need to Do Every Time You Leave Your Home, CDC Says

Don't risk your health or the health of others by ignoring these crucial coronavirus safety tips.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been a reliable source of up-to-date information on how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. As lockdowns have lifted across America, the CDC has provided sage guidance about how people can begin to resume their daily activities while limiting the risk that they'll come down with COVID or spread the virus to others. However, with so much information out there, it's not always easy to figure out which protocols to take. To make things easier, we've rounded up the CDC-recommended precautions you should be taking every time you leave the house. And for more great expert-backed advice, check out these 50 Essential COVID Safety Tips the CDC Wants You to Know.

Wash your hands before you head out the door.

Close Up Of Boy Washing Hands With Soap At Home To Prevent Infection

Even if you haven't coughed or sneezed into your hands recently, they could still be harboring potentially-infected respiratory droplets, which could then be transferred to surfaces—and other people—when you leave the house. That's why it's so important to wash your hands before heading out the door; the CDC recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. And if you're wondering where coronavirus is spreading quickly, check out these 9 States Where COVID Cases Are Rising Faster Than California and Texas.

Put on a face mask.

Young woman with mask on outdoors

Face masks have been touted as one of the best solutions for stopping the spread of coronavirus, and with good reason—research suggests that wearing a mask can reduce a person's risk of contracting the virus by as much as 65 percent, in addition to reducing their risk of spreading the illness to others. As such, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask when they leave the house as long as they are not incapacitated, unconscious, or having difficulty breathing. And if you want to ensure you're covering up correctly, avoid these 7 Things You Should Never Be Doing With Your Face Mask.

Pack supplies.

young white woman packing backpack

Even if you wash your hands at home and again when you've arrived at your destination, you never know what potentially infected surfaces or people you might come into contact with when you're out and about in the world. That's why the CDC recommends that you carry both sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it so you can keep yourself and others safe. And if you want to know what else to pack, check out these 9 Things Doctors Say You Need Before Returning to Work.

Practice social distancing.

Woman waiting for train

While you may think you're playing it safe by wearing your mask, giving other people a wide berth while you're in public is still a wise choice. The CDC suggests practicing social distancing—meaning maintaining at least six feet of distance between you and individuals you don't live with—whenever possible, including on public transportation. This includes avoiding travel at peak hours, skipping rows between you and other passengers, and using the back doors of buses for both entry and exit to avoid crowding.

Avoid touching communal surfaces.

woman's hand pressing elevator button

If you're riding public transportation, you never know who might have touched the surfaces you're coming into contact with—and whether or not they were sick. To stay safe, the CDC recommends avoiding contact with high-touch public surfaces, including benches, elevator buttons, touchscreens, handrails, turnstiles, ticket machines, and kiosks, whenever possible. And for more great information delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Open the window if you're in a car.

young black man in sunglasses leaning out open car window

Whether you're driving your own car or taking a ride-share, opening the window is a great way to protect yourself against coronavirus. Since COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets in the air, on surfaces, and through direct person-to-person contact, the CDC suggests boosting airflow in enclosed spaces, like cars, either through opening windows or selecting the non-recirculation option when turning on air conditioning. And if you want to travel safely, avoid these 7 Mistakes You're Making Every Time You Get in Your Car.

Wipe down parking meters.

Parking Meter

Before you pay to park your car, make sure you're sanitizing it first. Since parking meters are frequently touched by numerous people during the course of a single day, they're a potential hotbed for coronavirus and other germs. To protect yourself, the CDC recommends wiping down the meter before touching it or using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent of alcohol once you've deposited your coins.

Use touchless payment options.

young asian woman in mask using phone to pay

Those communal card readers and styluses at restaurants and stores probably aren't being wiped down after every single use. If you want to play it safe, the CDC says that you should use touch-free payment methods whenever possible instead.

Use disposable utensils and containers.

plastic forks and knives

In an ideal world, you would be able to continue using shared dining supplies, thus limiting the amount of waste created through each meal eaten out. However, with coronavirus still spreading, the CDC recommends the use of disposable menus, condiment packaging, and utensils whenever possible to limit contamination.

Use drive-throughs or curbside pickup when possible.

chalkboard with curbside pickup option
Shutterstock/Justin Berken

While a return to normalcy including indoor dining may seem appealing, the CDC notes that using drive-throughs and curbside pickup is less risky in terms of potential contamination and contact with other people.

Sneeze or cough into your elbow.

young white man sneezing into elbow

Since so many coronavirus patients are asymptomatic, you never know when a sneeze could transfer infected respiratory droplets onto surfaces or people. That's why it's essential to use your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough instead of your hand. And when you're done sneezing, you should immediately throw your used tissue into a trash can and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, as per the CDC's recommendations.

Stick to parks that are close to your home.

Kids on a playground

Sure, your kids may want to explore a new park or playground on the weekends, but doing so is a bad idea, according to the CDC. If you want to contain the spread of coronavirus, it's better to stick to parks that are close to your home as you might otherwise cause new outbreaks of the virus in any new towns or cities you end up visiting.

Bring your own equipment if you're playing sports.

baseball bat and glove and ball on grass
Shutterstock/Danny E Hooks

While playing team sports does pose some threat of coronavirus transmission, you can mitigate that risk by bringing your own equipment to games instead of using shared gloves, padding, bats, and balls. The CDC also cautions against sharing towels, spitting, or engaging in congratulatory gestures that involve touching, like high-fives and chest bumps.

Keep your pets leashed.

Woman walking a dog

Your dog may long to play with other pups or get scratches and pats from strangers, but doing so could mean that both you and they become ill. Since dogs and cats can be infected with coronavirus, the CDC suggests keeping pets leashed and maintaining social distance from people outside your household when you're taking them for walks.

Wait outside for appointments.

white man in suit looking at phone in car

Whether you're waiting to pick up a prescription, waiting for a doctor's appointment, or waiting for a haircut, staying outside of any communal area that could become crowded is in your best interest. Instead, the CDC says that waiting in your car or outside of the business' waiting area can help reduce your risk of becoming infected or inadvertently infecting others. And for more ways to stay safe, check out these 13 Tips From Dr. Fauci on How You Can Avoid Coronavirus.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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