Here's What to Do After You Go Outside During the Coronavirus Pandemic

A doctor explains the steps to take when you return home from the outside world.

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have been asked to stay at home as much as possible. However, even as we self-isolate and practice social distancing, we occasionally need to venture out to buy essential items, get some exercise, or pick up food. The question, then, is what should you do after you go outside during the coronavirus pandemic in order to avoid contaminating your home, yourself, and those you live with?

"When you get into your house, the smartest thing to do is to wash your hands. That's the single most important thing." says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, an epidemiologist and the chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital.

To be safe, it's a good idea to remove shoes and coats before walking through your home, but Glatt says not to be overly concerned as long as you've kept your distance from others. "I'm not sure there's any evidence to say you take off all your other clothing," he says. "If you've been working in hospital all day—seeing patients—that would be different."

As for groceries you bring home, Glatt has similar advice. "Wash your hands before you eat anything," he says. "If it's something that can be washed, like an apple, wash it. You should be washing it anyway." What about takeout food from a local restaurant? "Take the food out of the package it came in, throw the package away, put the food on the table, wash your hands, and eat," Glatt says.

Items like your wallet, keys, watch, glasses, and phone, are all things you should be cleaning daily. Wiping them down each time you return from being outside is a smart habit to get into, but again Glatt says that it's most important in the event these items were handled by others, or if you had been "touching things that other people have touched."

If you are concerned about COVID-19 on packages and mail coming into your home, practice similar caution and cleaning habits. "Any disinfectants are fine" for cleaning surfaces that you use for opening and handling your mail, Glatt says. Just make sure you wear gloves or at least wash your hands directly after.

With so much uncertain about the spread of COVID-19, you can never be too careful. In addition to staying away from others and washing your hands frequently—which Glatt says are the two most important things to do—the CDC offers additional guidelines on how to clean your home, and keep yourself safe from the coronavirus.

And more ways to stay safe, check out 15 Ways to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus at Home.

Adam Shalvey
Adam Shalvey is a writer based in Rhode Island. Read more
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