To go or not to go get your haircut, get your nails done, grab a bite when you don’t feel like cooking—in a restaurant—and buy a new dress at the mall? Those are the questions weighing heavily on everybody’s mind as states and local governments begin to ease shelter-at-home restrictions and allow certain businesses to reopen.
Although a return to normal in a post-novel-coronavirus world still seems eons away, in some states, golf courses and public spaces have reopened. Some states such as Arizona have even gone so far as to allow restaurants to reopen for dine-in service.
If local businesses and open spaces where you live are opening back up, perhaps you’re confused or even scared about whether or not you should be venturing out. Ultimately, you will have to weigh the risks yourself; the decision to patronize a business or play the links is yours and yours alone (absent another round of shelter-in-place edicts from your state governor or local authorities).
However, health experts seem to agree on one thing. And that’s that statistics should guide government policy on reopening the economy. One expert, Amanda Castel, an epidemiology professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, according to a Washington Post article, said she plans to wait until her community has a 14-day drop in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19.
But even after that criteria is met, Castel is quoted in the article, “I’ll think about it as, ‘Is it nice to go, or do I need to go?’”
Castel and two other health experts quoted in the article reached consensus on the following:
- It’s safer to be outdoors than indoors.
- If it’s necessary to be in a store, can social distancing (six feet apart) be practiced?
- When visiting a place of business, do so in the least amount of time necessary.
- Only visit a place of business where staff members are wearing masks, social distancing, sanitizing hands and surfaces, and limiting the number of customers so that social distancing can be practiced.
Is It Safe To Get A Haircut Now?
If it’s been several weeks or months since your last haircut, the good news is that all three health experts interviewed by the Washington Post said they would, albeit with the following caveats:
- The barber or hair stylist must wear a mask.
- Preferably, the haircut will be given outside.
- Hair-washing will be done at home, before the haircut/styling.
- If haircuts can’t be done outdoors, call the barbershop or salon and inquire what safety precautions are being taken. Is there a minimum of six feet of space in between salon chairs?
- Put off unnecessary treatments such as hair coloring until the infection rate declines further and over a longer, sustained period of time.
Because experts suggest being in the outdoors puts one at less risk for becoming infected, ask your stylist if he or she is currently offering outdoor styling services. If you’re not loyal to a particular barber or stylist, use the Internet to seek somebody offering haircuts al fresco. Ask for testimonials to make sure the person cutting your hair is licensed and in good standing.
Is It Safe To Eat In A Restaurant?
The short answer is, it depends.
George Washington University professor Castel suggests she will avoid dining in for the duration because it’s impossible for sit-down diners to wear masks while eating and drinking.
Boris Lushniak, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, also quoted in the article, claims that he would first check whether servers are wearing masks, how many people are inside and how far apart tables are spaced. If a restaurant meets that criteria, Lushniak says he would be willing to dine in. However, he adds that during the meal, he’ll wear a mask as much as possible to protect others. Another precaution Lushniak says he would take in a restaurant is bringing his own pen to sign the credit card bill.
In Arizona, restaurants resumed indoor dining on May 11. As reported on AZCentral.com, Phoenix food industry leaders recommend that diners do the following to keep other diners and staff safe:
- Continue to maintain social distance from people who do not live in your household.
- Make reservations, if possible, so that the restaurant has time to sanitize your table before you arrive.
- Bring your own hand sanitizer.
- Look at a digital menu before you arrive to prevent touching the menu. (Some restaurants may temporarily suspend offering menus.)
- If possible, avoid eating during peak hours.
Another safety tip applies for all except those with the most sensitive bladders: use the restroom at home right before you leave for the restaurant. If you do have to use the bathroom at the restaurant, do your best to avoid touching metal surfaces such as the door handle and faucet. Use a wad of toilet paper or paper towels to open the door.
Is It Safe To Shop At A Department Store Or Indoor Mall?
Because spending time indoors with others raises the risk of becoming infected, health experts suggest that if you choose to shop, do so quickly and during off-peak hours.
Health experts suggest avoiding a store if other shoppers and staff are not wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
If you do visit a store, avoid touching your face. Wash or sanitize your hands before entering the store and immediately upon leaving. Viruses can live on stainless steel and plastic surfaces for up to three days. Take this into account before handling clothing hangers and door handles.
Is It Safe To Go To Church?
Obviously, attending an online service doesn’t foster the same sense of community provided by on-site worship. However, Castel claims that she would not be comfortable attending church because of the difficulty of maintaining social distancing indoors. If you do choose to attend services, Castel suggests, do so staying at least six feet apart from others—with a mask.
The University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Lushniak echoes Castel’s advice, taking it a step further: there should be hand sanitizer at church entrances and exits.
William Petri, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the third health expert quoted in the Washington Post, says one factor he’d base his decision on is the amount of infection in his own community; he adds he would also be concerned about the size of the congregation and the length of the service.
Is It Safe To Exercise Indoors At A Gym?
Health experts agree that it’s safer at the moment to exercise outdoors. But if you are going to an indoor exercise facility, make sure the facility is diligently disinfecting surfaces.
Although the efficacy of wearing masks is mixed, if you choose to wear a mask inside a gym or yoga studio, it can be challenging to inhale and exhale comfortable, especially if you’re going at a fast pace.
Playing Golf & Tennis And Visiting Beaches During A Pandemic
As many municipalities around the country reopen access to public spaces (and private golf clubs), is it safe to play a round or volley with a partner? How about hanging out at the beach this summer?
The health experts interviewed in the Washington Post suggested that it’s safe to play sports again but only provided that you do so with members of your own household. If you’re playing golf with somebody you don’t live with, continue to maintain social distancing—take your own golf cart (it’s healthier to walk).
Tennis poses more risks than golf because in tennis, participants touch and share tennis balls. If you want to play it safe, handle only your own tennis balls and wash your hands immediately after playing.
As for visiting the beach, health experts suggest that sunbathing raises your risk of non-household members getting too close, breaking social distancing norms. If the beach is very crowded, avoid it and try to go only during early-morning or early-evening hours. If it’s possible to maintain a minimum of six feet from other people not in your household, going for a walk on the beach is fine.
Is It Safe To Get Together With Friends Yet?
It may seem dystopian to wear a mask while you’re socializing at a neighbor’s house for a barbecue. But health experts suggest that for the time being, socializing should only be done outdoors, with fewer than 10 people with the minimum six-feet of separation, while wearing masks.
For social events that involve food, for safety sake, the get-together should be BYOE: bring your own everything: food, drinks, glasses, plates, utensils and napkins.
And don’t forget to bring your own sanitizer.