COVID-19 Endemic: Guide to Safe Homes, Schools, & Workplaces — Gloves.com
The world has come a long way since the panic and uncertainty of March 2020. Thanks to vaccines, testing, and masking, important parts of life are beginning to feel the same as they did before COVID-19, and with any luck, one day in the future, we can stop worrying about COVID-19 completely.
There’s good and bad news about the future of COVID: it’s not going to be as deadly or put as much of a strain on our lives, but it’s also not going anywhere fast. Back in late 2019 and early 2020, COVID-19 was an epidemic virus that quickly turned into a pandemic one—epidemic means rapid, destructive spread in a certain region, and pandemic means the same thing on a worldwide scale. Now we’re headed toward COVID-19 as a worldwide endemic virus, which means that we’ll have a background level of COVID cases in the population that doesn’t lead to as much death, displacement, or danger.
The path from pandemic to endemic is paved with vaccines, testing, new treatments, natural immunity, and preventative actions that you and your family or community can take.
Maintaining Your Home Safe From Coronavirus
COVID-19 is usually transmitted by breathing in particles in the air that contain the virus, but it’s also possible to catch it by touching a COVID-contaminated surface. COVID-19 can linger on a surface for up to five days, though it usually becomes inert and harmless far sooner.
This is something to watch out for when you’re living with someone who has COVID-19 and trying to limit the chance that they expose others to COVID-19. It’s also a good idea to disinfect surfaces if someone who may be COVID-19-positive has visited your home within the last twenty-four hours.
If someone in your home is sick, it’s vital that everyone in the household agrees to follow COVID-prevention strategies like cleaning and isolating the sick person. It’s a good idea to get everyone in your household together (except for the sick person) and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Clean Regularly When Someone Is Sick
The most important surfaces to clean are high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, sinks, toilet handles and seats, light switches, and kitchen surfaces like microwave and refrigerator doors. Most household cleaners can kill COVID-19, and in most cases, just cleaning off a surface should remove all virus particles that are present. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the cleaners that are effective against coronavirus.
When using a disinfectant, you may need to wear personal protective equipment to avoid harm from the product itself. This may include eyewear, gloves, or a mask, and the disinfectant bottle should have a label that informs you of the proper equipment. It’s also a good idea to avoid breathing in fumes from a disinfectant as much as you can, so be sure to open up windows and doors for ventilation when you’re cleaning.
Make sure you don’t use the wrong cleaner for a particular surface. Every surface—whether it’s fabric, the screen of an electronic device, a rug, or a curtain—has a dedicated kind of cleaning product that will decontaminate it without damaging it. Alcohol-based wipes work best for electronics, but it’s also a good idea to get a screen protector that you can clean with any other surface cleaner.
When disinfecting clothes, use the highest-temperature water you can and make sure they’re completely dry before wearing them again. Here’s a complete list of soft-surface cleaners that get rid of coronavirus.
How to Isolate a Sick Person
The level of isolation you can maintain with a sick person is greatly affected by how sick they are. Ideally, the sick member of the household can take care of themselves, cleaning every surface they touch. Maintain a separate bathroom and bedroom for the sick person if possible.
If the sick person can clean, make sure they have their own, separate cleaning supply that no one else touches. If they cook for themselves, use a shared bathroom, or spend time in any shared space, make sure they disinfect it.
If the sick person is too sick to clean, things get slightly harder. You’ll have to put on PPE, which includes a mask (ideally an N95), gloves, and eyewear if you have it, and clean the area they have just used before anyone else can use it. If you need to enter the same room where the sick person stays, make sure they put on a mask first.
When handling trash that the sick member of the household has touched, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands after touching it. It’s best to have a dedicated trash can for them.
You should follow the same procedure when handling dishes and utensils that the sick person has used. A thorough handwash or running the dishes through the washing machine is sufficient for disinfection.
Keeping Your Family Safe During Activities, Gatherings, and Holidays
There’s no way to completely eliminate risk from all your interactions and gatherings with others, but there are things you should remember to keep everyone safe. Be aware if cases are surging in your area or in the area you’re planning to visit, and keep the risk profile of the people you’re meeting with in mind. Be extra careful if you’re planning to visit with older adults or immunocompromised people.
If you feel sick, get tested. A positive result means you should quarantine for five days.
The most effective ways to protect yourself when going about daily activities are to get vaccinated and to wear a mask. Here are all the important safety actions to keep in mind when you’re going about your daily life.
- Make sure that you and the people you’re planning on interacting with have been vaccinated as many times as the CDC recommends for their age group and risk profile.
- Be aware of the COVID-19 community level where you live.
- Keep in mind that you may be infected with COVID-19 and able to spread it even when you feel completely fine.
Proper Mask Use
- Masks aren’t necessary when outdoors unless you’re interacting with someone up close for over fifteen minutes.
- If you feel sick or you’re caring for someone who has COVID-19, wear a mask when indoors.
- Talk to your doctor to find out how susceptible to severe symptoms you are.
- When eating indoors in a public space, like a restaurant or a dining hall, put your mask back on wherever you get up to.
- With the rise of the highly contagious Omicron variant, N95 masks are recommended, especially when indoors.
- When traveling long-distance, wear a mask the whole time you’re at the airport or riding a train or bus.
- While the speaker(s) or performer(s) at an event can be unmasked if separated from the rest of the group by enough space, it’s ideal that everyone wear a mask at a lecture, sermon, or concert.
Outdoor and Indoor Activities
Outdoor activities carry a significantly lower risk of spreading COVID-19, even without masks. If you’re planning on meeting someone you don’t know or has a higher chance of being exposed to COVID-19 because of their work or other circumstances, outside activities are the way to go.
Indoor activities can be riskier, and they require masks for safety.
When someone with COVID-19 breathes indoors, the particles from their breath can spread throughout the stagnant indoor air and can easily infect people far away from them. If you’re going to meet with someone indoors, make sure to get some ventilation in the room by opening a window or a door. Fans can help circulate the air as well if there’s an opening to the outside.
Large gatherings should always be assumed to carry significant risks. If you’re going to have a large gathering, make sure that everyone who attends is vaccinated if possible, and make sure that people who see you frequently or live with you are aware of your choice to attend a large gathering.
Large gatherings carry an increased risk for the broader population when they include long-distance travel, introducing a new way for COVID-19 to travel from one region to another. Holiday gatherings, music festivals, sporting events, and weddings are all examples of this.
Small gatherings often include people who already spend a significant amount of time together, decreasing their risk. Their risk is low enough that you don’t have to inform others that you’ve attended one.
To make large gatherings like holiday events safer, try to hold them outside if possible, keep long-distance travel to a minimum, and of course, make sure everyone is vaccinated. Again, if anyone feels sick or is immunocompromised, have them wear a mask. You can even hold gatherings via video call if a particular individual isn’t safe to attend.
Back-to-Office Prevention Strategies
Employees and employers need to look out for one another in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and the best ways to do that are to get vaccinated and stay home if you test positive. There are also some workplace-specific things to keep in mind when it comes to preventing COVID.
Planning and Operations
There are two tools at your disposal to help you maintain a clean, healthy work environment: cleaning and disinfecting. Simply doing a routine daily cleaning is usually enough to keep your workplace’s surfaces COVID-19-free, but in some cases, you should fully disinfect the workplace.
If there are areas in your workplace that are poorly ventilated, highly trafficked, separated from a handwashing station or hand sanitizer, or occupied by people at a high risk of COVID-19, it’s a good idea to use a stronger cleaner. It’s necessary to both disinfect and clean the workplace if someone with COVID has visited it within the last twenty-four hours.
To maintain as little close contact as possible between employees, you can put in place staggered or rotated shifts where one employee or group of employees takes over for another without coming into close contact. Break times can be staggered, and customers (if present) should be told to maintain a six-foot distance.
If your workplace involves contact with the public, you may be unable to maintain social distancing at all times, so it’s imperative that you get vaccinated, wear an N95 mask, and get tested frequently. Plastic barriers between customers and employees help mitigate this problem. Some workplaces can be moved online for all or part of their operation.
If your workplace involves the use of shared tools or objects that all employees have to touch, wearing gloves during work may be a good idea. Avoid touching your face if at all possible.
OSHA considers COVID-19 to be a workplace injury, but only if the infected employee contracts the disease under the following conditions. Carpooling and bus transit carry a higher COVID-19 risk, and they’re to be avoided if possible.
Employee screening for COVID is a good way to monitor the health of workers. Some workplaces have set up screening protocols where employees stay in their private vehicles and don’t have to interact with one another at all during screening. Screening can be conducted with thermometers and weekly to bimonthly tests.
For Employees Returning to Work
Employees will take time to adjust to the post-COVID workplace, and the best way to alleviate their concerns is to involve them in the transition back to work. Make sure you hear out their concerns and maintain an open channel of communication. They may be stressed and prone to fatigue and anxiety because of financial concerns caused by the pandemic.
Here are some other strategies you can incorporate to help employees readjust to post-COVID work:
- Try to establish healthy or empowering routines.
- Encourage personal connections.
- Increase the amount of break time.
- Be honest about uncertainty and admit that protocols may change as the COVID situation evolves.
- Listen to employees’ safety concerns and try to address them as best you can.
For Communities of Faith
Worship is one of the ways we deal with difficult times, and it’s deeply important that those who take part in religious communities be able to safely continue to maintain their connections, despite the risks.
Congregations may have to limit some of their activities or modify them. Singing spreads COVID easily, and chorus groups may have to sing outside or not at all. Any activities that involve physical touch or being in close proximity for extended periods should be severely limited or avoided.
If your community’s worship practices involve touching shared objects, it’s a good idea to disinfect them between services. Members should bring their own materials whenever possible.
The group should have an open discussion about COVID-prevention strategies, and for this, it’s vital that the clergy or people leading the discussion be invested in maintaining COVID best practices like handwashing and disinfecting.
Monitoring and Preparing
If any member of the community feels sick, he or she should not attend service under any circumstances. This person should get tested, and if positive, quarantine for five days.
Have backups in case anyone gets sick and has to quarantine, especially for the vital members of the community who address the worship group. That way, the service can still go on even if COVID strikes.
If someone tests positive after attending a meeting of the congregation, they should address all other members of the group through some communication channel, like text or email, so that all other members can get tested.
Operational Strategy for In-Person Learning
Universal and Correct Use of Masks
The ideal university mask policy for a university returning to in-person learning is to maintain mask use when indoors, even during lectures in large, ventilated rooms and especially in small, intimate classes.
Class sizes can be reduced so that students have space between one another in large lecture halls. The same can be done in smaller classrooms if resources permit it. Desks can be moved
In dining halls, students can eat sitting apart from one another, and social distance while standing in line for food or otherwise. Access to common areas like dining halls or playrooms should be minimized and staggered into small groups.
Large gatherings like field trips or any event that brings in new people who aren’t part of the school’s usual population should be avoided.
If possible, have class outside. It’s ideal for singing, band, and sports activities to be conducted outside or in very well-ventilated rooms.
In between class periods, it’s easy to cause a rush of students all getting close to one another. Avoid this by staggering period changes or by creating alternate routes ideally outside the building.
Here are some social distancing tips for schools.
Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette
Students should be taught to wash their hands for twenty seconds, as per CDC guidelines, and to cover their cough with their elbows, not their hands.
Cleaning and Maintaining Healthy Facilities
Ventilation is key to reducing COVID spread, and classrooms should have as many openings to outside air as possible. Modified layouts like plastic barriers can be employed to reduce contact between students and teachers.
High-touch surfaces should be cleaned daily, and communal spaces should be well-ventilated and disinfected often. Water fountains should emphasize personal bottles. While food-service workers should wear gloves, transmission from food is not a common COVID-19 vector.
COVID-19 and The Path to Endemicity
COVID-19 began in late 2019 as an epidemic—a disease with high enough death rates and transmissibility to move society into a state of emergency—in Wuhan, China. When it spread around the world and caused a similar state of emergency in nearly every country in the globe, it became a universal epidemic, or pandemic.
There are plenty of viruses out there, like the common cold, which are endemic, meaning that they aren’t very deadly or transmissible, not spreading enough to wreak large-scale havoc. As the world curbs the spread of COVID through vaccines, immunity, and the methods in this COVID-prevention list, COVID is becoming a universally endemic disease—it’ll be there in the background, but it will only cause as many deaths as other nasty viruses that we already put up with.
We’ll know COVID-19 is endemic once deaths, cases, and transmissibility have decreased to the point that we don’t see a significant enough impact from COVID to take measures like lockdowns, rigorous social distancing, and mandatory masking at all social events. We’re rapidly headed toward that in the US, but this timeline will play out at different times across the world.
While COVID-19 will become endemic one day, we may see health and pandemic-conscious practices from the COVID-19 era go on indefinitely. We’ve all become more wary about free interaction with others because of the pandemic, and it may take a long time for attitudes to come back to where they were. We’re likely to see the odd masked face in restaurants or walking down the street for the rest of our lives.
The “new normal” that we’re headed to will likely look like a series of surges and lulls in case counts and deaths as new variants emerge. Continued boosters may be required, especially for the elderly. The overall trend in COVID-19’s threat will slowly wane over the years as immunity sets in for the global population.
- Epidemic, Pandemic and Endemic: What is the difference? (2022, January 21). American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/blog/epidemic-pandemic-endemic-covid
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How is it transmitted? (2021, December 23). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-how-is-it-transmitted
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/science-and-research/surface-transmission.html
- Surface Cleaning and COVID-19: What You Should Know. (2021, August 9). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/lung/how-long-covid-19-lives-on-surfaces
- About List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19). (2022, May 24). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-coronavirus-covid-19
- Masks and Respirators. (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html
- COVID-19: Who’s at higher risk of serious symptoms? (2022, March 1). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-who-is-at-risk/art-20483301
- CDC Newsroom. (2016, January 1). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html
- COVID-19 Vaccination. (2022, May 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html
- COVID by County. (2022, March 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html
- N. (2022, January 14). Which mask protects best against the Omicron variant? UC Davis Health. https://health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/which-mask-protects-best-against-the-Omicron-variant/2022/01
- Rabin, R. C. (2021, April 22). The Virus Spread Where Restaurants Reopened or Mask Mandates Were Absent. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/health/coronavirus-restaurant-dining-masks.html
- Here’s how to stay safe this holiday season during COVID-19. (n.d.). Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. https://ololrmc.com/blogs/stay-safe-this-holiday-season-what-to-expect
- COVID-19 Guidance on Social Distancing at Work. (2022). https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4027.pdf
- Regulations. (n.d.). United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/standards
- Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2021, July 7). United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2021-07-07
- Considerations for Monitoring Employee Health During COVID-19. (2020, May 19). Taft. https://www.taftlaw.com/news-events/law-bulletins/considerations-for-monitoring-employee-health-during-covid-19
- Managing the Stress of Returning to the Workplace after COVID-19: A Guide for Supervisors. (2022). https://www.cstsonline.org/assets/media/documents/CSTS_FS_Managing_the_Stress_of_Returning_to_Work_after_COVID19.pdf
- How Easily Can Singing Spread COVID-19?. (2021, November 29). U.S. News. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-11-29/how-easily-can-singing-spread-covid-19
- 8 Ways to Social Distance Your School. (n.d.). USA Shade & Fabric Structures. https://www.usa-shade.com/resources/articles/8-ways-to-social-distance-your-school
- Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives. (2022, March 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html
- What School Nutrition Professionals Need to Know About COVID-19. (2021, December 1). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/covid/school-nutrition-professionals.html