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Coronavirus tips: 14 ways to help keep yourself safe when you leave the house – CNET

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Social distancing is important in the grocery store, but so is how you shop.


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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Leaving the house to run errands and get fresh air are essential tasks that help keep you healthy and sane, but it also sets you on a collision course with other people outside your household — and a gathering of germs. You’re all practicing social distancing and thoroughly washing your hands, and many of you are wearing homemade face masks, but there are more precautions to take, too, as the US surpasses 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Remember, the highly contagious new strain of coronavirus can be passed along on by those who appear asymptomatic.

Here are smart, sound tips to follow when you do need to leave the house to run essential errands. And here’s the current understanding of coronavirus when it comes to food delivery and mail, such as Amazon packages.

Read more: Wine, beer, alcohol delivery: How to get alcoholic beverages delivered to your door

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It’s important to reduce your risk of exposure when you shop.


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What’s this about wearing face masks in public?

Last Friday, the CDC reversed its position on who should and shouldn’t wear face masks in public. Prior to this latest announcement, the CDC and other health experts maintained that there was no need for the general public to wear a face covering in public. 

However, the rapid spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has caused the US authority on infectious disease to change course. The institute now recommends that people who reside in areas with high transmission rates, and those who are going to places where they can’t maintain social distancing (that is, six feet of space between you another person who isn’t a household member) drape their nose and mouth with cloth or another type of breathable fabric, including face masks you make at home or buy

The CDC considers this a voluntary health measure, and a recommendation. While it isn’t law, there is a strong grassroots movement that has circulated homemade face mask patterns and tips for weeks, for personal use and for donation to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.


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Health experts see wearing a homemade face mask as a step to take to slow the spread of disease, alongside washing your hands and practicing social distancing, especially from high-risk groups like senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems. Just be aware that homemade face masks might be better at blocking large particles like sneezes and coughs compared to the small particles that N95 respirator masks (reserved for health care workers) can block. 

Moral of the story: If you feel well and don’t have symptoms, wearing a homemade face mask in crowded public settings is recommended by the CDC. Most importantly, keep your distance and wash your hands.

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SummerDance/iStock / Touchups by CNET


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Enough with the fingertips: Use your knees, feet, elbows and knuckles instead

If you’re still pressing buttons for walk signs with your fingertips, stop. Any time you have to open a door, push a button, pull a lever or digitally sign for something, use a different body part instead. You have plenty.

For example, I’ll often tap out a PIN code or make a selection on a digital screen with my knuckle instead of the pad of my finger. I’ll push open a door with my shoulder, hip or foot instead of my hands.

You can usually flip on a light switch or sink faucet with your elbow or wrist, and you can wrap the sleeve of your sweater or jacket around the handle of any doors you have to physically pull open. It’s easy enough to toss your clothing into the wash later rather than expose your skin now, especially if the chances you’ll use your hands to touch food items or your face is high.

Distance, distance, distance

Did we mention distance? Social distancing can mean anything from hunkering down at home and refraining from seeing outside friends and family in person to keeping a boundary between you and others when you do go out. 

The practice of keeping 6 feet away from those outside your home group extends to waiting in line at the grocery store, going on walks (you can momentarily walk in the bike lane if you’re careful about looking out for street traffic) and picking up food to go.

Some states are enforcing social distancing in grocery stores and some businesses are doing that themselves. But if you need to keep more distance between you and someone else while on a walk or when reaching for an item at the store, take a step back and wait or politely ask the person to give you more clearance (“Oh, I’m trying to keep my distance from everyone.”)

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Automated door openers like this can keep your hands from touching common surfaces.


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Look for the automatic option

If the doors to whichever building you’re entering aren’t already propped open or have automatic sensors, look around before you pull a handle. Most modern buildings have accessibility buttons to open doors for people with mobility concerns. You can easily touch this with your forearm, hip or foot (some are pretty low down) and wait the few seconds for the doors to open. 

Consider buying an automatic soap dispenser for home so you don’t have to worry about transferring germs to the pump.

Watch where you put your phone

While we’ve gotten the go ahead to use disinfecting wipes on phones, another smart idea is to avoid placing your device on iffy surfaces to begin with. Do you really need to put your phone down, or can you just stash it in a coat pocket or purse? The less you can expose your phone to shared surfaces, the less you need to worry about them in the first place.

If you do put your phone down on a shared surface, lay down a napkin and set your phone on that. It’ll save you having to disinfect your device quite so often.

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If microfiber cloth doesn’t put your mind at ease, you can use disinfecting wipes on iPhones now.


Derek Poore/CNET

Set aside your reusable tote bags

Increasingly, store policy excludes you from bringing outside tote bags and other bags into grocery stores — or at least, using them in the bagging area. If you want to lessen your environmental impact, find ways to reuse the store’s fresh bags at home.

The stores I shop at continue to make baskets and carts available, and only some offer sanitary wipes. Others have assigned gloved staff to wipe down carts and baskets for you with disinfectant, before you shop. 

Regardless, it’s a good idea to thoroughly wash your hands before you leave home to protect others, bring your own sanitary wipes if you have them and the store doesn’t offer that option and be sure to wash your hands when you get home. Really, we can’t stress that enough.


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Don’t sort through produce with your bare hands

At a time when face masks are increasingly common in stores and shoppers will give you the side eye for rummaging through lemons, here’s a little advice: Don’t poke the bear.

When sorting through food, use a glove or stick your hand inside a fresh, store-supplied bag and use the outside like a glove to pick up and inspect the garlic and bananas you want, so as not to touch every item with your bare hands. It’ll make others feel more comfortable, and is just as likely to inspire them to follow suit.

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Maybe don’t rummage through all the fruit and veggies without reinforcements.


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Whatever you do, touching’s off limits

Look, if they don’t live in your household, don’t touch them. Most of us are observing this dictum by now, but on the off-chance you see a friend or family member, resist the urge to hug, tap elbows or get anywhere closer than 6 feet. Air hug if you have to. Blow a kiss (minus the actual exhalation). We have 13 clever and satisfying ways to safely greet someone that keeps you and loved ones safe.

For food and package delivery, embrace the awkward 

Keeping your distance means that you’ll need to get comfortable speaking through closed doors and hanging back rather than rushing forward to help the person delivering you packages, mail and food. For example, if you happen to be outside, it’s not rude to let the mail carrier walk all the way up to the front door and place the mail in the box rather than take it directly — it’s appropriately cautious for the times, and helps protect you and them by keeping your distance.

Equally, if a food delivery person or neighbor drops something off, give a warm thank you through the closed door and wait for them to recede six feet before opening to door to thank them again and wave. They’ll appreciate your consideration and seriousness.

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You don’t have to spray yourself down, just wash those hands thoroughly.


James Martin/CNET

Wash your hands every time you get ‘home’ — seriously

Along with social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly is one of your best defenses against acquiring coronavirus. Give your hands a thorough scrub each time you get back. 20 seconds is the going recommendation, which may seem like ages, but if you wash slowly, it’s easy to do. 

I count five long seconds (one-one-thousand) of soaping each hand, in between the fingers and up to the wrists, then count another five seconds for washing each hand thoroughly to get the soap (and any dead germs) off. I often wash the soap dispenser pump and faucet handles, too.

That helps me feel safe enough to adjust my contacts, blow my nose and pick that nagging something or other out of my teeth in the comfort of my own space.

Read more: The best thermometers for cold and flu  

Don’t neglect your car and home

After getting back from running errands, it doesn’t hurt to wipe down your car and surfaces in your home, especially if you share it with others. Person-to-person contact is the most common vector, but viruses and bacteria do spread through objects and other forms of indirect physical contact. Here’s our guide for sanitizing your home and car.

Carry extra napkins, disinfecting wipes and facial tissue

Packing extra tissues, disinfecting wipes, wet wipes and other paper products in my purse is already part of my habit, but now I pay extra attention to how much paper I have on hand. 

Normally, I might use a spare napkin to wipe my hands after an impromptu snack (also in my bag). Today, these products could come in handy to clear away germs, or act as a barrier between you (or your phone) and a surface. For example, opening a door handle if you just saw someone cough into their hands before turning a knob.


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Stop handling cash

While it’s believed that the highest risk of acquiring coronavirus comes from person-to-person transmission, we do know that shared surfaces can harbor the virus. Play it safe by setting the cash aside for now and relying more on contactless payments.

A large number of payment terminals accept Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and credit cards with the contactless logo on them. And remember, if a digital signature is required, you can use your knuckle instead of your index finger. For a physical signature, start packing your own pen.

Banish questionable items to a long time out

Coronavirus can cling to surfaces, such as your jacket or a tabletop, for up to nine days at room temperature, studies have found. However, the CDC found that the coronavirus RNA remained in cabins about the Diamond Princess Cruise ship up to 17 days after passengers departed.

We know that a thorough cleaning with good ol’ soap and water will kill the virus’ structure, but if you’re not sure how to disinfect an item, like a dry-clean-only jacket or pair of boots, setting it aside for three or four weeks is another option. 

Read on for global coronavirus updates, how to track the virus’ spread across the globe, and how to sanitize your house.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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New Brunswick doctor says he does not know where he picked up COVID-19 – OHS Canada

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FREDERICTON — A New Brunswick doctor blamed by many, including the premier, for spreading COVID-19 in a growing cluster of new cases told Radio-Canada on Tuesday that he’s not sure how he picked up the virus.

Dr. Jean Robert Ngola said he recently travelled from Campbellton, N.B., to Quebec to pick up his four-year-old daughter because the girl’s mother had to attend a funeral in Africa.

Ngola admitted that upon his return from the overnight trip, he did not self-isolate for 14 days, but added he does not know if he caught the coronavirus on his travels or from a patient.

“Perhaps it was an error in judgment, but I did not go to Quebec to go to take the virus and come to give it to my patients,” Ngola told morning show La Matinale.

There are 13 active COVID-19 cases in the province that had just weeks ago seen all of its coronavirus cases recovered.

On Tuesday, the Public Health Department reported another COVID-19 case in an outbreak at Manoir de la Vallee, a care home in Altholville in the northern part of the province.

All of New Brunswick’s active cases are in the health region known as Zone 5, and all have been linked to a cluster in the Campbellton area.

Officials, including Premier Blaine Higgs, have said the cluster began when a health-care worker travelled to Quebec and returned to work at Campbellton Regional Hospital without self-isolating.

But Ngola told La Matinale that his COVID-19 diagnosis threw him, and he’s not sure how he was exposed. His daughter tested positive as well and both have been in quarantine since, but neither have had any symptoms.

Doctor has faced racist attacks

The doctor, who is of Congolese descent, said he has been the victim of racist attacks online since public attention was directed to his case. His name and photo were shared on social media with racist comments describing him as “the bad doctor who went to get the virus to kill people here.”

Ngola told the radio program he took precautions when travelling and did not stop en route.

He continued working upon his return to Campbellton and left his daughter in the care of an essential service workers’ daycare centre.

On May 25, he was told that one of his patients had tested positive for COVID-19. He called the man, whom he’d seen May 19 for a prescription renewal, and stopped working right away.

Ngola said as a patient, he also has the right to confidentiality.

The Campbellton COVID-19 cluster has led to increased testing in the region, where the Vitalite health authority offered tests to anyone who asked from Friday through Sunday.

More than 3,300 were completed over the weekend and Zone 5 has moved back a step in the province’s reopening plan.

A Tuesday news release from the province’s Public Health Department said the newest positive case is a person their 80s linked to Manoir de la Vallee, where a worker tested positive last week.

Five residents have now tested positive for the virus and the regional director for Lokia Group, the company that owns the home, said Monday that two had been hospitalized.

The province said Tuesday that five people are in the hospital due to COVID-19, including one person in intensive care.

Chief doctor pleads for patience

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement that New Brunswickers should be patient as the province monitors the outbreak.

“We have 14 days ahead of us to see how things unfold,” Russell’s statement read. “In the meantime, I ask New Brunswickers to continue to demonstrate their compassion, kindness and patience throughout the province.”

At a news conference last week, Premier Blaine Higgs did not refer to Dr. Ngola by name, but criticized him as “irresponsible” and said the matter had been referred to the RCMP, potentially leading to charges for violating public health orders.

Days later, Higgs walked back his remarks slightly and appeared to acknowledge the outrage, telling people to leave investigation into any wrongdoing up to law enforcement and the person’s employer.

“I know people are upset, but we don’t want anyone taking matters into their own hands,” he said.

Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin told The Canadian Press on Saturday that she was embarrassed by many of the comments on social media directed at the doctor, which she described as “pretty hateful and nasty.”

By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John’s, N.L., with files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal

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Hydroxychloroquine fails to prevent COVID-19 in those at high risk, trial shows – CBC.ca

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The drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been the subject of heated debate as a potential treatment for COVID-19, was not effective in preventing the disease in Canadians and Americans at high risk, according to the first gold standard clinical trial.

In Wednesday’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, medical researchers reported on testing the use of hydroxychloroquine in 821 adults throughout the U.S. and in Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta. The participants did not have symptoms but were exposed to someone with confirmed COVI9-19 in a health-care or household setting.

Hydroxychloroquine is often used to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus. U.S. President Donald Trump said he’s taken hydroxychloroquine, although he’s not tested positive for the coronavirus infection. No studies have proven this drug or any others are effective against COVID-19.

The exposures were all considered high risk, because the participants were less than two meters away from a confirmed case for more than 10 minutes without wearing a mask or face shield. The goal of the randomized trial was to see if hydroxychloroquine could prevent symptoms of infection, known as postexposure prophylaxis, compared with taking a sugar pill.

“In this trial, high doses of hydroxychloroquine did not prevent illness compatible with COVID-19 when initiated within four days after a high-risk or moderate-risk exposure,” the study’s authors wrote.

Gold standard method

Dr. Emily McDonald, a physician at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, co-authored the randomized control trial in which half of participants were randomly assigned to the drug and half to the placebo without investigators knowing to avoid bias in interpreting any symptoms or their resolution.

McDonald called it the gold standard method to have the best evidence to support how to prevent spread of COVID-19.

“When we politicize the drug and we stop studies early for reasons that are perhaps not entirely valid, we risk never answering the question properly because the enrolment for the studies drops off,” McDonald said.

“There are also hundreds of patients that have contributed their data to randomized trials because they also felt a responsibility to help the scientific community answer this question.”

Overall, 107 of 821 of participants developed COVID-19 based on a swab or compatible symptoms during 14 days of followup.

No deaths occurred

Of those who received hydroxychloroquine, investigators said 49 developed the disease compared with 58 in the placebo group, a difference that could simply be random.

Two patients were hospitalized, one in each group. No deaths occurred.

Medication side-effects such as nausea and abdominal discomfort were more common for patients taking hydroxychloroquine compared to placebo (40 per cent versus 17 per cent), but no serious treatment-related adverse reactions were reported, including any heart arrhythmia.

Earlier on Wednesday, the World Health Organization announced it was resuming the hydroxychloroquine arm of its Solidarity trial into potential treatments for COVID-19 following a pause to check for any potential safety concerns such as heart problems.

The Solidarity trial includes participants and researchers in Canada. 

Previous studies of hydroxychloroquine were observational in design, which greatly increases the potential for bias when managing patients compared with a well conducted, randomized clinical trial.

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2 new cases of COVID-19, bringing total long-term care residents infected to 5 – CBC.ca

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There are two new cases of COVID-19 in the province, both related to a recent outbreak in the Campbellton region.

There are now 15 active cases of COVID-19, all in Zone 5, which has been returned to the orange phase of recovery while restrictions remain eased in the rest of the province.

The new cases are an individual between 40 and 49 years of age, and an individual between 60 and 69 years of age.

A provincial press release said one of the two new cases is linked to a close contact of a previously identified case, and the other one is linked to Manoir de la Vallée, a long-term care facility in Atholville.

Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard said in total, the facility has three staff and five residents test positive.

There are five people in hospital and one in the intensive care unit, the release said.

Three of the hospitalized people are residents of the long-term care home, Shephard said, including the ICU patient.

“To the best of my knowledge I can tell you that [their condition] is stable,” Shephard said.

All of the cases are isolated in the memory care wing of the facility, Shephard said. 

“This memory care wing would have doors, like locked doors,” shes said. “We can’t say 100 per cent that a patient doesn’t wander in some fashion but it’s very much minimized.”

She said all the rooms are private, but residents do share a bathroom.

“A cleaning crew has been brought on to support staff in washing down washrooms three times a day at a minimum,” she said.

Two of the positive residents are still in the wing in Atholville she said, and the staff members are isolating in their homes. 

She said administrators are in contact with family members on a daily basis. She said she’s sure residents and families are worried.

“But I’m sure that staff is doing everything they can to give them assurances that every precaution is being taken to protect them.”

Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard says three of the six people in hospital are long-term care home residents. One is in ICU and in ‘stable’ condition. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The release said a Quebec resident has also tested positive, and is also linked to the facility, but the case will be counted as part of Quebec’s statistics.

Public H​​​​​ealth has previously linked the outbreak to a doctor who travelled to Quebec and didn’t self-isolate for the mandatory 14 days when he returned.

The province has conducted 31,791 tests in total, including 1,125 in the last 24 hours.

What to do if you have symptoms?

The province says if you or a member of your family are showing two of the following symptoms, contact Tele-Care 811 or your primary health-care provider:

  • Fever above 38°C or signs of fever (such as chills).
  • A new cough or worsening chronic cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Headache.
  • A new onset of fatigue.
  • A new onset of muscle pain.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell.
  • In children, purple markings on the fingers or toes. In this instance, testing will be done even if none of the other symptoms are present.

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