The New Normal: COVID-19 Etiquette for Leaving the House

What is considered rude in the age of COVID-19? An infectious disease expert and local grocery store manager offer their covid-19 etiquette tips and how to act in public.

Leaving the house to run errands now requires more foresight: Do you have a mask? Did you bring hand sanitizer? Have you been feeling sick lately?

Everyone is learning a new way of behaving, and we’re in it together, says Teena Chopra, professor of infectious disease at Wayne State University and the hospital epidemiologist at the Detroit Medical Center.

“I think the best and most important way to protect others is to mask yourself — facial coverings are very critical and an act of kindness and an individual responsibility,” she says. “It’s an important way to protect yourself and your community.”

While most people know now how important it is to wash hands frequently and wear a mask properly, there are other forms of COVID-19 etiquette that people may be missing when they go out.

When at the store

Jim Garrison, a manager at Honeybee Market in Detroit’s Southwest neighborhood, says wearing a mask, sanitizing hands before entering the store and keeping a 6-foot distance from other people are all important, but limiting the time in the store an important concept that is sometimes overlooked.

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“One of the things I don’t see a lot of customers do is making a list of what you need,” Garrison says. “It lets you get in and out quickly, because if you’re wandering around shopping, you’re going to limit the number of people who can come in.”

“In normal times, we wander up and down the aisles,” he adds. “But with slightly more preparation, you can get in and out quickly and increase your safety and our safety.”

Many grocery stores, Honeybee included, have asked customers to leave unnecessary members of their party at home. Having more people in tow, especially children who are liable to touch many different surfaces, increases the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Another thing people might not consider is sanitizing their credit cards, says Chopra.

“Wipe credit cards with sanitizing wipes, because (that is) a mode of transmission, because we know the virus can live on surfaces for as long as 24 hours,” she says.

Wiping cards, sanitizing your hands before entering a business and leaving reusable bags at home can help keep employees and other customers safe.

Many businesses and medical buildings now require a temperature check and the completion of a screening questionnaire. Answering these questions honestly and complying with temperature checks are necessary as well, says Chopra.

Other things to keep in mind

“Most businesses require screening questions and it’s very important to comply,” she says. “When schools reopen, they will ask questions (about your children’s health) and those are extremely critical.”

“Do not send children if there are symptoms, because you have to protect the entire community,” she adds. “The other adults, including teachers and grandparents, can have serious consequences.”

The last thing to keep in mind is that workers deemed essential, like grocery store employees, are often working longer hours with more demanding tasks. Extending some extra kindness during these unprecedented times can go a long way.

“We’ve all been working more,” Garrison says. “Right after (the stay-at-home order) there was a buy-out of individual items and then, of course, then that means we need to get trucks in here and get the shelves back up — so everyone is working more than normal.”

“It’s slowed down a little, but still higher than pre-covid but it’s not the insanity that it once was,” he adds. “We’re taking it day by day; it changes every day.”

The last thing Garrison requests from customers is a little more patience: “We’re all in this together and we’re all doing the best we can in a situation we’ve never been in.”

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