During the pandemic, everyone’s working differently. Many are working from home, but that’s not always the case for those who are considered essential workers. People working at essential businesses – healthcare facilities, gas stations, grocery stores, law enforcement, restaurants offering delivery or pickup, and others – are still working on premises. These workers run the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 at work and potentially bringing it home or infecting others. If you’re an essential worker, here are some things you can do protect yourself and those you come into contact with:
Protecting Yourself at Work:
- Wear a mask. By covering your mouth and nose with a face mask, you’re protecting those who you come into contact with if you’re infected with COVID-19 but not showing symptoms.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. Use disinfectant wipes or a bleach solution to wipe down keyboards, card readers, counters, door handles, telephones and other surfaces that you and others frequently touch.
- Take your temperature before work. If it’s normal, follow all other safety precautions and go to work. If it’s high, call your supervisor, doctor, and stay home.
- Don’t share equipment or tools. This is especially important for telephones or headsets, which are close to your mouth and nose. If sharing a tool or piece of equipment is unavoidable, wipe it down thoroughly and disinfect it.
- Practice social distancing. Stay at least six feet away from co-workers and others throughout the day. If a meeting is necessary, use videoconferencing or teleconferencing or, if none of the options are available, hold the meeting in an open, well-ventilated space with all participants at least six feet apart.
- Wash your hands. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the most effective ways to avoid being infected.
- Avoid touching your face. This is especially important when your hands are unwashed.
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Protecting Yourself if You’re a First Responder or in Law Enforcement
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have detailed guidance for each group of these essential workers. If you’re in law enforcement, you can visit their site for recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to protect yourself from exposure.
If you’re an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worker, the CDC has specific guidance that you can see here.
Protective Steps to Take After You Leave Work
After you’ve finished working, wash your hands before you leave. Also pay attention to how you’re feeling and whether or not you have symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, or a dry cough, which are all indicative of COVID-19 infection. Wipe down your car door handle, seatbelt, and steering wheel before driving home. Once you’re home, it’s recommended that you take the following steps:
- Take off the shoes you wore before entering your home.
- Change out of your clothes, then wash your hands immediately before touching clean clothes. The CDC hasn’t issued guidance on how long the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on clothes, if at all, but it’s still a good idea to take extra precautions.
- Wash your dirty work clothes immediately using your normal detergent.
- Take all normal precautions, such as washing your hands frequently and disinfecting high-touch surfaces often.
Baptist Health has guidance on cleaning and disinfecting your home here.
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