COVID-19 continues to spread across the nation and everyone has a part to play in stopping the spread for themselves, their families and people they don’t know, said Easter H. Tucker of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Tucker is the interim family and consumer sciences program leader for UAPB.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are three things everyone should be doing: washing their hands, practicing social distancing and wearing a face covering.
People should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap after blowing their noses, being in public places (such as grocery shopping) and coughing or sneezing, Tucker said. If they are teaching young children proper hand washing, let them sing out loud the ABC song (20-30 seconds).
It is also important to wash hands before eating or preparing food, before touching one’s face, after using the restroom, after handling one’s cloth face covering, after changing a diaper, after caring for someone sick and after touching animals or pets.
If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers that contains at least 60 percent alcohol (ethyl), she said. When using sanitizers, one should cover their hands completely and rub them together until dry.
What is social distancing? According to the CDC, it is keeping at least six feet from other people who are not from the same household, both indoors and outdoors.
“Practicing social distancing is an important part of stopping the spread of COVID-19 because it spreads mainly with people who are in close contact with each other,” Tucker said. “Many places of business are working hard to assist us in practicing social distancing. Have you noticed all the signage on the floors? Those signs let us know how far we should stand behind the person in line.”
The Arkansas Department of Health works closely with the CDC to provide guidance for social distancing. The Department of Health and Tucker recommend the following:
• Know before going. Follow the guidance from the community. Many Arkansas cities have implemented local policies and many more continue to do so.
• Prepare for transportation. Consider social distancing options when running errands or traveling to and from work. Whether walking, bicycling, or using public transportation such as rideshares or taxis, observe social distancing.
• Shopping. Limit contact as much as possible. Only visit stores when necessary for essential supplies or food. Many stores offer curb-side pick-up, drive-thru or delivery services. When shopping in person, maintain a distance of six feet.
• Choose safe social activities. There are activities one can do to stay socially connected to families and friends, such as calling, using video chats or through social media.
• Keep distance at events and gatherings. People should try to avoid large gatherings where they cannot practice social distancing from others who are not from their household. “If you are in a crowded space, maintain at least six feet between you and others, and wear a face covering. Look for the signs or markings that indicate the six feet distance,” according to officials.
• Be active—maintain distance. People should try to walk, bike ride or wheelchair roll in a location where they can maintain at least six feet between themselves, pedestrians and cyclists. When visiting parks, trails or other recreational facilities check for closures or restrictions. If arriving at a location that is too crowded for six feet of social distancing, consider going somewhere else. “You could also play at home with young children. Toss a ball, play jump rope on the driveway or get some sidewalk chalk. Be creative,” according to officials.
According to the CDC, face masks help prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with other preventative measures that include social distancing and hand washing.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an executive order making mask-wearing mandatory that went into effect July 20. The order states that people must wear a face covering inside, when exposed to non-household members, as well as outside with non-household members, unless there is room for social distancing. The executive order carries the force of law and violations may result in fines. Children under the age of 10 are exempt along with additional exemptions.
“It is recommended that the general public not buy surgical or N95 masks. Those should be reserved for healthcare workers,” Tucker said. “Cloth masks are readily available and can be washed and reused. Many groups and private citizens are making cloth masks and donating them to organizations.”
Cloth masks are simple to make and inexpensive, Tucker said. Instructions for making them can be found online. Some do not require any sewing.
Masks can be made from common materials, such as sheets made of tightly woven cotton, she said. The CDC website includes directions for no-sew masks made from bandannas and T-shirts.
“Cloth masks should include multiple layers of fabric,” Tucker said. “Cloth masks should be worn where social distancing cannot be achieved. Be proactive and keep a few masks with you at all times.”
How should a cloth mask be worn? Cloth face masks should be worn in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in grocery stores, and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission, she said.
Pointers for putting on and taking off a cloth mask according to the CDC:
• Place the mask over the mouth and nose.
• Tie it behind the head or use ear loops and make sure it’s snug.
• Don’t touch the mask while wearing it.
• “If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands,” the CDC said.
“Remember, we all play an important role in slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Tucker said. “Stay home when possible. If you must venture out, wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands.”
For more information on COVID19, go https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.
— Debbie Archer is an Extension associate-communications at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.