News | Published May 18, 2020 | Written by Candace Good, MD, behavioral health, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Anxious about going out in public? Tips to make you feel more comfortable as our community reopens during COVID-19

As we begin to reopen our communities, many people are fearful about venturing back out in public. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable about this next step.

First, it’s important to keep in mind that all businesses reopening must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health guidance for social distancing and cleaning. Some of this will be behind the scenes, but businesses might also ask customers to follow certain rules.

Stores may restrict the number of people allowed inside at any given time and adjust their hours to allow more time for cleaning. Doctor’s offices will continue to screen individuals for symptoms of COVID-19 and adapt their workflows to avoid people gathering in waiting rooms. Telehealth visits will still be offered as an alternative.

Social distancing will remain key. Stay at least six feet away from other people and do not gather in large groups. Take advantage of curbside and delivery options. If you have to visit in person, go during hours when there will be fewer other customers, like early morning or late at night.

When inside a store, use touchless payment when possible (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). Use hand sanitizer right after paying if you can’t use a touchless method. When doing curbside pickup or delivery try to pay online or on the phone when you order.

Use disinfecting wipes and use hand sanitizer or wash your hands after touching a high-touch public surface, like an ATM keyboard or buttons and the gas pump when filling up.

You should continue to wear a mask or other face covering when out in public, especially in places where it will be challenging to maintain social distancing. According to the CDC, your mask or covering should fit snugly, but comfortably against the side of your face; be secured with ties or ear loops; include multiple layers of fabric; allow for breathing without restriction; and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Staying physically active and enjoying spring weather is a great way to keep your mind and body healthy. Visit parks and trails that are close to your home, but avoid crowded areas. Before you leave, have a back-up site picked out in case your first choice is too crowded. Don’t use playgrounds or participate in organized activities or sports.

Bring hand sanitizer with you when you go out and use it or wash your hands with soap and water, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and after leaving any store.

When you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Continue to follow your cleaning and disinfecting routine. Keep up frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops and faucets.

This pandemic, and the progression to the next stage of reopening, can be stressful. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and our communities stronger. Take breaks from the news, including social media. Take care of your body through a healthy diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and relaxing through stretching, deep breaths, or meditation. Make time to unwind and do activities you enjoy. Stay connected with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

If stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row, call your healthcare provider. With so much of the focus on COVID-19, it’s important not to ignore your mental health.

Reopening our communities will be a gradual process; things won’t be going back to normal overnight. We all have a role to play by maintaining safe habits like practicing social distancing and following basic prevention hygiene. Being cautious and using recommended best practices will help reduce your risk of exposure and help our community recover more safely and sustainably.

For more information on how to stay safe and ways Mount Nittany Health is responding to COVID-19, visit mountnittany.org/coronavirus.