As we head into summer after a lengthy stay-at-home order in Minnesota, we all feel a powerful urge to “return to normal.” Who wouldn’t? As individuals, families, a state and a nation, we’ve never gone through anything like this before.
The good news is that we can do many activities today that we couldn’t in the spring – both because of the weather and the easing of restrictions. But as we enjoy more flexibility, we also must remember that we’re living in a new era when it comes to work and personal safety. As we return to the office, attend small family gatherings and maybe visit some lakes, pools, restaurants and malls, we need to be even more sensitive to the risks involved. Most importantly, we need to acknowledge that the decisions we make don’t just affect us; they affect everyone.
June is the perfect time to renew our focus on health and safety because with it comes the official start of summer – June 20 – and it’s also National Safety Month. Started by the National Safety Council in 1996 to build awareness and reduce illness, injuries and death, this tradition has taken on more significance this year than ever before. In addition to shining a spotlight on vital issues like mental health, ergonomics, driving and building an overall culture of safety, it also gives us an opportunity to review the safety challenges brought on by COVID-19.
In a recent blog post, the chief medical officers of Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota, Medica, PreferredOne, UCare and HealthPartners remind us that COVID-19 is most frequently spread between family members and at large gatherings. So as our neighborhoods and economies continue to open up during the summer, it can be easy to grow complacent about safety protocols at the exact time when following them is most critical.
For employers, the National Safety Council offers a great resource page with comprehensive COVID-19 safety guidance. For the general public, the Council’s medical directors remind all Minnesotans to:
- Keep washing your hands frequently, preferably using soap and water, lathering the backs, between your fingers and under your nails, and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. This isn’t a winter activity; it’s a year-round requirement.
- Wear a mask when you leave home, making sure that it fully covers your mouth and nose and fits snugly against the sides of your face. Wash it after each use in the washing machine or by hand using a bleach solution, and allow it to dry completely.
- When in public, talking to your neighbors or being with anyone outside your household, always remain at least six feet away.
- If you or someone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms like cough, fever, shortness of breath, body aches, sore throat or the sudden loss of the sense of taste or smell, everyone in your household should isolate from others, and you should call a health care provider for advice on COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Additionally, there are plenty of articles and resources available online to help you assess the level of risk with various activities, be it going to the mall, the gym or a hair salon. A good place to start is the CDC website, which has an “Errands and Going Out” page that offers some recommendations on how consumers can protect themselves in certain environments.
As summer heats up, don’t let your guard down. Take care of yourself and your family, as well as friends, coworkers, and the elderly and vulnerable by following social distancing guidelines and other measures to prevent infection, illness and death.
Our new safety normal is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. As you head outside or in public to enjoy everything Minnesota summers have to offer, remember that what you do now directly impacts what life will look like in the fall and winter. Let’s use this time to make our future months as healthy as possible.