Taking these important steps can help prevent coronavirus from spreading

  • May 8, 2020
  • Michelle Martin, for Natividad

Here’s how to minimize the spread of coronavirus. (Photo: Getty Images)

Monterey County and the state of California are under strict orders to shelter in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“As people continue to shelter in place, we should see fewer people get sick all at once and fewer people in our hospitals. This will allow us all to care for people and not get as overwhelmed as we’ve seen other areas become due to this pandemic,” said Dr. Craig Walls, Chief Medical Officer at Natividad. “It’s so important to get everyone’s to take precautions so we can slow the spread of coronavirus and help flatten the curve.”

The order prohibits people from leaving their homes unless it’s for essential needs or essential work, and they are advised to practice social distancing. Following those two rules can greatly reduce the spread of the new virus, which can be deadly for some people. Other measures, including washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, can also help prevent the virus from spreading.

But even with the shelter-in-place order, some people aren’t sure how they can avoid contracting the coronavirus or what they should do if they think they have it.

Here’s what you should know — and how you can help keep yourself and your family safe — during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to shelter in place

The state’s shelter-in-place order means that all residents are prohibited from leaving their house except for essential needs — shopping for groceries, doing laundry, going outside for a walk — and from going to work unless they are employed in an essential industry. People who work at grocery stores, in health care, and at pharmacies, and those who have jobs in utilities, banking, governmental services, law enforcement, and some other industries are considered essential employees.

The order, which remains in effect indefinitely, helps to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. If fewer people get sick at the same time, it will help lessen the spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospitals and health care facilities from becoming overcrowded.

What social distancing means — and how to do it

One of the best ways to avoid contracting the coronavirus is to practice social distancing, which, generally speaking, means increasing the amount of space between people to help prevent spreading the virus. Examples of social distancing include staying at home with only your household members and avoiding visits with friends or family.

If you must leave your home for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or banking, you should maintain a 6-foot distance from others and wear a face mask or cloth face covering. And if you go for a walk, be sure to keep that same distance between you and other people. This is especially important for older adults and those who have underlying health conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes, or a weakened immune system.

If you’re planning to travel, reconsider those plans, especially if you intend to visit an area that has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19.

Social distancing is proving to be one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but it requires everyone’s cooperation to save lives.

How to properly wash your hands

Like the common cold or flu, the coronavirus spreads through contact with people who have the virus, via cough, snot and saliva droplets. Also like the common cold or flu, one of the best ways to combat the virus is by washing your hands.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and if soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 90% alcohol. That’s especially important if you have to leave your house to go food shopping or visit the bank.

It’s also important to avoid touching your face with your hands, and to clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces and objects often. And if you feel sick, stay home — even if you’re considered an essential worker. The coronavirus can spread easily, and you don’t want to risk getting other people sick.

What to do if you are sick

A dry cough, fever and muscle aches are some of the telltale signs of COVID-19. But just because you have these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve contracted the virus. The only way to be certain is to be tested.

Even if you don’t know for sure if you’ve been infected, the best way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to treat the symptoms as though you do have the virus — even if it later turns out to be a cold, the flu or another illness. Stay home and isolate yourself from others. Don’t go to work or visit public areas. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and wash your hands frequently.

Mild symptoms can be treated at home. Use over-the-counter medications to reduce fever, cough and congestion, and monitor your symptoms. You can also call your doctor with questions about any mild symptoms you’re experiencing.

When to visit the hospital

If your symptoms begin to worsen or if you have trouble breathing, you should call your doctor, or go to the emergency room immediately or call 911. If seeing your doctor, call before you arrive so the staff can take steps to prevent other people from being exposed to the virus. If you’re going to the emergency room, you do not need to call before you arrive.

You should wear a cloth face covering or face mask into the doctor’s office or hospital to help prevent the virus from spreading.

Natividad is following all national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when caring for patients who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. The hospital is also requiring COVID-19 screening questions for all patients and masking is required for all employees. Natividad has also implemented a no visitor policy, with a few exceptions, to reduce the spread of the virus and protect staff and patients. Visit Natividad.com/covid-19 for details.