6 things not to do when coronavirus quarantine and lockdown end

By Jessica Dolcourt

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Sorry, but don't expect life to return to normal right away.

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Little by little, coronavirus lockdown restrictions are easing in the US and around the world, and conversations are beginning to project what life might look like at your favorite restaurant, gym, movie theater and concert venue. You're counting down the days until you can hug your friends, throw a party, file into a stadium and board an airplane.

We are, too. But with global confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths rising by the thousands each day, it's important to remember that even as some restrictions loosen, that there's still much we don't know about the long-term behavior of this particular coronavirus strain. Even in countries and cities that are beginning to reopen, the warning remains clear: If cases surge again, the lockdowns will return.

"We are still far from out of the woods," Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said, as reported by The Guardian, even as Germany loosens restrictions. "We are not in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning."

"The worst that can happen is that we make a misstep and let our emotions get ahead of the facts, and we have to go through this again," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his April 11 daily press conference.

Different governments and agencies are sure to have their own cadence for reintegrating and going back to business as usual, including taking a phased approach that slowly relaxes some measures while keeping an eye out for spikes in new COVID-19 cases.

One thing's for sure: Your lifestyle won't fully return to "normal" right away. While every community will have its own specific rules, here are some common-sense codes to keep in mind.

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Don't throw a party or hit the bars

Social distancing measures exist for a reason, and that's to slow the spread of viral transmission from people who come into close contact. Hosting a party at home or crowding into a bar when they reopen will jam people together in a room, giving any lingering coronavirus on an asymptomatic host the prime opportunity to infect others, who then could pass it along.

Even if bars reopen in your area, as they are doing in some US cities and places around the world, they'll likely do so with limited hours (e.g. closing at 11 p.m.), social distancing and limited capacity. It's up to you to be judicious about protecting your health.

"I will just remind the American people again. This is a highly contagious virus," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in an April 15 briefing. "Social gatherings, coming together, is always a chance that an asymptomatic person can spread the virus unknowingly ... But for all of you that are out there that would like to join together and just have that dinner party for 20 -- don't do it yet."

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Don't stop washing your hands

Of course you'll continue to practice common hygiene, but remember that relaxed restrictions won't necessarily mean that the coronavirus outbreak is over, even after a vaccine eventually arrives. There may be economic reasons for schools and businesses to reopen, while the virus continues to spread, albeit at slower rates than today.

Remember that the goal of stay at home orders and thorough handwashing is to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients in critical condition and minimize your risk for acquiring life-threatening symptoms.

Hopefully, the good hand-washing habits you've acquired during this time will stick around, including longer, more thorough washing, and more frequently after coming into contact with people and common surfaces.

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Don't immediately visit high-risk people

There's nothing I'd rather do when quarantine ends than rush out and give the senior citizens and immunocompromised friends in my life a big, warm hug. But that might not be the best move for them. Quarantine measures are likely to loosen before the vaccine arrives that will help protect people most at risk if they do acquire COVID-19.

Though early vaccine testing is underway, an approved vaccine is still thought to be a year out, at the very least. That doesn't necessarily mean you won't see your loved ones for a full year.

Antibody testing is a promising method in development right now that could be able to tell you if you've already been exposed to the coronavirus. Unfortunately, we're not at the stage where this test -- which isn't yet available -- can confirm immunity.

For people who are in high-risk groups, keeping a healthy distance may still be the best way to keep them safe. That's something you and your family will need to carefully evaluate.

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Don't plan a big international vacation

I've already started a mental list of every place in the world I want to visit once restrictions lift. And I've already revised it to local gems, like a hiking trail and the beach, activities that are off the menu where I live. Like me, you'll have to have a little patience.

While I expect that hotel and airfare prices will be enticingly cheap when nonessential travel is first deemed acceptable again, it does well to remember intermingling is nearly impossible to avoid in airports and airplanes (though not because of the ventilation system, according to the WHO), which is one major reason flights have been canceled and international travel effectively banned in many countries.

The international movement of people contributed to the coronavirus reaching pandemic proportions so quickly, through person-to-person transmission like coughing and sneezing. If a recurrence were to happen, the last thing you want is the stress of finding yourself quarantined in an unfamiliar country, without a clear or quick way home.

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Don't toss out those face masks

It's likely that, at least in the beginning, you'll still be expected to retain some cautionary measures when going to the salon, restaurants and so on. Temperature checks and social distancing could be in full effect, along with sanitizing your hands or wearing gloves, sitting at tables with plexiglass dividers between them or even agreeing to wear a face mask in certain situations. Expect that some shopping and socializing experiences won't go back to normal for some time.

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Don't get too comfortable

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but as a global society, we can't say for certain what will happen next -- if a sudden surge in new coronavirus cases will make it necessary to reinstitute quarantine measures, as has happened in Singapore and Hong Kong, or, worse, if a new strain emerges.

When the time comes, the smart thing to do is remain cautiously optimistic about regaining your freedom to move, but remain realistic that we don't know what the future holds. So keep those homemade face masks handy.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

Originally Published: https://www.cnet.com/health/7-things-to-not-do-when-coronavirus-lockdown-and-quarantine-end/