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Safety Tips for Essential Workers During the Pandemic

April 7, 2020

It seems like the guidelines and tips to protect yourself from catching the Coronavirus change faster than we can keep up with them. This is mainly because news organizations and the CDC want to avoid giving out the wrong instructions or causing people too much worry.

It’s also tough to know the best course of action when the U.S. as a whole is compared to the rest of the world. It’s frightening to hear statistics about the number of cases in the U.S., but essential to remember that we are also much bigger than many countries in the world, so our numbers are bound to be inflated.

When you really break it down, it’s important to stick to the facts and focus on what you can do to keep you and your family safe. For essential workers that still leave home every day, that includes knowing how to navigate their job safely. The best way to protect yourself from becoming infected is to understand how COVID-19 is spread and protecting yourself as much as you can from infection.

How is Coronavirus Spread?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness spread through the droplets of an infected person when they speak, sneeze, or cough. These droplets land either on a person as they are within close contact (within 6 feet) or can be inhaled. There are also studies that suggest (though, at the time of this writing have not proven) that the disease may also be transmitted by touching a surface an infected person recently touched then touching your face or eyes. Other studies show that some may be carrying the disease without showing symptoms but still may pass it along to others.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Contracting the Virus?

Staying at home as much as possible is the best way to protect yourself from becoming infected, though this isn’t entirely possible for everyone. Even if you aren’t one of the people in a position the government has labeled as an essential worker, we all need to leave home from time to time for groceries and other necessities.

If you are an essential worker still heading into work every day or just occasionally leave for necessities, follow these tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Do this often.
  • If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it is at least 60% alcohol.
  • Disinfect your household surfaces–especially those used often like keyboards, phones, or remote controls.
  • When you leave home, wear a cloth mask–even if you don’t feel sick. DO NOT seek out a face mask meant for health care workers, as these are in short supply
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people (remember, some people may be carrying the virus without showing symptoms)
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow. Wash your hands afterward.

Remember to do all of these things together. Each helps at controlling the spread of the virus, but none cancel out the others (i.e. wearing a mask is not a safe alternative for social distancing).

COVID-19 Symptoms and What to Do if You Feel Sick

You may be sick with the virus for up to 14 days before showing any symptoms. The most obvious symptoms of Coronavirus are fever, dry cough, and fatigue. Other symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills and body aches
  • Sudden confusion
  • Digestive issues
  • Pink eye
  • Loss of smell and taste
  • Headache, sore throat, congestion


Most people (around 80%) will recover from the illness without needing specialized treatment. If you are under 60 years old, fairly healthy overall, and your symptoms are not severe, stay at home and try to manage your symptoms. Take a pain reliever, stay hydrated, and rest. If you are over 60, if you have an underlying illness or if you are pregnant, call your health care provider immediately.