Phase 3 of Reopening in Massachusetts: Is it Safe?

Phase 3 of reopening has begun in the state, a multi-part plan that allows additional businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak the chance to reopen, albeit with some restrictions.

Part of the current phase of reopening includes guidelines for gyms, movie theaters, and museums, among some other businesses.

Though Massachusetts tends to remain in a positive trend with the confirmed cases of COVID, there are still potential risks to consider when going out.

For that, we talked with Milford Regional’s Infection Prevention and Control Manager Kimberly Knox, RN, MHA, CIC, who laid out some of the risks associated with the reopenings.

Q: What are some of the basic things people should keep in mind?

Kim: “Regardless of where people are going, they should still practice good hand hygiene, social distancing and mask use when they are around others (masks may be removed while eating). N95s and surgical masks should be left for healthcare providers, but individuals in the community want to have a multi-layer cloth face mask or they can buy masks in the stores that aren’t cloth. Individuals want to practice social distancing by placing six feet between them and the next person.

When you’re wearing a mask, remember to keep your hands away from the front of it and put it on or remove it using the plastic straps on the sides. You don’t want to touch the front of it because you could contaminate it and then contaminate yourself.

By keeping yourself safe, you keep your loved ones safe as well. You want to minimize the risk of getting or spreading the flu, or any other infectious disease.”

Q: What is your take on indoor or outdoor dining at this point?

Kim: “Well, I think that you want to be cautious. When you’re dining, your defenses are down as you remove your mask while you’re dining and talking. You want to make sure you’re in a relatively moderate-sized group. You still want to practice social distancing when you are dining out. I think outdoor dining, certainly, has its advantages. It’s a great time to be enjoying the lovely weather, or indoors dining in establishments that have appropriate distancing between tables. Once again, you want to make sure you’re in a facility with plenty of space between diners. That six-foot social distancing is really a strong recommendation because it really minimizes the risk of you coming into contact with someone else’s droplets.”

Q: How do you feel about gyms reopening? Are they an increased risk?

Kim: Wherever you go, including the gym, the same rules apply: wash or sanitize your hands well and often, wear your mask, maintain social distancing and help to keep surfaces (including gym equipment) clean. Make sure the gym has put exercise equipment with appropriate spaces between. If you’re responsible for cleaning your own equipment then you want to see on the sanitizer how long it tells you the surface should stay wet before the disinfectant is effective. You wouldn’t want to put disinfectant on something and immediately wipe it dry; that might not be as quite effective.

Just in general, if any surface is visibly soiled, then you want to make sure that the soil is removed before you sanitize to disinfect, because you can’t sanitize without the surface being clean first.  Even if it says it’s a one-step cleaning disinfectant product, you want to make sure the surface is clean before it is disinfected. You’ll want to wipe it down first and then use another wipe to disinfect.”

Q: How do you feel about the state’s COVID-19 response and where we are currently?

Kim: I support the state’s recommendations for thoughtful reopening.  Everyone should continue to be vigilant and practice what we learned in the early phases of the pandemic. We certainly don’t want to let down our guard and slip back.  We’ve seen the numbers of cases with COVID-19 increasing in other states where some people are congregating in large groups without wearing masks and without practicing social distancing. I think there’s a lot of potential for back-sliding with that.

We don’t want to lose the good work that’s been done already. We don’t want to put people at potential risk and therefore can’t get cavalier about this. Think about your potential risks and how can you mitigate these. It really is all common sense. I think our biggest enemy right now is complacency.”

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