Waflart shares tips for a safe 4th of July

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Independence Day is usually a time for celebrating with family and friends.

But with the COVID-19 virus still around, people need to make sure they take precautions, County Health Officer Dr. Ted Waflart said.

“Wear a mask and maintain social distancing for almost any activity you’re doing,” he said.

Waflart talked about precautions people should take in different scenarios. More detailed information is available online on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Fireworks

Watching fireworks displays is better than trying to make big fireworks displays yourself, Waflart said.

“We recommend people not do it if possible,” he said. “Go somewhere where they’re showing fireworks. But then, social distance and wear a mask.”

For those who are shooting off their own fireworks, make sure it’s adults doing so. “You shouldn’t allow children to play with them or ignite them,” Waflart said. “Always have adults around to supervise. And play it safe with fireworks.”

Barbecues and get-togethers

It is better to be outside than inside, Waflart said.

“Outside is definitely better because the ventilation is better,” he said.

Enact rules for wearing masks and for social distancing, Waflart said.

“Let your guests know ahead of time that you’re going to expect them to wear a mask and social distance,” he said, “to do the best they can on that.”

Limiting the number of people handling the food is another suggestion. “You should probably have one person to serve the food and drinks,” Waflart said, “rather than everybody going in and poking around in it on their own. Rather than having everybody fishing their hand around in there, have one person to dish out.”

Don’t forget to make sure the food is prepared and stored properly, especially if it is sitting out.

“People should know how to cook food so that you know it’s cooked hot enough to be safe,” Waflart said. “When you store food, if it’s meant to be cold, it should be 40 degrees or less. If it’s meant to be hot, it should be hotter than 140 degrees or more. You need to remember that to avoid foodborne illnesses, which is a common problem during the summer when people go to cookouts.”
And ask people to not attend if they are sick. “That sounds pretty obvious, but it’s something that might be overlooked.”

Restaurants

Waflart said people should check with the restaurants before going.

“I would call or check on the website, to see if they have safety guidelines,” he said. “They may say things like wear a mask, or we’re doing this or that. I would make sure they’re on board with following COVID-19 safety procedures.

“Ask them if their personnel, their servers are wearing masks. Are they social distancing?”

Wafart believes most restaurants are practicing safety measures. But in the case that a location is not, “I wouldn’t go to that restaurant,” he said. “That’d be my choice if I felt like they weren’t being careful.”

If you do decide to go to a restaurant, Waflart reiterates that people should maintain social distancing and wear a mask. “Unless you’re eating,” he said, “I mean, you can’t wear a mask when you’re eating.”

Traveling out of town

Waflart said traveling out of town should be done only if it’s necessary.

“Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick,” he said.

If you do decide to go out of town, make sure the place you’re traveling to has no restrictions for people visiting. Also, make sure the atmosphere is such that you won’t have to go on any restrictions when you get back home.

“For instance, you could go somewhere where they may say you have to go in quarantine,” Waflart said. “If you’re in a place considered a hotspot, they may have a law that says you have to go in quarantine for 14 days. So you want to check those things out.”

Indiana currently doesn’t require people coming from a hotspot state to go into quarantine when coming back. “But your place of employment might,” Waflart said. “For some businesses, if their employees have traveled to certain hotspots, they want them to quarantine for 14 days when they get back. So you need to consider that.”

For air travel, “you may come in close contact with people in lines. Do your best social distancing,” Waflart said. “And wear masks for sure, especially on a plane.”

Traveling by car would be best. “But you still have to think about making stops,” he said, “at restaurants, restroom stops, getting gas, things like that. You’re going to have to think about the social distancing and washing your hands for darn sure, if you’re going to use public facilities.”

Keep hand sanitizer in your vehicle. “After you pump gas, wash your hands or clean your hands with hand sanitizer,” he said.

Using gloves is fine, so long as you don’t contaminate your hands when you take the gloves off.

“I just use hand sanitizer, right off the bat,” Waflart said.

Hotels, overnight accommodations

Contact the hotel ahead of time to find out about the safety measures in place.

“You want to get a feel for whether they’re following restrictions,” Waflart said. “You can ask if they have markers on the floor, you know, just get an idea. Ask if all the staff is wearing masks. Ask if they’re following CDC advice on cleaning and disinfecting. You have a right to know.”

He also suggested trying to eliminate the need to exchange money by using a credit or debit card for payment. “I would try to pay for the service ... online or try to use some kind of contactless payment, if you can do that,” he said.

But there are times when a person doesn’t realize until the last minute that they are going to stay in a facility.

“You might just have to look around and see,” Waflart said. “If it looks like they aren’t following rules very well and don’t seem to care, I would look for another hotel.”

There are additional things a person can do while at a hotel. “Use stairs when you can, instead of crowding into an elevator,” Waflart said. “Or wait for the elevator to be empty before you take your family in.”

Having your own sanitizing wipes or spray wouldn’t hurt either. “I would take surface wipes or your own sanitizer,” he said, “so you can wipe off something that may be suspicious to you.”

Camping

“The main thing is you’re camping with other people around,” Waflart said, “and you’re using shared facilities like restrooms and things like that. You definitely want to wash your hands and sanitize things as necessary, especially things that other people might use.”

And, of course, practice social distancing and wear a mask.

If you’re in the woods, use insect repellent. “If you want to get technical,” Waflart said, “the CDC says use EPA-registered insect repellents. They contain at least 20% of DEET.”

Keep your skin covered by clothing. “Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, socks,” he said. “Tuck your shirt into your pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.”

Beaches and pools

The CDC says there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through recreational water. But “it’s still important to limit close contact with people outside of your home,” Waflart said.

So when visiting pools, hot tubs, water playgrounds, beaches and natural bodies of water, like lakes, people are recommended to still wear masks when you’re out of the water, and to social distance while in the water and out of the water. “That’s still important,” he said.


Heat

People should make sure they stay safe in the heat.

“Make sure you get plenty of fluids,” Waflart said. “Stay in the shade when you can. Avoid liquids with alcohol or large amounts of sugar, because they can cause you to lose more body fluid. Avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.”

He also recommends protecting yourself from the sun.

“Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing,” he said. “And use sunscreen.”




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