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How to reduce coronavirus risks as businesses begin to reopen


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — As “higher risk” businesses in various communities begin to reopen, people are wondering whether they should — and how they should — head into the office, eat in restaurants, shop, and visit hair salons. Our health expert, Karen Owoc, is here with some safety advice on going out and reducing your risks as lockdowns loosen.

The Problem: Some research has found that people are most contagious with the coronavirus in the two or so days before they exhibit symptoms.


Commuting options from safest to riskiest:

1. Walk, bike, and drive your own car to work (safest).

2. Take a taxi or use Uber/Lyft.

• Be sure the driver is wearing a mask to trap respiratory droplets when coughing, sneezing or exhaling. The plexiglass shields in taxis provide a barrier of protection.

• Open car windows on both sides of the car to provide cross ventilation and reduce the viral load (number of virus particles per volume of air).

• Handle your own bags.

3. Ride a bus or BART train (riskiest). Public transportation is a petri dish of respiratory pathogens. You’re likely exposed to dozens of potentially infected people vs. just one potentially infected person in a taxi or ride-share. If public transportation is necessary:

• Wear a face mask.

• Be ultra-meticulous about hand hygiene.

• Stand vs sit and bring a strap to hang onto for support.

• Carry hand sanitizer and wipes.

• Don’t touch your face.

• Wash hands with soap and water for 20+ seconds. Rinse thoroughly.


Some businesses are bringing back their work staff in shifts to allow for social distancing or only bringing back a portion of their employees.

• Use the stairs instead of elevators. If you must use an elevator:

• Distance yourself from others while in such a small enclosed space.

• Wear a mask and glasses.

• Don’t get on if someone is not wearing a mask.

• Face the wall to avoid direct contact with someone’s breath.

• Don’t touch any surfaces, such as railings and elevator buttons.

• Consider EVERY surface as contaminated. Don’t touch doorknobs and printer buttons without disinfecting or use a tissue or paper towel. Immediately wash or sanitize your hands. Don’t touch your face.

• Use office bathroom with caution. Some research has found COVID-19 in stool, so beware of toilet plume. Since many toilets don’t have lids, when flushed, virus in stool will be dispersed on every surface — the walls, ceilings, floors, air ducts, and YOU.

• Wait to use the bathroom when no one else is in it.

• Don’t use the hand dryers. The forced air will disseminate virus throughout the room.

• Wash your hands for 20+ seconds. Rinse thoroughly.

• Use a paper towel to turn off faucets and open the door.


The biggest risk in dining inside a restaurant is not just being around other people in an enclosed space for an extended period of time, but touching potentially contaminated surfaces then touching your mouth.

• Avoid crowds while waiting for tables and don’t congregate around the bar.

• Sanitize your hands before eating.

• Eat outside where there is air flow and particles are dispersed.

• Be wary of all “high touch” surfaces, e.g., salt/pepper shakers, pens and leather holders for the check.

Per a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March, the coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on hard surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic for two to three days.

Restaurants have been provided with re-opening guidelines, such as spacing

tables at least 6 feet apart; providing hand sanitizer; eliminating self-service salad/drink stations and unwrapped straws; using throw-away menus; wrapping sanitized utensils.


Similar to supermarkets, other retailers are quickly adopting similar practices of social distancing, limiting the number of shoppers, and keeping people spaced apart in checkout lines.

Safely shopping for clothes and trying them on is a concern when shopping for clothes and retailers are scrambling to come up with a solution.

Per an April 30 retail survey conducted by First Insight, the following said they will NOT feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms:

• 65% of women

• 54% of men

• 49% of millennials

• 71% of baby boomers

– Macy’s will open only a few fitting rooms and will hold all merchandise that has been tried on or returned for 24 hours.

– Kohl’s is closing all of its dressing rooms until further notice and holding all returned items for 48 hours.

– Gap is closing all its fitting rooms and holding returned merchandise for 24 hours.

• Retailers are looking at sanitizing systems that clean garments within an hour.

• Some tailors are allowing customers to book fitting rooms or private shopping suites that have been disinfected prior to use.

This is where “window shopping” and stocking eye-catching window displays may become more relevant to the shopper and retailer post-COVID-19.


Like restaurants, hair salons have been provided with guidelines to follow prior to opening.

The biggest risk is that the hairdresser and customer are in close contact and may be really close for extended periods of time. The hairdresser may have been unknowingly been exposed to an infected person and may be shedding the virus.

To reduce risk:

• Wear a mask.

• Be sure hairdresser/barber wears a mask.

• Don’t touch your face.

• Consider a hairdresser house call (and cut your hair outside).

The Takeaway: There are ways to reduce the risks when going out. You just have to be cautious, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. For some people at high-risk, it may still be safer to stay home as much as possible.

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