A Refreshed Routine as We Go Green

The moment has come. As our community transitions into this less restrictive “green” phase, this also marks an important milestone to salute all we’ve done to stay healthy up to now so that life can begin to turn toward a new normal.

Dr. Deepak Garg, MD, infectious disease specialist at Penn Highlands Infectious Disease, and Dr. Istikram Qaderi, MD, Penn Highlands Healthcare’s chief of quality, offer easy steps for how to take care of ourselves and each other as we return to our everyday outings. “We’ve all worked hard to stay home and maintain social distancing, which has made it possible for us to move to green,” Qaderi says, “but this also means we have to continue our good practices from recent weeks and prepare when we go out.” Here, these experts offer tips to help make it easy to be—and stay—green.

In restaurants. Food and beverage establishments will allow 50 percent of their normal clientele volume, but Dr. Garg says there are key reminders as you sit down at your usual spot. “Frequent washing of hands before and after the meal” is wise, he says. “Bring hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes—that will help after you finish your food.” As for face covers, Dr. Garg says, “Of course when you’re eating, there can’t be a mask,” but it’s best practice to wear one when you enter, exit, and even when you order, out of consideration for your server—who, Garg says, should be wearing a mask, too.

At the gym. Gyms will also operate at 50 percent capacity, but a good workout calls for some modifications to your usual routine. “Prepare for the gym,” Qaderi says. “Pack your own towel and a full water bottle.” It might go without saying, but he stresses the possibility of cross-contamination from touching: “Avoid using the water fountain.”

Garg chimes in to urge what the cardio-crazed among us have been wondering: “Try to wear the mask.” When it comes to gym surfaces, the most important thing to exercise is caution. “Wipe equipment before and after you use it,” Garg says. “Wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, which some gyms will have stationed all over.” Finally, if you cough or sneeze, use the inside of the elbow, and find a machine that’s six feet away from other users. If that means you can’t get to the shoulder press the instant it opens, that breather may be worth your wait.

Inside the salon. Qaderi says he’s heard of a barber in the area who’s requesting that clients wear a mask to enter her shop, then she’ll supply a separate mask when they take the chair to dispose of it (and their clippings) when they leave. “This is a conscientious approach,” Qaderi says, while Garg adds that in all service settings, “Anyone who’s providing a service should be wearing a mask.”

In the outdoors. At the park, on a hike, while you’re fishing with your grandkids: “Social distancing should be maintained between you and folks who aren’t part of your party,” Qaderi says. Remember that you can’t control how close a stranger gets to you—so should you wear a mask outdoors? “Yes,” Qaderi advises, “as much as possible.” He also mentions one face mask faux pas he’s witnessed. “Wear it on your face, and cover the nose,” Qaderi says. “It doesn’t do any good if it’s on your chin or around your neck.”

Both doctors note the importance of following guidelines from the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bottom line? Dr. Garg’s list: “Keep social distancing. Wear a mask. Wash hands, cover your cough or sneeze with the inside of your elbow, and try not to touch the face.”

At Penn Highlands, we’ve taken crucial measures to protect you and your loved ones and ensure we continue to provide the safest, highest quality care. To learn about what you’ll experience inside Penn Highlands facilities as we go green, visit www.phhealthcare.org/safecare.