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July 6, 2020, 5:00 a.m. EDT

Is it safe to get a haircut? Can I play bridge, or hug my grandkids?

Answers to the top 10 questions about re-entry in the pandemic

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By Randi Mazzella

Getty Images
A barber shop in New York City on June 23, the second day of reopening, has plastic barriers between stations.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org .

Stay-at-home orders were put in place throughout the country to stop the spread of the coronavirus and “flatten the curve” to prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed. In initially hard-hit areas of the country such as New York and New Jersey, these measures have worked and there has been a sharp decline in the number of new coronavirus cases.

But as businesses start to re-open, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is still a threat. According to the New York Times’ live map , more than half of the country has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases since states began to lift shelter-at-home restrictions.

Dr. Romilla Batra, chief medical officer at SCAN Health Plan in Long Beach, Calif., says, “As friends, family and community members re-emerge into public life, please don’t let your guard down.”

Next Avenue readers have been asking questions about what re-entry means for daily life, so we reached out to a group of experts for answers to 10 of them:

1. If I wear a mask, but others are not, am I at risk of contracting the virus?

Dr. Elsa Thomas, of Atlantic Medical Group’s Internal Medicine Faculty Associates in New Jersey, explains, “When we wear a mask, we reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to people around us. The mask also creates a layer of protection to the wearer by reducing the likelihood of touching one’s nose and mouth.”

If you are out and someone is not wearing a mask, you can either ask them to put one on (many stores will require it for entry), keep more than 6 feet away from the maskless person or leave the area altogether. Also, remember to use hand sanitizer before and after going anywhere and to thoroughly wash hands when you return home.

2. When can I start babysitting my grandchildren again?

It’s been especially hard these past few months for grandparents not to visit with their grandchildren. It is OK and emotionally beneficial to spend time together if both you and your grandchildren are doing a good job social distancing from others.

However, it is probably not a good idea to babysit, especially for young children. Dr. Faisel Syed, national director of primary care, ChenMed in Lakeland, Fla., says, “Older adults with a weakened immune system must be careful around children who understandably are likely to be less effective in coronavirus infection prevention behaviors (and can transmit the virus inadvertently).”

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Babysitting usually requires a lot of hands-on care. Unless the children are highly independent, it is too risky right now.

3. Can I safely hug my adult children, grandchildren or friends?

Unfortunately, hugging loved ones outside of your household is still considered risky.

Mary Ann Hart, an associate professor within the Online Master of Health Administration Program Director at Regis College in Weston, Mass., explains: “As long as COVID-19 is still in your community and there is no vaccine available, avoid physically touching someone who is not an immediate household member, even if you are both wearing a mask. Throw kisses and give virtual hugs.”

If you do choose to embrace a loved one, Batra says, “Use the utmost of caution. Wear masks, wash your hands carefully before and after, and avoid speaking or coughing while hugging to limit the likelihood of transmission.”

4. Do I need to quarantine if I travel between states?

On June 24, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a “joint travel advisory,” mandating a 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling to their states from many states, including Florida and Texas. If you are traveling from one state to another (especially one where COVID-19 is on the rise), see what rules, if any, have been put in place.

5. Can I safely bake for a friend or eat baked goods someone makes for me?

Thomas says” “I think it is absolutely safe to bake for a neighbor and exchange baked goods. This is a great way to maintain social connections that we all need.” Just be sure to use general food safety rules, including washing your hands, keeping cooking surfaces clean and not preparing food if you are feeling unwell.

6. Hair salons and barbershops are open, but is it OK for me to go?

Salons and barbershops should look very different when they re-open. Precautions should include everyone (staff and clients) wearing masks, limited occupancy, sanitizing surfaces and using barrier methods to keep patrons separated.

Dr. William Dale, director of City of Hope’s Center for Cancer and Aging in Duarte, Calif., says, “Ask a lot of questions to see what steps they have taken. Personally, because of the close proximity of these spaces, it may be better to wait a while, especially if you have underlying health conditions.”

Consider asking your stylist if he or she would make a house call and conduct your service in your backyard (with both of you still wearing masks).

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