What We Know So Far About Making Our Homes Safer Against COVID-19

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
Woman Cleans Interior Doorknob Using Disinfectant Wipe
Scary Mommy and Grace Cary/Getty

Okay friends, if you feel like your head is spinning and you can’t keep up from one day to the next on what is safe, what’s not, where we can go, where we can’t go, whom we can see, whom we can’t, how to grocery shop with minimal risk… and the list goes on forever… you’re definitely not alone.

It’s hard to know if you’re overreacting when you wear gloves and a mask to go pick up takeout and the neighbors are having a driveway party with 30 people. (FYI no one should be having driveway parties with 30 people.) But we get it. Some of us are still grocery shopping, others refuse to leave home and survive solely on delivery. Some people feel comfortable taking neighborhood walks as long as they stay six feet from anyone they see. Others say even that makes them nervous and they’d rather stay on their own property.

As far as making our homes safe from the COVID-19 nightmare, there are lots of routes you can take here too. Should we wipe down groceries? What should be cleaned regularly in the home? Can our pets pick this up and bring it in? Can Grandma come over? She really misses the kids.

So. Many. Questions. It’s overwhelming and we just want to protect ourselves and our families. Well, we did some digging and read reports from various experts. Here’s what we learned about how you can make your home a safe haven against COVID-19 (or at least know you’ve tried your best to keep it out).

1. Stock your household with preparatory items if you can get them.

For example, you need disinfectants—via spray or wipes or whatever is available. (For a comprehensive list of disinfectants approved by the CDC and EPA, click here.) Make sure you have laundry detergent, trash bags, all of your prescription medications (preferably delivered via mail), and foods that last a long time like canned and frozen fruits and veggies as well as dry goods like bread, pasta, and nut butters.

2. Talk over the plan and household rules.

Is everyone on the same page (including your stubborn teens and intrusive MIL) about the “No Guests” policy? And to stay 6 feet away from everyone else when outside or at the store? Does everyone know the importance of frequent hand-washing and how to properly hand-wash? Go over this again if you’re unsure.

Also, the CDC recommends you take other steps to prepare, including making a list of all people and resources that might be helpful. For example, what are the local organizations and businesses you might need—like health services, counseling, food delivery, etc? List those. And, this is the time to create an emergency contact list. Who are the people you could call if you needed help? Make sure to put those family members, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, teachers, employers, etc. on there too.

3. Designate a runner.

Obviously we all need food and other essentials like diapers, double AA batteries, toilet paper (good luck) and, let’s be honest, alcohol. So what are the safest ways to go about getting what you need? One step is to designate a “runner” for your household. This is the only person who will do any sort of errand. If there are two adults at home or even older kids who can babysit younger siblings, there is no need to expose multiple people to whatever is floating around the grocery store. Leave as many people as possible at home.

The “runner” should either wear gloves and a mask while out or wash their hands frequently and make sure to avoid touching their face. Also, they should wipe down any grocery cart handles or baskets before using them and stay six feet away from other people.

Finally, and crucially important, they should wash their hands for 20 seconds as soon as they get home, before touching anything or anyone in the house.

4. Wash and disinfect groceries before putting them away.

The first step to ensuring your groceries are safe is to create a “disinfecting station” which needs to be “outside your home or in a room with low foot traffic where you can disinfect packaged food,” according to CNN. So, not your kitchen. This is where you wipe down all boxes, bags, cartons, etc. with disinfectant cleaner. Throw away anything you can outside, directly into your outdoor garbage bin to minimize exposure inside your home.

Also, it’s important to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before putting them away. Fruits with tough skin like apples and oranges can be washed in warm, soapy water. More delicate foods can be rinsed thoroughly with water or even a water/vinegar solution. Again, wash your hands before cleaning your perishables.

5. Clean smart.

Think about all the things you and your kids touch or use every day and wash them! Use either soap and water or strong cleaners like bleach or germ-killing sprays to clean doorknobs, light-switches, remote controls, cell phones, iPads and tablets, computers, and any other surfaces that are touched often. When doing laundry, wash sheets, blankets, and towels regularly with hot water. And don’t forget about those bins and hampers—make sure to wash/disinfect those too.

6. Take extra precautions with anything delivered to your home.

Many of us are using delivery more than ever, but there are still things you should do to protect yourself. Wash your hands after getting the mail or retrieving packages. Disinfect anything you can, and throw anything you don’t need into the garbage immediately rather than bringing unnecessary items into your home. Ask all delivery personnel to leave your packages by the door or in a specified area. If you’d like to tip—which you should, especially right now—see if you can do so online or leave a tip somewhere where you can keep a six-foot distance.

7. Do not have guests over.

Seriously. No one. NO. ONE. Not Grandma. Not Uncle Ed. Not your neighborhood bestie for happy hour—even if you stay in the driveway. Not your kids’ friends. Not your coworkers. This virus is invisible for a loooooong time. Anyone who enters your home can be carrying it even if they look perfectly healthy, and now they’ve touched everything in your house. Or, you may have brought it home from the grocery store yesterday (you don’t know yet), and now you’ve given it to your 73-year old mom who brought over a pie.

STOP. This is the only way. We know you miss them. We know they miss you. Call them, FaceTime them, text them, connect in any way you can. Just not in person.

8. Are pets a health hazard?

No, you can continue to think of your pet as part of your family. However, like your other family members, your pet needs to stay home, be supervised when outside, and stay away from everyone else but those who live with you. This is not the time to let Fluffy explore the neighborhood without a leash or frolic with other dogs. Always think of how you can minimize your chances of picking up this yuck.

9. Someone in your home is now sick with COVID-19 symptoms. Now what?

First, call a doctor. Other than to see a doctor, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not be going anywhere. If you can, isolate them in a separate room and have them use a separate bathroom. If you think COVID-19 could be in your home, it’s time to clean smarter than ever, meaning disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily or multiple times a day. Dedicate a lined trash can for the person who is sick. Wear gloves when doing their laundry and disposing of trash, and wash your hands immediately after. Ask the person who is ill to wear a mask if one is available, avoid sharing anything with the person who is showing symptoms, and ensure they always cover their cough or sneeze.

In the end, just do your best to make smart choices. This is not something we’ve ever had to do before, so we are learning as we go. But when the CDC or NHS or EPA gives out new info or new guidelines on how to protect yourself and your loved ones, listen to them. Do what you can. Make sacrifices. Clean like you’ve never cleaned before. And wash your hands more than ever. Like right now. Go do it.

Then, play a board game, do a puzzle, or play catch in the yard with your kids. We still have a ways to go, so get used to this new normal. And above all else, practice social distancing FFS. Ignoring the hype or thinking these rules don’t apply to you—that shit is getting old.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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