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Shopping? Babysitting? Hugs? How to safely resume activities in the ‘new normal’

July 8, 2020

Dr. Elsa Thomas

July 8, 2020 – Morristown, NJ – As New Jersey and many states in the northeast move forward with re-openings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many questions remain about how to properly resume activities, especially for those who remain most at risk for the virus.

Elsa Thomas, MD, of Atlantic Medical Group’s Internal Medicine Faculty Associates in Morristown, is a board-certified internist. Dr. Thomas offered some guidance for those who are now navigating “the new normal”:

Q: Should I wear gloves when I go shopping?

Dr. Thomas: Gloves can give us a false sense of protection if not used appropriately.  If you wear gloves, then accidentally touch your face or phone with those same gloves, you have now put any germs that were on your gloves on to your face.

The important thing to remember is, gloves or no gloves, you need to clean your hands appropriately before touching your face.

I prefer that everyone use hand sanitizer after shopping and then wash their hands well once they have unloaded their groceries into their home.  Do not worry about wiping down groceries with sanitizing wipes.

Q: When can I go back to babysitting kids in my family? Is it a problem if I am in the at-risk categories? What if they attend day camp?

Dr. Thomas: If you and the children in question are doing a good job social distancing from others, you can consider that a safe relationship or unit.  If you are immunocompromised or high risk for other reasons, you may want to reconsider babysitting and enjoy just visiting from a safe distance.  Once kids leave the safety of home and attend camp, they are also at risk of contracting the virus and unknowingly transmitting it to you.  We are seeing more positive cases in young people in states outside of NY/NJ.

Q: If I am returning from one of the states currently experiencing a surge, am I better off flying or driving? Do I need to quarantine and if so, for how long?

Dr. Thomas: If you are able to take frequent breaks while driving, then driving is fine.  If you choose to fly, be prepared by wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes for the arm rest and carry your own snacks.  When you return home, stay at home for at least 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms.

Q: Can I bake foods for my family or neighbor?

Dr. Thomas: I think it is absolutely safe to bake for others and exchange baked goods.  This is a great way to maintain social connections that we all need.

Q: Is it safe to hug my kids, friends or family members?

Dr. Thomas: Hugging others depends on if that person is part of your safe unit.  However, keep in mind that there are other ways to show affection and care without touching.

Q: Is it safe for me to get a haircut or manicure or other kinds of services?

Dr. Thomas: In New Jersey, salons have been given the green light to open with a responsibility to keep the employees and patrons safe.  To do this, they are wearing masks, sanitizing surfaces and using barrier methods to keep patrons far apart.  They are also limiting the number of people in the salon. Be sure that any business you choose to visit is taking the proper precautions.

Q: Is it safe for me to fly to go on vacation or should I avoid plane travel until there is a vaccine?

Dr. Thomas: Plane travel comes with some risk.  I call it a calculated risk.  If you need to fly, take the proper precautions. Otherwise, enjoy a staycation.

Q: Is outdoor dining safe?

Dr. Thomas: Sitting outdoors and enjoying a nice dinner is something I consider safe.  If you have dinner with someone else, just make sure they have also been practicing social distancing, proper masking and are symptom free. It’s so important to keep our social connections for good mental health.

Q: Is it safe to seek regular medical care or preventive care?

Dr. Thomas: If you are sick or have had contact with a person with COVID-19, stay home until you are better and symptom free. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking care of your health.  Your doctor and local hospital are ready for you.  We have screened everyone who enters our buildings with questions and temperature checks.  We have created safe, clean environments so that there is little to no risk of virus transmission. Most of us have eliminated the waiting rooms so that you go directly from your vehicle to the physician exam room or the appropriate room to have your test/study.  Do not put off seeing your doctor, having a mammogram, colonoscopy or surgery.  We are ready to take care of you.

Do not be afraid to see your doctor or leave your home. You can leave your home as long as you are wearing a mask, following appropriate hand hygiene and keeping a good distance from others that are not part of your safe unit.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System has a long-standing tradition of providing exceptional patient outcomes and experiences. Home to seven award-winning hospitals including Morristown Medical Center, the number one hospital in NJ according to U.S. News & World Report, Castle Connolly and Newsweek’s World’s Best Hospitals, the system has been ranked first in New Jersey in consumer preference by Monigle and first among health systems in New Jersey as a “best workplace” by both Modern Healthcare and Fortune Magazine.

Many of the system’s programs have received national accolades and designations, including Morristown Medical Center’s Cardiology and Heart Surgery program ranked among the top 30 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report; Morristown Medical Center’s Orthopedics program ranked among the top 35 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and Atlantic Health System’s Cancer Care program, New Jersey’s first and only National Cancer Institute National Community Oncology Research Program. Additionally, Atlantic Health System Neuroscience at Overlook Medical Center, working with Atlantic Mobile Health, was the first in the nation to deploy and use portable Telestroke technology in ambulances for routine pre-hospital assessment of stroke patients.

Powered by a passionate workforce of 17,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey, including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system provides care for the full continuum of health needs across a wide array of settings, including Atlantic Medical Group, one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey with more than 1,000 physicians and providers, 12 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, Atlantic Visiting Nurse and Atlantic Anywhere’s Virtual Visits. Facilitating connections between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

With a clear sense of purpose and an unparalleled culture, Atlantic Health System attracts top leaders in the field of health care, from CEO Brian Gragnolati, who was Chairman of the American Hospital Association in 2019, to the numerous team members who serve as leaders across national clinical associations and research entities.