As our local communities advance phases and lighten restrictions, it’s important to keep taking steps to protect yourself and others from the effects of COVID-19. Montanans, especially in our area, also are dealing with an influx of tourism and out-of-state/out-of-country visitors. Knowing how to be safe amidst tourists, safely embracing our own outdoor adventures, visiting restaurants, hitting the gym, and many regular parts of life can empower us to be confident and cautious in the ways we need to be. When it comes to being in public places and protecting your health, here’s what you need to know.
Before you head out, you can check here for information about local restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. But, the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid exposure. If you go out, wear a cloth face covering. Keep a distance of about 6 feet (2 meters) from others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness. Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick or has symptoms. Also, avoid large events and mass gatherings. If you are over 60 and/or have chronic health conditions or maybe immunocompromised, stay at home as much as possible. However, if you need healthcare resources, reach out to us so that we can help.
In addition, you should regularly practice good hygiene. Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can decrease your chances of getting sick. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Most importantly: If you feel unwell, stay home.
As for our five tips, here are some suggestions to help you navigate these particular types of outings.
Planning for your adventure is essential — check with state and local authorities to see if parks, recreational facilities, natural bodies of water, hiking, and swim areas are open. While Yellowstone is already open, with limited services, and Glacier is set to open soon, check with the NPS to find out particular updates that might impact your travel or outdoor experience. An example of this might be day-of reservations for backcountry passes, or if the bathrooms and food concession stands also are open in certain areas.
While at the park, look for open areas, trails, and paths that allow you to keep a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from others. Avoid crowded areas. As the parks and recreation areas continue to open, guidelines might change, so stay informed and be cautious. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t feel confident about a business’s safety practices, postpone your visit. Protecting your health or the high-risk individuals you have in your contact circle is worth it.
Pay attention to areas that have a more substantial tourism component. The number of visitors may be well lower than a typical summer season, so the balance of non-Montanans might be lessened, but it only takes one sick person to transmit sickness to another. Washing your hands and not touching your face might be the best weapon you have while sharing space this summer; unless you meet up with a bear, then you better have your can of bear spray ready.
Before you eat at a restaurant, check the restaurant’s safety practices. Some of the things to pay attention to are if the employees are wearing face coverings and regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces? Does the restaurant set their tables far enough apart from each other to allow for social distancing or block off every other booth? Do they have disposable menus or offer single-use condiments?
There are a lot of precautions that restaurants must now take that infringe upon convenience but are better standards for hygiene and safety. That means that restaurants shouldn’t offer salad bars, buffets, and drink-filling stations that require people to use common utensils or dispensers. If you need to wait in line for service, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others. If possible, use touchless payment.
If you are traveling somewhere outside of your local town or city, be mindful that concerns about your contagious nature may be in question. Given that tourism is a major player in the Montana economy, bars, and restaurants, adventure guides, parks, and recreation areas, and public open spaces will draw out-of-state and out-of-country visitors more than other places. It is best to be mindful of those around us, but also afford yourself and your family the caution you need to stay healthy.
Even though we usually battle the snow before getting out there in the summer, it was an extra cruel measure not to be able to go to the gym for the couple months before swimsuit season. Alas, we bit that bullet for the safety of all. It’s finally time when we can get back to working out, getting our reps in, or transitioning from the home workout, back to the barré. Before going to the gym, contact your favorite place to see what the details are regarding space, timing, and things you may need to get that workout in.
Ask about the facility’s cleaning and disinfecting policies and whether you’ll be able to use the locker room or bathroom. If you are interested in group exercise classes, ask if they are being offered. If you need particular masks, wipes, water bottles, etc., make sure that’s a part of your inquiry. Your gym will likely enforce social distancing by blocking access to every other cardio machine. Follow the gym’s guidelines and stay at least 6 feet away from other members.
For your own peace of mind, you may want to clean equipment before and after using it. Some of the tools that are more difficult to clean, such as foam rollers, kettlebells, rope handles, and yoga blocks, might not be available. That will most likely be specific to the gym you use, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you’re at a higher risk of serious illness, you might consider waiting to return to the gym. Ask if your gym offers virtual classes or training.
Getting that salon appointment after sheltering-in-place may seem like a tiny lottery victory, but check for the safety measures that your place employs. You might be required to attend your appointment alone, wash your hair at home to reduce traffic near the shampoo area, and wait in your car or outside until your appointment begins. You might need to ask whether the salon is offering blow-drying. Eliminating blow drying could reduce the spread of germs.
If you have a place of worship you regularly attend, check to see if the size of gatherings is limited and how that might affect your visit. Avoid contact with frequently touched items, such as books. Place any donations in a stationary collection box. If food is offered at an event, look for pre-packaged options.
Before going to get your groceries, consider visiting their website to check on procedures and precautions. Like Costco requiring face-masks and not offering disposable ones on-site, don’t wait until you arrive to find out that you aren’t prepared the way the store requires. For smaller businesses, calling the store may be your best bet.
To make social distancing easy, visit your local grocery store early in the morning or late at night when the store might be less crowded. If you’re at a higher risk of serious illness, find out if it has special hours for people in your situation and shop during these times. You might also consider continuing to order your groceries online for home delivery or curbside pickup if you are in a more vulnerable group.
During visits to the banks, using ATM’s and before pumping gas at a self-serve pump, clean the keypad with a disinfecting wipe before using it. When you are done, apply hand sanitizer. Wash your hands when you get home or the next time you are near a sink.
As always, CHP is here to help you. Serving a variety of local Montana communities, you can find out why a number of people in our community are saying CHP is for Me. The coronavirus and COVID-19 have changed nearly every part of our lives. That’s why it is especially important to care for the whole you — mind, body, and spirit. Your days are probably very different, including how you work, eat, play, and connect with others. But what hasn’t changed is our commitment to enhancing the health and well-being of people, affording 100% access to the community, without disparity.
As we continue to navigate all of the changes, and the recovery effort continues to go forward, we want to be a resource to you and your family along the way. Whether it’s a medical need, a wellness checkup, a dental visit, or a behavioral health consultation, we are here for you.