On May 18th, Governor Baker outlined plans to gradually ease restrictions in the state of Massachusetts while maintaining a strong commitment to slow the spread. To learn more about the path to reopening, you can read the full details here.
As you make choices on how you conduct day to day activities, keep in mind that Governor Bakers “stay at home” advisory has now shifted to a “safer at home advisory.
Based on state guidelines, here’s what “Safer at Home” means:
- Only leave home for health care, permitted work, shopping, and outdoor activities
- When going to the pharmacy, ask if you can fill your prescriptions for 90 days if possible; for some medications this is not allowed. If you are at high-risk, try to use a mail-order service
- Don’t participate in close contact activities such as pick-up sports games
- Use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family who are high risk for COVID-19
• Refrain from visiting nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, or other residential care settings
- Parents should limit play dates for children
As Massachusetts moves forward with the first of four phases to reopen, we wanted to take some time to answer some frequently asked questions that we have received.
Is it safe to get medical care?
The Department of Public Health has issued very strict guidelines for the safe operation of medical practices. It is not only safe to get medical care, but critically important for those with chronic health conditions or acute medical issues to seek care. Medical practices are utilizing Telehealth to conduct most visits, but in the event a condition requires an in-person examination for medical decision making, you can rest assured that your safety is of the utmost importance and your risk of contracting COVID-19 while seeking medical care is close to zero if your provider is following the appropriate guidelines.
All practices within the Partners/ Mass General Brigham network are adhering to strict safety guidelines, which includes minimizing the number of people seen per day. It is important to continue general follow-up care as directed by your care team, whether that be through telemedicine or in-person office visits. Continue to take all medications as prescribed and manage your disease as you have in the past. If you have an emergency or condition that requires immediate attention, please do NOT hesitate to call 911. Emergency departments have plans to ensure the safety of those who require emergency assistance. Ambulatory and outpatient facilities throughout the Boston area are taking measures to ensure safety of patients as the priority.
Do I still have to wear a mask all the time?
A mask is intended to prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. Individuals who are asymptomatic (no symptoms) and pre-symptomatic (those who will develop symptoms) can still transmit the virus to others. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. This includes grocery stores, pharmacies, and other areas of significant community-based transmission. The CDC also advises the use of cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help keep people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Even when wearing a mask, you should aim to stay at least 6 feet away from others and continue to wash your hands frequently.
You do not need to wear a surgical or N-95 mask if you are not a healthcare worker. Here’s how you can make your own face mask using just a t-shirt.
Masks are not advised for children under the age of 2. When removing your mask, do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. When in doubt, always wear your mask!
Now that the weather is getting nice, can I socially distance with friends outside?
Social distancing does NOT mean you have to stay inside your home all day. As you well know by now, social distancing means keeping space from other people at a distance of at least 6 feet. The reason for this recommendation is that the virus is spread through droplets as people sneeze, cough and talk. Social distancing helps to limit the opportunity to come in contact with infected people. Even if your friends have been self-quarantining the way you have, chances are they still have been to the grocery store and other public places, therefore putting them at risk of exposure.
If you choose to see friends or family, keep it small. At this time, the CDC still recommends to avoid gatherings of any size outside your household such as at parks, a friend’s house, etc. Older adults and those with multiple chronic medical conditions are at the highest risk. Instead, get creative and connect with others through facetime and zoom calls!
That makes sense with the social distancing, but can I attend a barbecue?
First, keep in mind that Massachusetts is still under a “Safer at Home” advisory. If you do choose to attend a barbecue with a neighbor or extended family, proceed with caution. Since your mask will be removed while eating, it is best to sit at a table with those in your “circle of trust.” Do not share utensils, beverages, or condiments, … and maintain your six feet!
Rest assured that the virus does not live well in food and it is unlikely to be transmitted in this manner. However, if the person that prepared the food is sick, there is a risk of transmission. Make sure that the person preparing the food follows basic food handling tips including washing vegetables and salads. When in doubt, bring your own.
What about hiking or going for a walk with a friend?
Hikes and time outside are always advised- we all need it! Again, however, social distancing is key because people may not be symptomatic although they can spread the virus to others. If you choose to venture outside, it is still best to spend time with people within your household. If you wish to walk with a friend, maintain at least six feet. This may seem strange but at least you can still smile and chat with each other at a distance. And don’t forget…wear your mask.