Updated March 2021
The CDC confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Chicago on January 13th, 2020. As of March 2021, there have been more than 247,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths.
After months of enacting Covid-19 protocols such as stay-at-home orders, no indoor dining, and curfews to keep residents safe, Chicago has started to slowly reopen. Now in Phase 4, Chicagoans can resume normal activities, including dining out, going to fitness centers, and visiting the library.
Though most activities still have regulations in place regarding capacity, feeling hesitant to return to everyday activities is completely understandable. Luckily, there are several ways to protect yourself from exposure to Covid-19.
How to protect yourself from Covid-19 in Chicago
Wear a mask
Despite many states lifting their mask mandates, health officials continue to agree that wearing a mask (or even two) helps to slow the spread of Covid-19. The evidence is so overwhelming that the Biden administration has plans to implement a national mask mandate.
Why do they work, and which type of mask do you need? We’ll break it down:
- Medical masks: Loose-fitting disposable masks that protect the wearer from droplets and sprays that contain germs. Can be used by the general public, but recommended specifically for health care workers, people ages 60+, and anyone who has or may have Covid-19 or is in contact with someone at risk.
- N95 masks: A type of respirator that offers greater protection than medical masks by filtering out large and small particles with every inhale. The CDC recommends reserving these for health care providers.
- Cloth masks: These trap respiratory droplets released by talking, coughing, or sneezing while acting as a barrier from droplets released by others. They are most effective when made of multiple layers. Can be used by the general public.
- Face shields: A single layer of plastic that sits in front of the face. The CDC does not recommend face shields, as the protection level is questionable.
Continue to practice social distancing
Keep in mind that face masks don’t act as a substitute for social distancing and that you should continue to stay six feet away from others outside of your household. In fact, the CDC calls social distancing the best way to reduce the spread of the virus.
Specifically, the coronavirus spreads when droplets from an infected person are launched into the air through talking, sneezing, or coughing, and inhaled by someone nearby. It can be spread both by those who are sick and are asymptomatic.
The easiest way to avoid those droplets and becoming sick is to stay about two arms’ lengths away from others, regardless of group size. If you find yourself in a setting where social distancing is impossible (e.g. the office, running errands), be sure to monitor your health frequently.
Wash your hands and clean frequently touched surfaces
Practicing basic health protocols can help keep you protected from the threat of Covid-19.
This includes wearing a mask and washing your hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds after visiting a public space, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Consider carrying hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) with you at all times in the event that soap and water won’t be readily available.
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To avoid launching particles into the air, cough and sneeze into your elbow or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Throw any used tissues in the trash and proceed to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
At home, you should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes, but is not limited to, doorknobs, counters, and light switches.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled a list of disinfectants expected to kill Covid-19 (List N) when used according to directions. It includes Tilex, multiple Clorox products, and Fantastik degreaser. You can see the full list here.
Monitor your health and know the symptoms of Covid-19
Be sure to keep a close eye on your health every day, watching for symptoms such as fever or shortness of breath. Of course, these are not the only symptoms of Covid-19, and it’s important to know them if you are exposed or contract the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- New loss of taste or smell
Symptoms show between 2 and 14 days after exposure. Should you begin showing symptoms, isolate yourself from others and let those you have been around know.
If you experience trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, trouble staying awake, or discolored skin, you should seek emergency treatment immediately.
Get a Covid-19 vaccine
The Covid-19 vaccine is a critical, safe way to get the country back on its feet.
At the time of writing, three vaccines are now available to the public and all adults will be eligible for vaccination by May 1st. Studies show that these vaccines will help keep you from getting Covid-19. They will also keep you from getting seriously ill if you do contract it.
Keep in mind that it does take two weeks for the body to build immunity to the virus, which means that it can still be contracted before or after vaccination. Those who are vaccinated are considered fully protected two weeks after receiving the full dose.
Once fully vaccinated and protected, you can return to everyday activities, including gathering indoors with other vaccinated individuals without a mask. However, you should continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid medium or large gatherings.
Even if you have been vaccinated and continue to follow CDC guidelines, you should remain prepared. Make sure you have the proper equipment ready, including emergency supplies and enough drinking water and food that will allow you to remain quarantined at home.
You can find Infection Protection supplies here.