When it comes to preventing the spread of viruses like the common cold or flu, we know that there are relatively easy measures to take to try to avoid getting sick – such as staying home when we’re unwell, avoiding contact with those who we know are sick, washing our hands, and so on and so forth. With COVID-19, all of these measures still apply in addition to a few others – but what are all the layers of protection we can take and how, exactly, do they protect us?

What we know about COVID-19 is that it is easily spread from person to person via respiratory droplets (i.e., by coughing, sneezing, and even talking) – particularly when you are in close contact with an infected individual. What you or the other individual may not know, however, is whether or not you have the virus, as it’s possible to be infected while asymptomatic. For this reason, it’s important that we practice physical distancing from others at all times by staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart. While it’s still possible to contract COVID-19 by having contact with others – we know that the further the distance, the lower the risk.

Washing your hands is something you should be going regardless of COVID-19. That being said, it’s an extra important measure to take amid the pandemic, and you should be doing so frequently. The method in which you wash your hands is also just as equally important. For example, you should be using warm soap and water, and scrubbing your hands together for at least 20 to 30 seconds. By doing this, you disrupt and inactivate the virus on the skin. If you don’t wash your hands, you could easily contract the virus simply by touching your face.

If, for some reason, soap and water isn’t immediately available to you, then hand sanitizer is an alternative option for you to use – but you need to ensure that the sanitizer you use contains at least 60% alcohol (or higher.) While you don’t need to use an excessive amount of sanitizer in order for it to be effective, you should make sure you use enough so that it envelopes both hands – from the palms, to each finger, as well as the tops of your hands; and always be sure to still wash your hands as soon as you have the chance.

While one of the best ways to prevent the spread and contraction of the virus is to stay home, not everyone has the ability to do that. We also still need to go out and buy our everyday essentials (i.e., get groceries, pick up medications, etc.) While masks are not mandated in British Columbia, many businesses have implemented their own mask policies where they are a requirement prior to entry for both staff and customers. Furthermore, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has stated that it is the “expectation” that where masks (except in cases where a person may not be able to – i.e., if they have a disability that prevents them from being able to put on or remove a mask, etc.) Face masks are another important layer of protection that can help prevent the spread of droplets, and you can view an example of just how far droplets can spread with and without the use of face masks here.

As part of the updated Provincial health orders issued by Dr. Henry on November 7th, employers are required to have a COVID-19 safety plan, which also must include having their employees do daily health checks to ensure that they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. These health checks are mandatory. If an employee is experiencing symptoms such as a cough, fever or chills, loss of sense of smell or taste, sore throat, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or if they have travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days, have been identified as being a close contact of someone with COVID-19, or were told to isolate by public health, then they should not be entering the workplace. Furthermore, Dr. Henry has also ordered that any employers that have employees who are considered high-risk for COVID-19 should allow them to work from home if feasible (i.e., if they were able to work from home previously.) Further information on how to conduct daily health checks can be found on WorkSafe BC’s website.

While we used to go places when we had mild forms of illness, that’s not something we should be doing given the COVID-19 pandemic. While you may not have COVID-19, its symptoms can mimic that of the common cold or flu – such as having a cough or fever. As such, if you are sick, and even if your symptoms are extremely mild, you need to stay home and away from others. It’s also recommended that anyone who is experiencing symptoms of illness be tested for COVID-19. You can find a COVID-19 testing centre in your area by clicking here.