The COVID-19 pandemic has created a large number of new challenges, especially for businesses looking to reopen as we look to return to work. While managers and employees may feel a sense of urgency to get their business back to normal as soon as possible, there are new guidelines and revised practices that should be followed to allow for a safe and healthy return to the workplace.

In addition to any measures your business may have implemented to reduce your risk, at all times it is best to take additional steps to minimize your risk and the number of people you interact with.

What can each of us do to protect ourselves in this scenario and help keep those around us safe? I recommend you follow the below protocols to ensure your personal safety as well as those around you at the workplace and at home:

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In the Workplace

• First and foremost - Wear a mask when entering your place of work and keep the mask on at all times when around other people or in public spaces.

• Have virtual meetings as often as possible.

• Keep a minimum of 6 feet of space between yourself and other people. Always wear a mask when around others.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available. If your hands are visibly dirty, use soap and water over hand sanitizer. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow. Be sure to throw tissues into a no-touch trash can and immediately wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.

• Avoid sharing objects and equipment or other work tools when possible. If you have to use someone else’s workstation or tools remember to clean and disinfect them before and after your use.

• Disinfect and clean any touched surfaces and objects frequently. It is important to continue to clean any surfaces such as workstations, computers, keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, cash registers, handrails as often as you can. Use soap and water if disinfectant is not available.

• Keep a bag in your car or in a bag you carry to work to place any reusable/washable masks that you have worn during the day. I recommend a sealed bag to place your masks in such as a plastic sandwich bag. Remember after touching your mask it is important you wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer.

• For guidelines on how to properly clean and disinfect your place of work and workstation please visit the CDC website here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

Returning Home from the Workplace

Now that you have returned home from work, it is important to implement protocols before entering your home to reduce the risk of bringing germs into the house and protecting yourself and family members. Develop a regimented plan that works best for you and anyone you live with before returning to the workplace. I recommend following the suggested protocols below to ensure a safe return to home after being away from the home:

• Create a space in your garage or an entryway into your home that will be your designated disinfectant space. If you are able to set up a small table or use a chair or bench that would be ideal.

• Remove anything that entered your workplace or that you touched during the course of the day. For example, purse, wallet, keys, laptop. Place those items on the designated space and wipe them down with disinfectant. After wiping down those items it is important to remember to move those items to a clean space and wipe down the table or chair you placed them on upon your return home.

• It is good practice, if possible, to have a change of clothes to change into upon your return home. I highly recommend removing your clothes and placing them into a bag that will go into the laundry, wash or sanitize your hands, remove your shoes, throw your clothing into the laundry and take a shower. Developing and practicing these habits will get you into a routine that you can personalize according to what is easiest and best for you.

• Just remember, if possible, it is best to not let anything that you wore or had on you to enter your home.

• If you are unable to create a designated return to work area, disinfecting any items I mentioned above, removing your shoes prior to entering your home, taking a shower and washing the clothes you wore that day is always good practice.

Most importantly, be alert for symptoms, If you have or believe you may have symptoms related to COVID-19, stay home, notify your supervisor, do not leave your home and contact our office or your primary care physician immediately. Separate yourself from other people and if that is not possible, please wear a mask and disinfect any surface that you come into contact with.

If you feel as if you may have been exposed or have symptoms, please call our office and we will advise you on testing options and discuss your symptoms and next steps with you. We are here for you during this stressful and challenging time and want you and your loved ones to be healthy and safe. Please do not hesitate to reach out and call our office with any questions.

Dr. Andrew Gilmartin is a founding partner, Board-Certified Internal Medicine Physician at Changebridge Medical Associates, a member of Consensus Health, In Montville, and has been dedicated to serving the local community for the last 10 years.