• 2205-F University DR. NW, Huntsville, AL 35816
  • 256-281-1344
  • info@developmentforafrica.org

: Blog Post

Thermometers: Taking Temperatures and Proper Sanitation

How To Clean Two Types For Safe Use 

  1. Direct contact thermometers come into direct contact with your body 
    1. Choose a brand that includes a special storage case or cap that fits over the portion of the thermometer that is placed inside the mouth or against the skin. Always keep it stored with the cap.
    2. Always clean after every single use, with hot water and soap. 
    3. The probe should be sanitized by using alcohol wipes, wiping any remaining sanitizer with clean water 
    4. Let the thermometer either air dry or wipe the surface of the thermometer completely dry with a clean disposable towel. Avoid using a dishrag or kitchen towel to dry your thermometer since cloth towels are more likely to house germs and bacteria than disposables.
  1. Instant read thermometers (or infrared thermometers) offer quick and accurate readings without having to make any direct contact with the sick person’s skin.
    1. Wipe off the surfaces of an instant-read thermometer with an alcohol wipe or a cotton ball soaked with alcohol to eliminate any chance of accidental contamination. 
    2. Wipe down after every use to remain clean and sanitized.   WikiHow, Smart Home Keeping

Taking Temperatures

  1. Do health checks every morning and every night
    1. Take your temperature and/or that of family members being cared for 
    2. In addition to fever, watch for any other symptoms of COVID-19, including cough or difficulty breathing.
    3. Keep track of temperature and any symptoms 
    4. Write family members’ temperatures and symptoms that need monitoring. 
  1. Before you Take Your Temperature
    1. Wait 30 minutes after eating, drinking, or exercising. 
    2. Wait at least 6 hours after taking medicines that can lower your temperature, like:  Acetaminophen, (also called paracetamol) , Ibuprofen, or Aspirin
  1. Turn the thermometer on by pressing the button near the screen. 
  • Hold the tip of the thermometer under your tongue until it beeps. Do not bite the thermometer. 
  1. Read your temperature on the screen. If your temperature is 100.4°F/38°C or higher, you have a fever.
  • Write the temperature down. 
  1. Clean your thermometer with soap, water and alcohol and dry it well. 

PLEASE NOTE: For infants and children younger than 4 years old, use an age-appropriate thermometer such as an ear thermometer. If you do not have one, use a regular thermometer by placing it under the child’s arm in the center of the armpit. 

For the armpit method, if the child’s temperature is 99.4°F/37.4°C or higher, they have a fever. Tell the public health worker that you are taking the child’s temperature this way. 

  1. Put the tip of the thermometer in an armpit. Make sure the armpit is dry.
  2. Close the armpit by holding the elbow against the chest. Do this until it beeps (about 10 seconds)

List of Best Cleaning Solutions for COVID-19

Soap and water 

It’s not fancy, but soap and water work. The soap removes the viral particles that have attached themselves to surfaces — whether it’s your hands, face or countertops — and suspends them in the water, so they can be washed away. 

Bleach solution 

“Bleach is very effective at killing the coronavirus, as well as virtually every other germ on the face of the planet,” said Dr. Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious disease. 

To protect your skin, you should wear gloves when using bleach — and do not mix the bleach with anything but water. Here’s the CDC formula for making a diluted bleach solution: Use 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach in one gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach in one quart of water. Keep in mind that bleach is a harsh cleaner. So if you go this route, do a little test before you clean an entire surface with your homemade bleach solution. Be careful not to let it splash onto anything else. Bleach can also damage some paint, and over time, it can corrode metal. So be cautious if you use it, Sachleben told NBC News BETTER. 

Hydrogen peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide is not as strong as bleach, so it’s less likely to cause damage, but it can discolor some fabrics, Sachleben said. Don’t dilute it, use it straight. Hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen. 


Rubbing alcohol products that are at least 70 percent alcohol will kill the coronavirus with less potential for damage than bleach. When using rubbing alcohol, don’t dilute it. Consumer Reports says rubbing alcohol is safe for all surfaces, but can discolor some plastics. 

Don’t count on distilled white vinegar or vodka

Many people clean with vinegar. It’s cheap and natural. Cleaning recommendations are easy to find online, but Consumer Reports cautions: “There is no evidence that they are effective against coronavirus.” 

COVID-19 Tips: 11 Foods That You Can Buy and Re-Grow

At a time where people everywhere are encouraged to stay indoors to avoid the growing pandemic of COVID-19, it is imperative that we develop creative solutions to problems like the ability to clothe, shelter and feed ourselves. One of the most self sufficient things you can do is grow your own food. We have made it easier than ever by compiling a list of 11 foods that you can regrow from leftover “cuttings” in your kitchen!

1. Green Onions

You just place the stem that is leftover in a glass bowl or jar with enough water to cover it and leave it in the sunlight. After about a two days, you will notice new growth and when this happens you can transplant your green onion into a pot or herb garden. Leeks can be grown similarly.

2. Lemongrass

Lemongrass will grow just like regular grass. You just place the root that is leftover in a glass bowl or jar with enough water to cover it and leave it in the sunlight. After about a week, you will notice new growth and when this happens you can transplant your lemongrass in a pot or herb garden.

3. Lettuce, Cabbage, and Bok Choy

Lettuce, cabbage, and Bok Choy are relatively easy to grow from cuttings. Instead of throwing out the leftover leaves, place them in a bowl with just a small amount of water in the bottom. Keep the bowl somewhere that gets good sunlight and mist the leaves with water a couple of times each week. After 3 or 4 days, you will notice roots beginning to appear along with new leaves. When this happens you can transplant your lettuce, cabbage or wok chop in soil.

4. Celery

Celery is one of the easiest foods to grow from leftover cuttings. Just cut off the bottom or base of your celery and lay it in a bowl with just a bit of warm water in the bottom. Keep the bowl in direct sunlight as long as possible each day and after about a week, you will begin to see the leaves thickening and growing along the base. When this happens, you can transplant your celery in soil and wait for it to grow to full length.

5. Bean Sprouts

Simply soak a tablespoon of the beans that you want to grow in a jar with shallow water. Leave this overnight and in the morning, drain the water off and put the beans back in the container. Cover the container with a towel overnight and rinse them the next morning. Keep doing this until you notice the sprouts begin to appear and then until they reach the size that you want. This works well with mung beans and wheat berries. You can also grow using a coca cola bottle or milk carton! Here is an example below.

6. Peppers

You can grow a number of hot peppers from the seeds that are leftover. Just collect the seeds from your habaneros, jalapenos or any other peppers that you have on hand. Plant them in potting soil and keep in direct sunlight unless it is warm outside and then you can just plant them in your garden area. Peppers grow relatively fast and don’t require a lot of care. Once you get a new crop, just save some of the seeds for replanting again.

Peppers like to have warm roots and do well in black containers or concrete blocks.

7. Ginger Root

Ginger root is very easy to grow and once you get started, you can keep your supply of ginger full. You will need to plant a spare piece of your ginger root in potting soil, making sure that the buds are facing up. Expect new shoots and new roots in about a week or so and once this happens you can pull it up and use it again.

8. Fennel

To growing fennel, it requires that the roots are kept intact. You need about an inch of the base of the fennel to get it to regrow. Just place this base in a container with about a cup of water and leave it in direct sunlight. The windowsill is a great place to grow fennel. When the roots grow strong and you notice new green shoots coming up from the center of the base, you can transplant into soil.

9. Garlic Sprouts

Garlic is really easy to grow and can be done from just one clove. When you buy garlic, you get several cloves so just pull one off and plant it with the roots facing down in potting soil. Garlic likes plenty of direct sunlight so in warmer weather, keep it outdoors in the sun during the day. Once you notice that new shoots have established, cut the shoots back and your plant will produce a bulb. You can take part of this new bulb and plant again.

 Make sure you are not submerging the cloves or they will rot. Change the water when it looks dirty, every 2 or 3 days, and your little sprouts can reach a height of ten inches! You can cut the sprouts with scissors when ready to harvest them. Garlic sprouts have a lighter flavor than garlic and are best raw.

10. Basil and Cilantro

Basil is relatively easy to regrow. You will need a stem about four inches high. Place stem in a glass of water with the leaves well above the water line. Leave the glass sitting in a bright area but not in direct sunlight. Roots should begin to form in a few days and when those roots reach a couple of inches long, you can transplant them in soil.

Cilantro can be grown from scraps as well. Just place the bottom of the stem in a glass of water and leave in a bright area, near a windowsill perhaps. When the roots grow a couple of inches long, you can transplant the cilantro into a pot and you will notice new sprigs in just a few weeks.

11. Turnip Greens

You can reserve the tops of turnips and regrow greens from them. Just chop off the tops of the turnips, leaving about a half-inch to an inch of the top. Place in a shallow container, add water, and put in a sunny spot. After a week, you should see some strong turnip greens. And really, all members of the turnip family (beets, carrots, parsnips) can regrow their greens this way, not just turnips.

You can cut the sprouts with scissors when ready to harvest them. Turnip leaves can be prepared exactly like spinach or its close mustard, kale, cabbage, and collards relatives, including in salads, soups, and stewed with pork and served with vinegar. The somewhat fuzzy leaves are extremely high in vitamins A, B, C, and K, folate, iron, calcium, and thiamine.  

General Guidelines to Regrow Food In Water


  • You don’t need a lot of water – just enough to cover the roots. About 1/2″ of water seems to be sufficient otherwise the food can get moldy and slimy.
  • Be sure to check the water every 2-3 days to ensure that A) there’s enough water, and B) no rogue pieces fall off and slime up your bowl.
  • The size of container should be relative to the size of the food you’re growing. Lettuce and celery grows best in shallow bowls like these. Green onion and lemongrass can be in taller, skinny glasses like these.
  • You can regrow multiples of the same plant as long as you’re not overcrowding the area.

Other Foods You Can Regrow

This list is not all inclusive. There are lots of other fruits and vegetables that you can regrow such as:

  • Avocado
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Mango
  • Lemon
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Onions (white/yellow/red)
  • Pineapple

These items require significantly more time to grow. Trees like avocado take a minimum of five years to produce fruit! Long term they may be great investments and it is encouraged that you research how to grow and care for these as well.

AAPDEP’s Project Black Ankh


Black Ankh is the humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization for the African Nation. Our primary mission is to carry out relief operations to assist African victims of natural disasters and other emergencies anywhere they may occur in the African World.   

Black Ankh’s work focuses on the following areas: disaster preparedness, disaster response and community health.

The Black Ankh is a volunteer organization that promotes self-reliance and self-determination for African people and which practices African Internationalist solidarity with the oppressed and colonized people of the world.

The Black Ankh is a program of the All African People’s Development & Empowerment Project, which since 2007 has built African community led development programs in the areas of agriculture, education and health in Africa and in African communities throughout the United States.


Black Ankh works towards a world where:

  • African people are free of daily insecurity and fear
  • African people affected by disaster can receive care, resources and hope
  • African people are ready and prepared for disasters
  • There are always trained individuals ready to respond in times of emergency and natural disaster  that Affect African people


To use the collective energy, skill and expertise of Africans wherever we are located, and to include others who are willing to work under the guidelines of this program, to offer their energy, resources and skills for the protection of Africa and African communities around the world. 


We believe in the unity of African (Black) people. We believe that no matter where we may be  located, African people must contribute our skills for the development and protection of Africa and African people.  Our work is not charity. It is the work of a globally-colonized people determined to be self-reliant and self-determining.


  • Black Ankh volunteers often live in the communities they serve
  • Black Ankh volunteers are part of an international network that allows their skills to be put to use anywhere in the African world
  • Black Ankh volunteers are mobilized quickly to respond when disaster strikes
  • Black Ankh is active in health, food security, water and sanitation
  • Black Ankh delivers programming to address the humanitarian consequences of natural disaster, violence and other emergencies
  • Black Ankh works in close collaboration with communities to support their levels of emergency preparedness and capacity building 

Principles of Unity

  1. As a Project Black Ankh Volunteer, I recognize my service as being under the leadership of AAPDEP and the Project Black Ankh program to which I am assigned in order to meet the organization’s humanitarian goals and objectives.
  2. All African (Black) people, wherever we (they) may be located, are one people!
  3. African people, like all people, deserve to be prepared for and protected in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies. 
  4. I offer my skills freely, without the expectation of monetary or other forms of individual gain.

Volunteer today with Project Black Ankh’s COVID-19 medical team!

COVID-19 Tips:How To Prepare for Self-Quarantine or Lockdown

How long should I prepare for?

At least 14 days are recommended for a self-quarantine, while the duration of a lockdown depends on the decision of a local government.

Given the likelihood that more and more people around the world will be stuck at home, preparing your home for that eventuality is an increasing concern.

Among the things being stocked are:

Non-perishable foods, including shelf-stable beverages, sauces, pasta, pulses, rice, cereal, crackers, and dry goods, including tea, sugar, and coffee.

Basic medical supplies, including over-the-counter medications to alleviate possible symptoms – which, in mild cases, have a lot in common with the symptoms of the common cold. Medicines for fever, congestion, and cough are recommended. It is also important to keep a one-month supply of prescription medication on hand as well in case getting to a pharmacy for a refill becomes difficult.

Cleaning and hygiene supplies needed would include soaps for handwashing, bathing, laundry, and cleaning, as well as disinfectants to keep surfaces clean.

**Medical professionals have suggested that ibuprofen is not recommended for managing coronavirus symptoms. Those already taking ibuprofen for other conditions should not stop without consulting a doctor**

What else should I prepare?

Also important is preparing some activities that can be undertaken within the home, whether a list of books to read or an entertainment or exercise subscription that can be used without going out.

Create a plan for meals to limit trips to the grocery store. This plan should include your household size the amount of meals per day and what will be served daily. Limiting children to eating times will help to ration snacks an limit your exposure to COVID-19

COVID-19 Updates: Restrictions and School Closings

Coronavirus cases have now surpassed more than 6,130 across 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Governors and city leaders have begun implementing measures to encourage residents to stay home or skip nights out to try to diminish the spread of the virus. This comes on top of guidance the federal government released Monday asking people to avoid eating at restaurants or bars and attending events with more than 10 people for the next two weeks. Here’s where some of the most restrictive measures are being implemented across the US: 

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut 

The three states ordered a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and agreed to close casinos, gyms and movie theaters starting Monday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a conference call.Coronavirus now in all 50 states as death toll passes 100Bars and restaurants will transition to take-out only services, he said. In New Jersey, residents are no longer able to travel between the hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced. That guidance will be in effect for the foreseeable future, he said.”We want everybody to be home, not out,” he said.New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also signed an executive order Monday directing all restaurants, bars and cafes to close down and only provide take-out or delivery services. All entertainment venues and gyms are closed, he said. 

Ohio closes polls hours before Tuesday’s primary

Ohio’s governor announced late Monday that the state’s polls would not be open for Tuesday’s presidential primary there — even though a judge denied Ohio’s earlier request to cancel it. Earlier, officials in Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky said they were moving their presidential primaries to later in the year because of the spread of coronavirus. Ohio generally has been a day or two ahead of other states in announcing restrictions.

On Sunday, DeWine ordered Ohio bars and restaurants closed to in-house patrons, though they could offer takeout service. A day later, he ordered fitness centers, gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters, recreational centers and indoor water parks to close by end of the day.

No dining out in these states

Colorado health officials issued an order Monday directing bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters and casinos to close down for the next 30 days. What is and isn’t allowed during a ‘shelter-in-place’ order“Establishments may continue to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and must use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of Covid-19, including social distancing,” a statement from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said. Up to five members of the public are allowed on those premises at a time, to pick up food or beverage orders and they must each be 6 feet apart, the department said. A similar order was signed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who said “decisive action” was necessary to combat the spread of the virus. In Walz’s list were also amusement parks, bowling alleys, skating rinks and country clubs. Louisiana also ordered closed all bars, clubs and casinos for diners until April 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards said. Further, no visitations are allowed at nursing homes or prisons unless it’s an “end of life” or emergency basis, he said.Similarly, restaurants or bars in Michigan and Indiana will only be working via takeout.

No mass gatherings here

In New Mexico, health officials didn’t shut down establishments but ordered restaurants and bars to operate at “no greater than 50 percent of maximum occupancy and … seating capacity.”The restrictions also prohibit gatherings of 100 or more people, a statement from New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said Some schools closed for coronavirus in US are not going back for the rest of the academic year. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Monday banning gatherings with more than 50 people — with exceptions including health care facilities, mass transit, grocery stores and the state legislature. Similar orders were issued by the governors of Wisconsin and Nebraska. Oregon’s governor announced some of the most restrictive measures, saying she will ban events and gatherings of more than 25 people for at least four weeks. Retail stores, pharmacies and workplaces will be exempt. 

California’s Bay Area residents ordered to shelter in place

Nearly 7 million people living in Northern California, inc, are being ordered to shelter in place as of midnight Monday. Along with San Francisco, which previously announced its order, residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, San Mateo, San Benito and Santa Clara counties, as well as the city of Berkeley, are required to stay home, per an order from health officers of corresponding jurisdictions. Health services, grocery stores, gas stations, banks and food delivery services will remain open. Mass transit will stay open but is to be used only for travel to and from essential services.”

Statewide school closures

 As of Monday, governors in 37 states have made the decision to shut down schools. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

COVID-19 Tips: What To Do If You Get Sick

What to Do if You Get Sick

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reported symptoms ranging from mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms generally include fever, cough and shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

At this time, the CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days, after exposure.

If you may have had contact with a person with COVID-19 or recently traveled to countries with community spread and start to experience symptoms, call your medical provider so that they can take appropriate precautions.

If you have a cough, a fever or difficulty breathing, and you are worried that you may have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, here are recommendations from Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins, on what to do, step by step.

Coronavirus: What do I do if I Feel Sick? 

1. Stay Home and Call a Health Care Provider

Unless it is an emergency, to reduce your risk of catching or spreading illness, stay home if you feel sick, even if your symptoms are mild. Do not go to work, school or public places, and avoid public transportation.

If your symptoms are severe or you feel like you need medical care, call before you go to a doctor’s office, urgent care center or emergency room. Describe your symptoms over the phone.

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and tell the dispatcher about your symptoms and recent travel history.

2. Answer Questions to Determine Your Risk

When you call a health care facility, you will be asked about your risks for COVID-19. Risk factors include recent travel to certain countries or areas of the U.S., or exposure to an infected person.

For instance, people calling Johns Hopkins Health System hospitals or clinics are asked:

  • Have you had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus? (Close contact means having been within 6 feet of that person for an extended time, or being exposed to their cough or sneeze.)
  • Do you have a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing?
  • Has a public health officer said you were potentially exposed to COVID-19?

3. Follow Your Health Care Provider’s Instructions

Based on your answers to these questions, the care provider will provide instructions over the phone. You will be told if you need to be evaluated, and if so, what to do next. Based on your risk for COVID-19, your health care provider may recommend that you:

  • Continue to monitor your health and call back if you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms.
  • Stay home and await further instructions.
  • Report to a designated medical care facility for evaluation and treatment. It’s best to go alone to your appointment. Do not bring children or other family members unless you need assistance.
  • Go to a clinic or emergency department if you have more severe symptoms, such as higher fever and severe shortness of breath.

4. Practice Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

  • If you do leave your home to go to a care facility, wear a mask so your coughs and sneezes are less likely to infect others. (Masks are NOT recommended for healthy people in the general population.)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) after sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing or using the bathroom, and before preparing or eating food.
  • If you cough or sneeze, do so into the bend of your elbow, not your hand. Or use a tissue, and then throw it away immediately afterward.
  • At home, clean often-touched surfaces such as doors and doorknobs, cabinet handles, bathroom hardware, tabletops, phones, tablets and keyboards regularly with disinfectant.

5. Stay Calm

The possibility of having a contagious illness is scary, but doctors, nurses and other caregivers are learning more about COVID-19 every day. They are working together with national and international agencies to identify and provide care to patients while avoiding spread of the illness in the community.

Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs

France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Twitter on Saturday for pain relief it was better to take paracetamol because over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus.

“The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice,” said Veran.

Patients should choose paracetamol, also known known in the United States by the generic name acetaminophen and commonly by the brand name Tylenol, because “it will reduce the fever without counter-attacking the inflammation”, the health ministry added.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.

What Residents Can Do to Prepare for COVID-19

It’s important for the public to be prepared should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in your community. To limit the spread of infection, you should:

  • Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. It should contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then wash your hands.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Follow these important tips to help prepare to respond to this public health threat.

  • Store a two-week supply of food, beverages and water, including food for family pets.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of prescribed and routine medications are on hand.
  • Plan ways to care for those who are at greater risk for serious complications and who will take care of sick family members.
  • If you have family members with increased risk of getting seriously sick, check with your medical providers about symptoms and treatment.
  • Create an emergency contact list of family and friends, teachers and employers.
  • Have a plan in case your school, childcare, or employer closes temporarily.
  • Talk with your children, family, and friends about what to do if an outbreak occurs and what each person would need.

COVID-19 Tips: Social Distancing

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is an infection control action that public health officials take to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. The goal is for people to avoid close contact with each other and stay six feet apart.

Simply put, avoiding close contact with others. This means no mass gatherings or unnecessary travel to places where people may congregate. If you absolutely must be out in public, maintain a six-foot radius of space.

Why do I need to practice social distancing?

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, one important thing we can all do is practice social distancing. 

Social distancing can slow down the spread of COVID-19 by giving it fewer opportunities to jump from person to person.

Is social distancing effective?

Scientists estimate that one person infected with the coronavirus will infect another 3.3 people, on average. The higher that number (known as the reproductive number), the faster a virus spreads. 

Several factors influence the reproductive number, including how contagious the virus is, how susceptible people are, how many times people interact with each other, and how long those interactions last. Social distancing aims to reduce the last two items on that list, which would in turn reduce the reproductive number and slow a disease’s spread, said Dr. Jeffrey Martin, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.

How is social distancing different from self-quarantine and self-isolation?

Self-quarantine and self-isolation are specific forms of social distancing. 

Self-quarantine is when you don’t necessarily feel ill, but as a precaution, separate yourself from others. This is usually because there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to a disease. Self-isolation is when you actually have symptoms and don’t want to get other people sick. In the case of COVID-19, both should last about 14 days, enough time for any potential symptoms to manifest in an environment where the virus can’t infect other people.

SCIENCECoronavirus self-quarantine: When and how to do it March 13, 2020

How to practice social distancing

If you can work from home, you should. Don’t gather in shared public spaces or at public events, like gyms, restaurants, festivals or concerts. Avoid cruises and nonessential travel, particularly if you’re at higher risk of getting very sick from the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

If you absolutely have to get prepared food, don’t eat in —use the takeout window or have it delivered. Pay using your debit or credit card over the phone when possible for delivery.

If you have to go to the store for groceries or other essentials, try to go during “off-peak hours.” While you’re there, maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and other people. That will lessen the chance that you’ll catch the virus from droplets spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Also, be sure to clean shared surfaces before and after you come into contact with them.

I still need to go to work. Is it OK to take my child to day care?

Try to find a day care setting with a small number of kids, don’t send them to day care if they’re sick. Make sure the day care provider will be using best practices and wiping down all of the toys often, with disinfecting cleaners such as Clorox wipes or a bleach solution.  Evidence suggests that the coronavirus can live on surfaces like plastic for up to 72 hours.

Are play dates OK?

It is best to put off playdates for now. Just because someone looks well, doesn’t mean they can’t transmit the COVID-19.

What’s more, symptoms of COVID-19 on average take five days to show up from the time of infection — but a person can still pass it on to other people during that time. So while it might be tempting to have one or two kids over, don’t do it, says Dr. Asaf Bitton, a primary care physician and public health researcher affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan, says the goal is for parents to limit exposure, period. “My guidance right now to families is, as much as possible, do not have your kids in other people’s houses. Do not have other people’s kids in your house. There are times where for child care arrangements or for absolute necessity, you need to have one or two or more kids together. But if at all possible, really just keep kids at home.”

What about playing outside with other kids or going to the park?

If you allow your children outside to play with other children, make sure the children keep at least 6 feet of distance from other children (which can be very hard for younger children).

And for adults, what about having close friends over to visit?

The new CDC guidance is to avoid social visits for now.

Can I travel? I’m seeing really cheap airfares now.

The CDC is telling people to avoid discretionary travel. You should be minimizing contact with others outside your immediate household.

I had a doctor’s visit scheduled months ago. Should I still go?

If it’s a nonessential visit to a doctor or dentist, reschedule it, Birx said Tuesday during a White House press conference. “Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks, don’t get it done. If you’re a person with an elective surgery, you don’t want to go into a hospital right now.” She urged people to “be responsible” to free up hospital beds and space.

I need to go to the grocery store. How do I do that in a way that’s safest for me and others?

This counts as an essential trip, of course. But try going to the grocery store during off-peak hours, when it’s less likely to be crowded, says Dr. Sean O’Leary, an assistant professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

So I can’t leave my house at all?

You can leave your house, just minimize your interactions with other people. Use this time for activities such as: going for walks, gardening or exercise.

What do I do if I still have to go to work ?

There are social-distancing measures that organizations can take in places where community spread of a virus is minimal to moderate, the CDC says.

At work:

  • Increase the physical space between workers.
  • Stagger work schedules.
  • Reduce workplace social contacts. Limit in-person meetings, lunch meet-ups, staff meetings and after-work hangouts.

Utilize technology! Video and phone chat with friends and loved ones.

Offer support by sharing contact information or dropping food or goods off to neighbors who might not be able to go out themselves.