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How to safely commute, go shopping, and go on vacation as states reopen for business during the coronavirus pandemic

A coronavirus vaccine remains far off, but the stay-at-home orders in many states are starting to lift, if they haven’t already.

That means millions of Americans can step outside their door and go to reopened retail stores, restaurants, gyms, parks and other public venues across the country.

They’ll be finding a world that’s vastly different from the last time they visited a doctor’s office, travelled, grabbed a cup of coffee or sat at their office desk.

For example, under state laws, Georgia hairdressers need to take a customer’s temperature. Colorado’s rules will let employers fill their offices with only 50% of their workforce and retail stores in Florida can only fill up to a quarter of capacity.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say everyone — from workplaces to schools to homes — needs to come up with plans on when they should clean (which removes germs and dirt) and when to go further and disinfect (which kills germs on surfaces).

So people can start getting back to everyday life — but should they? And how to do it now that social distancing is the watchword to slow the spread of COVID-19?

The question of “should” is a choice everyone will have to decide for themselves.

As for the “how,” MarketWatch looked at the various scenarios people may have to navigate.

Rethink your commuting routine and your work habits

Millions of Americans have been working from home since March, but at some point their employers will want them to return to the office.

Forty percent of employers told Mercer, the human resources consulting firm, that after shelter-in-place rules end, they’ll keep employees working remotely until they deem it safe to return. Roughly 20% of polled companies said they would ask workers to come back as soon as possible.

About 60% of the surveyed companies said they would alternate workers on-site; one tactic was shifts based on alphabetical order.

Returning to work means commuting, potentially on a bus or train, and spending the majority of the day in an office with break rooms, conference rooms, bathrooms and other shared spaces.


Visualize every part of your home-to-work commute routine.

People should visualize every part of that home-to-work routine, said Dr. Tista Ghosh, senior medical director of Grand Rounds, a healthcare assistance platform helping users with appointments and questions about billing and diagnoses.

That means being aware of all the rails, buttons, handles and seats you might touch along the way. A commuter can avoid them, bring gloves, or do both, she said. Don’t forget a face mask, she emphasized. If there’s discomfort wearing it, Ghosh said to think of it this way: “It’s not protecting you, it’s protecting others…it’s like you’re doing your part.”

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At the office, people should ditch their office supply-sharing habits for now, Ghosh said. She also advised people to bring their lunches

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