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As stay-at-home orders lift in some areas, and businesses and community centers begin to open their doors again, you may be eager to head out. But the lifting of restrictions doesn’t provide a free pass to go back to all your usual haunts or resume your previous activities.

For one thing, the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus is still out there. In fact, the opening of many states doesn’t mean COVID is decreasing in many areas, just that hospitals have capacity and the harms of shutdown outweigh the benefits. With the lifting of restrictions, we are likely to see more cases.

The safest move continues to be to stay home as much as possible. But if you do venture out, there are ways to protect yourself, minimize close contact with others and reduce your exposure to the virus.

Eating at a restaurant

Most experts believe bars and restaurants are among the more difficult places to practice social distancing and cleaning. CDC recommends anyone with chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and even obesity and those over age 65 avoid these areas until we get through the COVID risk period — that is, until a vaccine is available or the virus stops circulating.

Shopping at retail stores

For those under age 65 and without chronic health conditions, the CDC says these are generally safe. The best practice to abide by is being extra attentive to wearing a mask, avoiding touching your face, and practicing good hand hygiene before and after going.

Going to a hair salon

Proximity is an important driver of transmission, and salons create closeness between people — so you need to balance the risks versus the benefits. It’s best to go to a salon that chooses to work at reduced capacity to decrease the density of people. They should ask employees and customers to wear cloth masks or have customers cover their nose and mouth with a clean towel [during shampooing, for instance]. If you’re not feeling well, cancel the appointment; employees should do the same.

Hitting the gym or yoga studio

Gyms are especially difficult. People are often close together, and there is a lot of shared contact. The CDC recommends avoiding gyms for all people, but especially those over 65 or with other medical conditions, at least for the initial part of reopening. Personal training is likely safer than group sessions, but all involve a significant amount of contact.

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