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Here's how to help your neighbors safely

With everyone struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people want to reach out and help their neighbors.

But what’s the best way to lend a helping hand when public health officials are telling us to stay apart and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus?

Jackson County Public Health workers have put together a list of ways we can all help our neighbors, friends, family members and others in the community without endangering them or ourselves.

First, they emphasis how critical it is to practice social distancing.

“Social distancing is the most important and valuable tool we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing means reducing contact with people, especially large crowds. This includes not shaking hands, wash your hands frequently, and if you feel ill, it is best to stay home and not be around people,” local health officials said in a press release issued this week.

Hospitals and other health care providers across America already face shortages of face masks, respirators and other supplies they need. Reducing the number of people who get infected with COVID-19 will help stop a surge of patients from overwhelming the United States health care system — as has happened in countries such as Italy, infectious disease experts say.

Aside from social distancing, Jackson County Public Health offers other tips for helping during this time of crisis.

If you have over-purchased basic supplies such as canned goods, cleaning supplies and toilet paper, donate some to your neighbor who may not have these supplies.

If you must go into the home, maintain a distance from people inside and minimize your time there.

Wiping down supplies you give or receive with a sanitizing cleaning agent is also a good idea, according to new research about the COVID-19 virus.

Some coronaviruses that cause the common cold die on surfaces in a few hours after being sneezed or coughed out of the safe harbor of our bodies. But the COVID-19 virus can live under laboratory conditions for three days on plastic and steel and one day on cardboard, the new research found.

Being isolated will create loneliness for many of us, public health workers acknowledge.

They suggest using technology to be “together.” For older adults who may not be comfortable with technology, set up options for them to use Facetime, Skype or other video-calling options.

Practice social distancing during the set-up process, wash your hands before and after being with the person and sanitize the device.

Buy or download a free audiobook or podcast for a person, and offer help to navigate the technology if needed. Call on them to see how they like the book or podcast. Get creative and have a virtual book club with neighbors, friends and family.

Easy Tablet Help for Seniors can help older adults learn to use Skype or FaceTime on a tablet. Easy Tablet Help for Seniors is available for free with no in-app purchases or advertising on Google Play Store, Amazon and Apple App Stores. For more information, visit generationsonline.org.

You can also help people set up grocery store pick-up and curbside pick-up services. Again, use social distancing and good hygiene practices if you visit in person and touch a device.

Volunteer for meal delivery services. Agencies that provide meals to senior citizens may need extra help to deliver meals.

Run errands for those who are housebound because they are ill or belong to vulnerable populations, such as the frail elderly, people with compromised immune systems or health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and lung problems. But consolidate errands into one trip to reduce exposure, public health workers advise.

Everyone, no matter how healthy, should stay away from others as much as possible, they warn.

Practice social distancing at work and when visiting essential locations like grocery stores and pharmacies.

Never visit a hospital or long-term care facility if you have a fever or cough. Check before visiting about safety guidelines and any visitation restrictions that are in effect.

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing and sneezing, using the bathroom, before eating, after helping someone else and when you come home from work or a store trip.

Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as bathrooms, desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, faucet handles, toys and cellphones.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

Meanwhile, pay attention to rapidly changing guidelines from cities, counties, the state of Oregon and the federal government about social distancing and any sheltering-in-place restrictions that are put in place during the pandemic.

Jackson County is posting regular updates about local conditions at jacksoncounty.org.

So far, the county has two confirmed cases of coronavirus and no deaths.

Updates and information about COVID-19 in Oregon are on a special Oregon Health Authority website at govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19.

For health and medical advice and updates on rapidly changing conditions nationally, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.

People can call 211 for with general questions.

Call your doctor’s office or a hospital emergency room before visiting if you have COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing, a fever and possibly diarrhea.

Call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.