Local, Federal and Doctor's Orders: Which Coronavirus Advisories Should You Follow?


The coronavirus pandemic has caused major changes in the day-to-day lives of most Americans, with many living in places that have issued specific guidelines or orders that they have to follow.

But with so many different recommendations and guidelines out there, it can be confusing and difficult to determine what you should be doing as an individual.

Here is a breakdown of the different guidelines that may affect you, and which ones you need to follow.

Federal guidelines

President Trump announced on Sunday that the United States government is extending social distancing guidelines through April 30.

But what does this mean for you? Older people should stay home as much as possible, everyone should avoid gatherings of ten or more people, and discretionary travel should be avoided. People should also consider canceling all in-person social visits, stay away from public gathering places like restaurants and bars, and practice increased hygiene. Because these recommendations are voluntary, you won't get in trouble if you don't follow them, but medical experts and the federal government urge you to do so.

State and local guidelines

Many states and municipalities have issued stricter orders than the federal guidelines, and if you live in one of those communities, you need to follow those rules or risk getting a fine or even getting arrested.

If your area is under a stay-at-home order, that means that you need to stay home as much as possible. You’re allowed to go out to buy groceries or pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, to go to a necessary medical appointment, or to go to work if your workplace has been deemed essential. Grocery store employees, first responders, and medical professionals fall under that field almost universally, but other professions vary from location to location, so check with your employer and with local authorities to determine if you should plan on going into work. Many workplaces are allowing their employees to work from home, use PTO, or are furloughing staff in order to accommodate the restrictions.

In most places you can also go outside to get fresh air and go for a walk, as long as you maintain social distancing and keep six feet apart from other people. This is not the time to socialize in person, so while you should absolutely keep in touch with your family and friends, if they’re not a member of your household then it’s best to socialize by phone or video conference.

If you have a friend, relative, or neighbor that is considered high-risk for the coronavirus, you can offer to go to the grocery store or pharmacy for them, but keep interactions at a minimum and don’t linger while dropping off, as you don’t want to risk getting them sick.

Quarantine due to travel

If you have recently traveled from a place that has a higher instance of COVID-19, you may need to stay in a government-provided facility, or the authorities may ask you to self-quarantine at home, for fourteen days.

While you may feel fine, and you may not even have the coronavirus, by staying home for the two week period you ensure that if you do get sick or are an asymptomatic carrier, you don’t spread the disease to other people in the area.

If you are returning to a home that you share with others, they may be asked to self-quarantine as well. Medical experts suggest that you isolate from each other as much as possible, staying in separate parts of the home and using separate bathrooms if available, not sharing household items, and disinfecting high-contact areas frequently like doorknobs, light switches, and faucet handles.

Doctor’s orders

Even if you live in a place that is allowing people to come and go freely, if your doctor has advised you to stay home because you are high-risk, you need to listen to what they are saying. Not all high-risk people will contract the disease, but for those that do, the consequences can be much more severe. Medical professionals will do their best to take care of you if you come down with COVID-19, but the best way that they can protect you is by asking you to avoid situations where you could get infected.

If you suspect that you have COVID-19 either because you were exposed to someone who has the illness or because you are experiencing symptoms, contact your medical provider. If you do not have one, many local health departments have dedicated websites and phone numbers that can help you determine your next course of action. In the meantime, isolate yourself from other members of your household to diminish their risk of getting sick, and if you need to go to the doctor or hospital, call ahead to make sure that they are prepared to receive you.

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