A Guide on Going Back – Or Not – in the “Green Phase” of Coronavirus Reopening

As salons, yoga studios, gyms, restaurants and workspaces prepare to open in Pennsylvania’s “green phase” of coronavirus reopening, here’s what you need to consider to stay safe.

Going “green” at any other point in time would probably bring to mind recycling goals or starting a compost in the backyard, not debating the safety in heading back to your neighborhood restaurant for dinner or getting a haircut with your stylist. This is July 2020, and while Pennsylvania may be in the green phase of reopening, COVID-19 is still present in our communities.

Dr. Patricia Henwood

“Daily COVID-19 case numbers across the U.S. reached a record high this week, and global cases continue to rise. People, in general, are moving around more, and as precautions have lessened, cases are unfortunately starting to resurge in Pennsylvania” says emergency medicine physician Dr. Patricia Henwood. “We are concerned people in our area may have a false sense of security thinking COVID-19 is gone. If travel continues to hot spots around the country, with less masking and social distancing precautions than we have been taking locally over the last few months, whether at the New Jersey beaches or in other hotspot states, we expect cases will again rise here.”

According to Dr. Henwood, for those that are at a higher-risk of death from COVID-19 or have comorbidities that suggest they would have a worse course with COVID-19, this risk assessment should be reviewed with their physician. Her advice is for everyone is to consider keeping tight social circles, and to maintain masking and distancing precautions, regardless of health status. To help you make informed decisions about what your “green phase” will look like, Dr. Henwood offers thoughts on returning to the salon, restaurants, or gym.

“If you enter any situation that makes you feel unsafe, then you should trust your gut and leave the situation,” she adds.

Salons

“There are a number of factors to consider about getting a haircut,” Dr. Henwood says, “You are in an indoor environment, sharing close proximity with the person that is cutting your hair. We are still learning about this virus and transmission factors, however, based on what we do know, I consider this a non-essential activity that brings risk particularly depending on the set-up and precautions being taken at the salon, and something that a high-risk individual should consider avoiding right now.”

Some questions Dr. Henwood suggests to pose to the salon before booking an appointment include, salon hygiene practices, whether or not masks are required by stylists and patrons, and if they have increased spacing between chairs in the salon and waiting area.

Hairdresser and client wearing masks during a hair cut appointment

Some questions Dr. Henwood suggests to pose to the salon before booking an appointment include, salon hygiene practices, whether or not masks are required by stylists and patrons, and if they have increased spacing between chairs in the salon and waiting area.

Restaurants

“My sentiments on salons are similar for indoor dining,” Dr. Henwood says. “Overall I would say avoid it. You cannot eat while masked, and this increases risk for everyone dining indoors. This is why it remains restricted in Philadelphia. If you need to go out, opt for outdoor seating if well spaced, or pick up the order and head for a picnic.” She adds that you should take notice of the space between the tables and says you should feel empowered to call the restaurant ahead of time to ask about the precautions they are taking.

Waiter wears a mask while serving people during the coronavirus pandemic

Gyms and Yoga Studios

“Again going back to the gym is generally a higher risk activity, and considerations really depend on the circumstances of the facility and the person’s personal risk factor,” Dr. Henwood explains. “Gyms are still restricted in Philadelphia and were among the last facilities to open across the state because of the risk – people are breathing more heavily, which could mean more infectious particles are aerosolized in an indoor contained space. If someone is actively shedding virus, we anticipate your chances of catching it in this type of environment to rise substantially.”

Gym owner takes temperature of a client before allowing them into the gym during the coronavirus pandemic

When it comes to yoga or barre studios, Dr. Henwood says that if the class is a light exercise where masks can be maintained and the classes maintain distancing, it may lower your risk compared with a gym but any contained space may pose some increased risk. Some questions to ask before you head back to the gym and studio include, whether or not they are checking patrons for symptoms upon entry, contact-free check-in, and the frequency of sanitizing equipment and surfaces.

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COVID-19, From the Experts

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