The best way to curb the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home if you can. If not, it's imperative for those who are venturing out into public to do it safely.

The logic behind social distancing rests on our current understanding of the virus. Scientists have said it is generally spread by close contact — being directly coughed on or sneezed at by someone with the disease, or by being within 6 feet of an infected person (including one who is not necessarily showing symptoms yet) for about 10 to 15 minutes or longer.

The virus can also survive on surfaces for hours or even days. That means the key to avoiding the disease is keeping a safe distance from others, and as much as possible trying to not touch surfaces that may have the virus on them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these safety tips when running essential errands:

Dining

Wearing a mask clearly isn't practical when you're dining so if a restaurant offers outdoor seating, ask to sit there, at least 6 feet away from other diners. The virus circulates more effectively in enclosed spaces when you're around the same people for extended periods of time, even for the length of a dinner.

Remember to wash your hands when you arrive and again before you eat.

Shopping

Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and in lines.

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when you're in the store.

When you do have to visit in person, go during hours when fewer people will be there (for example, early morning or late night).

Disinfect the shopping cart, use disinfecting wipes if available.

Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

If possible, use touchless payment. If you must handle money, a card or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.

After leaving the store, use hand sanitizer.

Accepting deliveries

Accept deliveries without in-person contact whenever possible. Ask for deliveries to be left in a safe spot outside your house (such as your front porch or lobby), with no person-to-person interaction. Otherwise, stay at least 6 feet away from the delivery person.

Pay online or on the phone when you order when possible.

After receiving your delivery or bringing home your takeout food, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. The same is true after collecting mail from a post office or your home mailbox and after fueling your vehicle.

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