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Normally Good Habits That Can Backfire During Coronavirus

In the age of COVID-19, many things that used to be considered best practices are no longer a good idea.

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Young woman with a mask during pandemicpixelfit/Getty Images

New world order

Many of the modern habits we’ve developed are no longer a good idea during the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, this means learning how to live life in a world where the rules changed overnight. Many of the best practices we once developed to take care of the environment, connect with loved ones, and take care of our homes and ourselves are out the window in the age of social distancing. Here’s what you need to know about how the rules have changed—you’ll also want to be sure you don’t fall for these coronavirus conspiracy theories you shouldn’t believe.

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Bringing in the GroceriesLOUISE BEAUMONT/Getty Images

Toting reusable grocery bags to the store

In recent years there’s been an increased push to move towards reusable versions of things we use every day, including grocery bags. However, in light of COVID-19, many people are realizing there are cons for shoppers who opt out of the paper and plastic bags provided by the grocer. Reusable grocery bags carry germs and bacteria in normal circumstances because most people don’t wash them, during the coronavirus crisis this is particularly dangerous. In response, many states are reversing plastic bag bans and banning reusable grocery bags during the pandemic. Here are a few other tiny everyday changes you make to help the environment instead.

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Senior Man Hands Holding Money and Breakfast BillWillowpix/Getty Images

Paying in cash

Financial experts agree that in normal circumstances, there are times when it’s better to pay with cash. It can help with budgeting, eliminate fees, and even have the psychological benefit of helping you pay attention and ultimately, spend less money. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are realizing that cash is a germ-spreading item and many are opting to keep it in their wallets. Instead, look for ways to pay for your purchases by credit or debit card and sanitize the card afterward. Better yet, find ways to pay for goods remotely, via Apple Pay or ahead of time for example, whenever possible. Here are more ways to avoid germs when grocery shopping, according to Consumer Reports.

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Fixing the air ductSadeugra/Getty Images

Doing routine maintenance around your home

It’s normally not a good idea to defer projects around the house because ignoring problems now can mean big repair bills. During the coronavirus crisis, however, it’s important to think carefully about inviting anyone into your home to perform work right now, both for your safety and their own. If your pipes or roof are leaking, these would be among the hidden home dangers you shouldn’t ignore, but you may want to wait until things are safer to have your vents or fireplaced cleaned.

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Making frequent trips for fresh food

Whether it’s a carrot pulled from the ground that morning from your local farmer’s market, a delicious loaf of bread hot from the baker’s oven, or a carton of berries purchased from your grocery, there’s nothing quite like fresh food. Shopping several days a week to make sure you get the freshest foods during COVID-19, however, isn’t a good idea. Unless you’re an essential worker, the fewer trips you can make to the store, or anywhere, the better. Luckily, there are easy foods to grow at home during quarantine. If you don’t have space or motivation to start a garden, there are many foods you didn’t know you could freeze such as loaves of bread and herbs that will help you extend the time period between trips to the store.

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Ride sharing passengersCarlina Teteris/Getty Images


Carpooling and taking public transportation are normally great practices and important tiny everyday changes you can make to cut back on air pollution. However, during COVID-19 if you do need to make an essential trip anywhere, it’s important to travel only with members of your own household, even if you’re going to the same place. If you have an elderly relative or immunocompromised friend you were previously offering rides to the store, you can still help them by simply offering to do their shopping for them and dropping the groceries off on their porch instead. These uplifting stories of neighbors helping neighbors during the coronavirus crisis will inspire you to the same.

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Drying FingersNikonShutterman/Getty Images

Sharing communal towels

Hanging a communal hand towel in your bathroom is normally considered a best practice to eliminate the need to wash individual towels too frequently or use disposable ones. However, towels can spread germs. Most of us don’t share bath towels so while the virus is a threat, it’s best to treat hand towels the same way, especially if you have an essential worker or someone who leaves to go shopping, etc. in the house. No matter what is going on in the rest of the world, you should always wash your hands after touching these 10 things.

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man using smartphone at home - close upEMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images

Limiting screen time

Many families limit their children’s time watching television, playing video games, or using the internet, but during COVID-19, millions of children are home from school and their parents have increased responsibilities. Not only are they suddenly in the position of having to be defacto homeschool teachers, with the majority of distance learning being held online, but many are working from home at the same time. Experts are saying it’s OK to rethink those old limits about screen time as families adjust to their new normal and seek out ways to maintain connections to the rest of the world.

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Shopping cartJuanmonino/Getty Images

Stocking up on essentials

Normally if you see a good deal at the store on essential items like pasta or toilet paper it’s a good idea to stock up as buying in bulk at the lower price will save you money in the long run. Unfortunately, when all this began there were too many people who didn’t understand why panic buying is not actually helpful and hoarded the toilet paper the rest of us needed. This was particularly devastating for people who live paycheck to paycheck because by the time they could afford to go shopping, the shelves were empty. For the duration of COVID-19, it’s important we all look out for each other and that includes not buying more than we need.

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Midsection Of Man Holding Toilet Paper While Standing In Bathroom At HomeSrinrat Wuttichaikitcharoen / EyeEm/Getty Images

Using toilet paper

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, many people have been thinking this might be the perfect time to break up with toilet paper. The scarcity of this once common product and other considerations such as eco-friendliness has people trying bidets and deciding never to use toilet paper again. Bidets have long been common in other countries. In fact, attachable bidets made by companies like Tushy, save Japan millions of gallons of water a year. Perhaps using toilet paper is one of the everyday habits that could (and should) change forever after the coronavirus crisis.

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Dentist checking teeth of elderly female in clinicLuis Alvarez/Getty Images

Regular cleanings at the dentist

Under normal circumstances, putting off a trip to the dentist is not only a bad idea for your teeth, but it could also pose problems to your overall health as well. Dentists, however, use the same protective devices that are desperately needed in hospitals so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking the public to postpone elective procedures to the dentist and other doctors for the time being. Just don’t use this as an excuse to put off your checkup forever because this is what happens when you ignore a cavity.

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Delivery man giving parcel to woman in hallway10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Bringing packages inside immediately

If you’ve just received a package, it might go against your instincts to leave it on your porch—after all, no one wants their boxes to get stolen or disturbed. But this is no longer the best practice. Although the CDC says chances of contracting the virus through packages are low, scientists say the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and many infectious disease experts recommend leaving your packages outside for a full day before you bring them into the house. While we’re on the subject of packages, here are 21 care packages we’re sending to friends who are stuck at home.

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Grandfather Welcoming Young TravellerHinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Shaking hands or hugging hello

If you’re not an essential worker and you’re practicing social distancing, you shouldn’t encounter many situations where you meet someone new in the flesh. If you do happen to run into a neighbor while getting the mail or an acquaintance at the grocery store, in the past, it might have felt natural to shake their hands or give them a quick hug. Social distancing guidelines, however, say we should always stand a minimum of 6 feet away from people who don’t live in our household. Give that person a friendly wave but don’t approach with a traditional handshake. Here are 10 more etiquette rules you can ignore because of coronavirus.

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Grandmother and granddaughter cuddling on couchMoMo Productions/Getty Images

Visiting the elderly

Whether you have Sunday dinners with your grandma, check in on an elderly neighbor, or volunteer at your local nursing home, visiting the elderly is normally a great idea. One of the hardest things about living in the age of COVID-19 is that the elderly are particularly susceptible to the virus and we need to avoid exposing them to it, which is why many nursing homes across the nation have been closed to outside visitors for weeks. Instead of visiting in person, try sending them a card or letter (there’s no need to disinfect mail but washing your hands after touching it is a good idea). You can also set up a video chat or virtual game night. Here are more things you can do for your parents during the coronavirus outbreak.

Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest covering travel, lifestyle, history, and culture. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, HuffPost Food, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @TamaraGane

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