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Dr. Leana Wen: 5 safety tips commuters should keep in mind amid COVID-19

As states begin to reopen, Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski recently chatted with the emergency physician and former health commissioner for Baltimore about ways commuters can mitigate their risk of getting coronavirus.
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Commuters wearing protective masks walk inside a subway station in New York on March 17, 2020.Demetrius Freeman / Bloomberg via Getty Images

All 50 states are reopening after lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. And as a result, many Americans are debating whether— and how —they should be commuting between their homes and offices.

Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski recently asked Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and former health commissioner for Baltimore, to share safety tips commuters should keep in mind, particularly for those who take trains, buses, subways and shuttles to work. Here’s what she said:

1. Don't use public transportation unless you have to.

“Walk or bike if these are options,” said Dr. Wen. “In cities where traffic is manageable, drive if you can. That way, you reserve public transportation for those who need to use it.”

2. Plan ahead.

If you must take public transportation, find out whether the schedules are modified, and ask which hours are particularly busy, advised Dr. Wen. “Try to avoid these times; it's possible that going even half an hour earlier or later could help avoid crowds. Buy your fare online to minimize crowds at the station and touching the machine,” she said.

3. Be prepared to wait.

If the train or bus comes and looks too crowded, wait for the next one, said Dr. Wen. “It may not be possible to stay six feet away from people in public transportation, but try to at least have two to three feet at least, or one empty seat, between you and others. If an empty seat away from others opens up, move there,” suggested Dr. Wen.

4. Wear a mask.

Masks are required in many indoor places. Studies show that if everyone wears masks, they reduce COVID-19 transmission by at least 50 percent.

“Wearing a mask protects everyone, and it shows that everyone is taking this seriously,” said Dr. Wen.

5. Use hand sanitizer.

When you go through public transportation, you usually touch a lot of surfaces that others touch too. “Take notice of what you touch, and use hand sanitizer before you touch your face or adjust your mask. This is especially important to do before you use your phone, or else you end up transferring germs to your phone. Make sure to rub the sanitizer throughout your hands. Don't forget your thumbs and in between your fingers. It takes 20 seconds, just like washing your hands, and keep rubbing until your hands are dry. Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get to your destination,” said Dr. Wen.