COVID-19 Safety Tips for Helping Others

April 1, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting individuals at alarming rates across the United States and globe. While practicing social distance and staying at home are both critical actions to slowing the rate of transmission, there may be instances when that’s not possible for you. You may have someone in your life—a friend, a relative, a neighbor—who is especially high risk because they are immunocompromised or an older adult, and you may need to support them.

If you’re considering volunteering or assisting someone in your life during this crisis, it’s important that you still follow safety precautions to lessen the risk of spreading the virus. While you may be “low risk,” it’s important to understand that there is still a risk. You may be an unwitting carrier or become sick yourself. Anyone can be infected with the virus.

How is COVID-19 Spread?

COVID-19 is a new virus, and therefore we learn more about it every day. According to the CDC, the virus is believed to be transmitted:

  • By having close contact with a person who has the virus (within ~6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • By touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes.

Other points to know:

  • It’s believed that the Coronavirus can live for up to three days on various surfaces (as low as 1-24 hrs. for cardboard and fabric, longest for non-porous surfaces like metal).
  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). They may also be contagious 1-14 days before any symptoms show, and may be contagious with no visible sign of symptoms.
  • Infected persons can continue to be contagious during recovery, believed to be between 8 and 37 days.
  • Thorough hand washing (with soap and water, or alcohol based sanitizer) should be done frequently, and always done after touching the face, using public transportation, or touching the same items as others.

Safety Practices:

  • Closely monitor your health. If you begin to show symptoms, such as fever or coughing, follow CDC guidance and stop your volunteer work right away.
  • Avoid crowded spaces like public transportation and maintain 6 feet distance with others.

General sanitation guidelines for when helping others during the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Take your temperature before making any food delivery or other volunteer outing. If you have an elevated temperature or any symptoms, do not volunteer.
  • If you have ANY symptoms of ANY kind, or any known contact with people who are symptomatic, stay home and help with tasks that can be done online.
  • Clean all surfaces (use a CDC-approved disinfectant) before doing anything with food, even if the food is packaged and sealed.
  • Wear plastic gloves while handling food. Use a fresh pair for each and every delivery.
  • Use hand sanitizer if no running water is available (during deliveries) every time you put on a fresh pair of gloves while delivering food.
  • Cover your nose and mouth at all times while interacting with food (because masks are hard to come by, you can use a bandana or other DIY method).

If you’re assisting with food packaging or delivery, please note the following tips:

  • Pick up supplies at off-peak times and avoid public transportation.
  • Thoroughly wipe food and food prep areas with CDC-approved disinfectant and a disposable towel.
  • Cover your nose and mouth before entering food and food prep areas (a bandana is suggested).
  • After covering your mouth and nose, wash hands with soap and water immediately for 20 seconds before entering food and food prep areas.
  • Wear fresh, sterile gloves when in food and food prep areas.
  • While wearing your gloves, do not touch anything that was touched by people who have not washed their hands (i.e. doors, light switches, fridge/freezer doors, etc.). If you do, wash hands again, and put on a fresh pair of gloves.
  • When making deliveries, try not to touch anything except the bags. Place the bag on the doorstep, knock, and then return to your car. Do not stay on the doorstep and talk with the person; only talk from a distance of at least 6 feet. Avoid entering the person’s home.
  • Remember that your phone is a hotspot for germs. If you touch your phone with your gloves, throw gloves away, wash/sanitize your hands, and put on a fresh pair before touching food bags.

If you’re looking for ways to support your neighbors —whether financially, donating your time, or dropping off supplies, the following list of organizations/efforts may be looking for assistance.

At Iona, we’re navigating uncharted waters and face significant funding gaps. If you’re able to, we would be grateful for any financial assistance.

Your contribution will go towards supporting older adults and families during this crisis—providing food to homebound seniors, offering virtual wellness and fitness programs that address isolation, continuing support groups and psychotherapy online, answering calls on our Helpline, coordinating care for vulnerable older adults, making wellness check-in calls, and performing other essential services.

Donate to Iona

Other organization efforts:

  • Bread for the City – Accepting monetary donations for groceries, diapers, and medical supplies to give clients during open hours. Please consider making a donation to support their efforts here.
  • Capital Area Food Bank – They are experiencing a shortage of volunteers, and are in critical need of help sorting and packing food in their warehouse and assisting at their offsite food distributions.  To learn more and sign up, visit
  • DC Mutual Aid – Neighbors Helping Neighbors efforts to organize by pods. Opens spreadsheet of efforts (click through all tabs)
  •  DMV Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19 – A Facebook group connecting neighbors to assist each other during COVID.
  • Dining at a Distance – Support restaurants while practicing social distancing. Here is a list of local restaurants and business who are operating delivery and carry-out, as well as ways to support local business during temporary closures.
  • Feeding America Meal Connect – Restaurants can sign up and donate their surplus food (tax deductible) to food banks in the area. Restaurants can schedule a pick up time for food banks to pick the food up.
  • Food & Friends– Free meal and grocery delivery available to people living with life-challenging illnesses. Clients must be referred by a healthcare provider. They are in urgent need of extra volunteers throughout the coming weeks. There are two volunteer opportunities, food preparation and packaging and meal and grocery delivery. More information found here.
  • Food it Forward – Help keep DC restaurant jobs, and help feed DC families in need by buying a meal package. Martha’s Table has teamed up with Clyde’s Restaurant Group, amongst others, to deliver meals to those in need — while helping keep restaurant workers employed.
  • Martha’s Table –  Volunteers may be needed to help prepare and bag food.
  • Miriam’s Kitchen– In need of financial donations to help neighbors experiencing homelessness receive access to a sink or have a home to stay when they are sick.
  • So Others Might Eat (SOME) – SOME is in need of items to support their clients who may be ill.
  • The Table Church – The Table DC is organizing volunteers to help at-risk members of the DMV community who should not leave their homes during this crisis.
  • We Are Family – Volunteer to deliver groceries to seniors

Related Resources and Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  2. Food Handling During Outbreak
  3. QueerCare Resources for Support Care In and In Response to the COVID-19 Gobal Pandemic
  4. Safety Practices for COVID-19/Coronavirus Mutual Aid Projects