FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Army environmental science and health experts say remaining vigilant and practicing proper cleaning procedures, hygiene and social distancing is as important as ever for military communities as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.“Being vigilant of your own health and mindful of how your health practices can impact others is important,” said Maj. Melissa Beth Riester-Hartsell, division environmental science and force health officer. “You may come across at-risk personnel or high-risk personnel who may have special circumstances where they cannot wear a mask, or very young children who are not old enough to wear a mask. By you being vigilant, you are able to protect people who cannot protect themselves.”Protecting those who are vulnerable is a community effort and that is why it is important to social distance and frequently clean high-traffic areas, Riester-Hartsell said.How COVID-19 is transmitted and how to prevent the spread“The coronavirus or COVID-19 is passed from person-to-person,” Riester-Hartsell said. “This is why handwashing is such an important task in preventing it. It can also be picked up from surfaces. For instance, if a person coughs or sneezes those droplets can be on another surface or spread if he or she coughs into his or her hands, etc.”People should be washing their hands often, she said.“One of the biggest ways to prevent the spread of it is to wash your hands,” Riester-Hartsell said. “The use of hand sanitizer is great, but the use of soap and water is also extremely effective in removing contamination from your hands.”Face masks work as a physical barrier to reduce the introduction of germs into your respiratory passages if a person coughs or sneezes in the area or by touching your face after touching potentially contaminated surfaces, she said.“The 6-foot distance is the typical distance droplets from sneezes or coughs can travel before gravity causes them to fall onto a surface,” Riester-Hartsell said. “The 6-foot distance also allows people to not have to wear masks, such as people who have respiratory conditions and already have difficulty breathing. Masks are not recommended for people with these conditions or children under 2 years of age. By giving social distance, you are substituting what you would do by wearing a mask so as not to expose them directly.”For individuals who are considered high-risk, she recommends avoiding public places and high traffic areas as much as possible.“For high-risk populations, we definitely recommend social distancing and staying home as often as possible,” Riester-Hartsell said. “Utilizing delivery services or take out services for food or other needs, and doing whatever they can online – online banking, online shopping and reaching out to loved ones online or over the phone. For the short term these are all ways people who are at high-risk can avoid the spread of disease.”Workspaces and living areas should be cleaned daily, she said.“We also recommend both healthy and high-risk people to clean daily,” Riester said. “Cleaning high-traffic and frequently touched surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. They should use the methods the CDC recommends, such as soap and water and disinfectant afterwards.”Precautionary measures for the workplaceFor individuals who work in an essential workplace – or who may be returning to the workplace – should continue to exercise precaution.“If you are working in high-traffic areas where social distancing is difficult, we recommend using face masks,” Riester-Hartsell said. “Wearing cloth face coverings, washing your hands frequently and carrying hand sanitizer that has at least a 60 percent alcohol content or greater when you cannot wash your hands as frequently. Regardless, you should always be wiping down high-traffic areas that are being touched frequently to prevent spread of other viruses as well.”Avoiding complacencyIt is just as important for people to practice good hygiene and social distancing measures for as long as possible to not only avoid the spread COVID-19 but other viruses as well, Riester-Hartsell said.“A lot of these practices are not new, these are practices we recommend for preventing the flu and other gastrointestinal illnesses,” she said. “Things like washing your hands or not touching your nose and mouth and maintaining proper hygiene are things we have been recommending for years, and which help prevent a variety of things. This should be maintained moving forward, even once the pandemic finally dissipates.”Riester-Hartsell also warns of the dangers of complacency, as precautionary measures will be in place for the foreseeable future.“Complacency doesn’t only mean you could be infected by COVID-19 or there could be a resurgence of it, you could also get other types of illnesses,” she said. “It’s always good to maintain proper hygiene practices moving forward. Things like the masks and social distancing are specific to the outbreak, but they can also be useful in the future, like when we get to flu season in the fall and through the winter.”