(BPT) - It has been a challenging year, full of anxiety about health and safety. While there are signs of improvement, the pandemic is still ongoing, which means that it’s important to continue to take proactive steps to help protect you and your family from COVID-19 — as well as from the flu and other illnesses. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you stay on top of what’s going on in your local community, learn best practices for killing germs in your home, and quickly assess the risk of traveling to other areas in the U.S.
Here are some easy methods for tracking COVID-19 levels and additional steps to help protect you and your family from the spread of the virus and other illness-causing germs.
Know the risks in your own community
Just as you rely on weather reports for warnings about safety hazards where you live, wouldn’t it be great if there were a free, easy-to-use tool showing the local incidence levels for the flu and COVID-19?
Now there is. The free Lysol Germ-Cast™ app shows up-to-date COVID-19 infection rates on a county-by-county basis, plus a three-week projection for flu inflection rates. The app uses data powered by public health company Kinsa, applying machine learning and AI to identify hotspots before they emerge, which creates an accurate early warning system for contagious illness in your area.
Knowing the level of risk right where you live can help you make informed decisions to stay vigilant and to help keep your family safe and healthy. This innovative app also provides useful tips, tricks and guidance to help stop the spread of illness-causing germs.
Prioritize cleaning and disinfecting your home
Cleaning and disinfecting your home is one of the best ways to help protect your family from illness-causing germs. While you may think your home looks clean, the truth is that decluttering does not equal disinfection, and even a clean looking home may contain illness-causing bacteria and viruses.
In fact, one study about the transmission of viruses in households found that while most people (65%) say they clean to make their house look and smell clean, 25% of surfaces tested in those same homes were found to have moderate or heavy bacterial growth.
To reduce viruses and bacteria in your home, focus on disinfecting high-touch surfaces and spaces with heavy traffic. Here are the top three areas to prioritize:
In the study mentioned above, kitchen cloths were the most contaminated, with 86% having moderate or heavy bacterial growth, with kitchen taps the second-most contaminated (52%). Swap out kitchen towels and cloths frequently, and use laundry sanitizer to get rid of lingering bacteria.
Additionally, look to regularly clean and disinfect all other high-touch objects and surfaces in the kitchen, such as light switches, cabinet doors, drawer and fridge handles, faucets, countertops and trash containers.
Between the high traffic and the moist environment that germs love, your home bathroom is a space that needs extra care. Make sure that disinfecting the sink, counter, bathtub, faucet, shower area, doorknob and toilet handle are all a part of your cleaning and disinfecting game plan.
Check manufacturers’ websites for your electronic items such as phones, remotes, game consoles, tablets and computers to follow their instructions on safe cleaning and disinfecting of those frequently used items — then plan to clean and disinfect them often.
Take precautions prior to and during travel
While more individuals are slowly opening their circles and thinking about travel in anticipation of a decrease in COVID cases, it’s important that people don’t let their guard down too soon and continue to take precautions if they do decide to travel during the pandemic.
Prior to traveling, use a tool that tracks COVID incidence levels like Lysol Germ-Cast™ to ensure you have fully assessed the risk involved with travelling to that area.
When in transit, make sure you are vigilant of your surroundings and frequently touched areas, such as seats and handrails, turnstiles, bathroom faucets and buttons on vending machines and elevators. To disinfect these areas while on-the-go, consider Lysol® Disinfectant Spray To Go® and Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes To-Go Pack for convenient travel-sized options that still get the job done.
 Journal of Infection Prevention. “The survival of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus on 4 household surfaces”; Published April 2014.
 Use as directed.
 Use as directed. Rinse food contact surfaces with potable water.
 Use as directed. Not recommended for use on brass, copper or aluminum surfaces.