How Experts Are Assessing Risk During the Pandemic! The Do’s & Don’ts
The first cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were reported in January, and the deadly illness still has a grip on the United States eight months later. While people are trying to move forward, COVID-19 has changed life as they once knew it.
Since questions remain about the deadly disease, some frontline healthcare professionals are providing insight into how they manage daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The experts include:
Dr. Dara A. Kass, an emergency medicine physician in New York City
Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Uché Blackstock, an emergency physician, and Founder and CEO at Advancing Health Equity in New York
Dr. Jennifer L. Hartstein, a child, adolescent and family psychologist who practices in New York City
The medical professionals also share what they do to protect themselves from exposure to the coronavirus. For one, the experts follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines involve:
- Staying six feet away from others
- Wearing a face mask
- Frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial soap
According to Patel, washing your hands may seem “small,” but it can have a “big effect” on reducing the risk of exposure to the virus.
There is no COVID-19 vaccine yet; so for now, the CDC recommends limiting face-to-face contact with others. All four experts believe there will eventually be a COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, Patel and Blackstock estimate a vaccine may be ready by sometime next year.
According to Hartstein, the difficult part about vaccines is having “empirically supported data” to show that it’s effective, and this is something that cannot be rushed.
Is it Safe to Visit Family and Friends?
Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we interact with people, and Kass said she does not see this going back to the way it used to be anytime soon.
Patel said the hardest part for her about the coronavirus pandemic is accepting the fact that she is not going to see her family, and probably won’t see them until there is a COVID-19 vaccine. As a physician, Patel said she is at high risk for exposure to the virus and she does not want to place her elderly parents or anyone else at risk.
For Hartstein, it all depends on knowing what protective measures people are taking prior to visiting them. For instance, Hartstein said she knows exactly how some of her friends have been doing. So, she feels comfortable being in their house without a mask. However, when she went to see her parents after they returned from a trip to Florida, she wore a mask and her parents did, too.
Blackstock said she visits her sister because she knows she takes precautions. The doctor said she also meets with friends, all of whom wear masks and keep a physical distance from each other.
Do Prevention Suggestions In The Pandemic’s Early Days Still Apply?
There were fears at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak that the virus could be transmitted to products in the grocery store and packages delivered to homes. So, the public was advised to wear gloves while shopping, and use disinfectant wipes to clean groceries and packages.
Blackstock said she does not take precautions at the grocery store since data shows that the virus does not live a long time on food. Similarly, Hartstein said she does not disinfect her packages delivered to her home, but opens them, empties them, gets them out of the house, and wipes down counters.
Although the coronavirus can survive for a short time on surfaces, the CDC said it is not likely that people can become infected with COVID-19 from handling domestic or international mail, products or packaging.
Another recommendation made when the coronavirus first hit the nation was whether people should change their clothes after being outside. According to Hartstein, this recommendation “came and went” as something that was necessary to do. Hartstein said she does not wash her clothes when she comes in from outside because she is not in places where she is exposed to the virus.
On the other hand, as emergency medical physicians, Blackstock and Patel say they change their clothes when they come home after working with patients all day. Blackstock added that she takes off her shoes, puts them in a closet, and takes a shower. However, if it’s just going for a walk or running errands, the doctors said they do not change their clothes.
On Take Outs, Work Outs, and Dining In
Dining in a restaurant and working out in a gym are not risks the experts expect to take during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You will not catch me dining indoors,” Blackstone said. Why? Because there is a high degree of COVID-19 transmission in restaurants, clubs, and bars, Blackstone said. The doctor noted that some recent data show airborne transmission of COVID-19 particles stays in the air for long periods of time, according to the doctor.
Kass said she does not see herself dining inside a restaurant in the near future. However, she is dining and drinking outside. After all, “we have to find a new normal,” Kass said.
Rather than going to a gym, Blackstone added that she does workouts at home and runs outside. Likewise, Patel does not go to the gym. In fact, the doctor asked to freeze her membership and is now debating whether she should cancel it. Hartstein said she walks with a friend in Central Park twice a week.
But, going to a salon to get their hair and nails done and a pedicure is something the experts are willing to risk since salon operators are wearing masks and doing other things to keep customers safe.
Summer Camp Is Out, Going Back to School Is Questionable, and Traveling Is Limited
There is “definitely no summer camp” for Blackstock’s children, even if the pandemic improves. Summer camp is not in the picture for Kass’s children, either, although she said she will try to send her children to school, which is more beneficial.
As for going back to school, Patel said she is not confident that there is enough data on children to send them back to school. In the meantime, Patel said she is working with her children’s schools to consider protocols and how to make it safe for students to go back to school.
Summer travel, for the most part, is limited to driving or taking the bus since traveling by plane is out of the question for the experts. Patel, for instance, said she canceled plans that involved a plane or a hotel. Blackstock said she plans to take her children somewhere close to New York City.
Hartstein said if she had travel plans, she might not be too worried about staying in a hotel or Airbnb because the accommodations are probably cleaner than ever with everyone knowing what’s at risk.