COVID-19 has most of us sheltering in place, social distancing and washing our hands more than ever. The recent coronavirus pandemic also has many of us confused and anxious. Should we wear a mask? Should we wash our groceries?
Dr. Erica Kaufman West, a board-certified infectious disease specialist with Franciscan Physician Network, breaks down many common questions about how the COVID-19 coronavirus is spread.
How Is COVID-19 Transmitted?
The COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted by droplets.
"What that means is if you don't cover your mouth or when you sneeze, those droplets fly out of your mouth 100 miles per hour," Dr. Kaufman West said in a recent podcast. "Covering your coughs and sneezes becomes very important. Because you create a physical barrier, those droplets don't fly everywhere on the person next to you and all over the counter that the desk or whatever's in front of you. Those particles - the little spittles that are landing on the keyboard and the telephone - are what's infectious. It's really the droplets that are the issue and those droplets getting into your mucus membranes."
By touching a contaminated surface and not washing your hands, those droplets may stay on your hand. The virus can then be transmitted into your body when you touch your eye or nose or even bite your fingernails.
"The problem that as humans we touch our eyes and nose and mouth our face, approximately two dozen times every hour or two hours," Dr. Kaufman West said. "It's an incredible amount of times that we touch our face. And so the issue is stop touching your face and wash your hands often, and you probably won't have an issue."
Should I Wear Gloves To Protect Myself From The Coronavirus?
While some people are choosing to wear gloves in public, wearing gloves without minding other virus precautions may provide a false sense of security.
"I feel like there's been this huge rush to not touch anything or to put gloves on before you touch anything," Dr. Kaufman West said. "But if you put a glove on and you touch the keyboard and then you touch your nose, nothing, you haven't changed anything."
Should I Clean My Groceries?
"I always recommend that people wash their fruits and vegetables," Dr. Kaufaman West said. "Bananas are a little different cause we don't usually cut through the skin of a banana. But even things that you cut through like an avocado. If you haven't washed the outside of it, any germs that are on the outside, including more of an issue would be bacteria, that you would cut through and then put into your food. So you should always, no matter if there's a pandemic or not, wash all of your fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
While viral videos discuss processes for wiping down every item from your grocery store haul, Dr. Kaufman West says that step is not as essential if you keep your hands washed.
"Do you have to wipe down, you know, the paper towel roll or something like that that you bought? The answer's no," she said. "It's just important to wash your hands. So if you pick up a package from outside, you know, you go get your mail, it's probably a good idea to set that down. Wash your hands and then don't touch your face.
"Those are always going to be my answers for things is wash your hands and don't touch your face."
What Can We Best Do To Flatten The Curve?
"Obviously the more people can stay home, the less people are going to get infected, the less supplies will run out of, the more hospital beds will be available," Dr. Kaufman West said. "I think that there's still a lot that can be done in the vast majority of this country to decrease the amount of people that are exposed and ultimately infected. It's not hopeless, that there is still a lot that people can do and just staying home helps us healthcare workers tremendously."
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