By Cory Phare
As more and more Americans adjust to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re also met with a barrage of information and are often left with more questions than answers.
RED went to infectious-disease specialist Sheryl Zajdowicz, Ph.D., professor of biology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, for answers to the most commonly asked questions she’s fielding during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sheryl Zajdowicz: As the virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets from infected individuals and there is low risk of contracting the virus from surfaces or food, it is safe to order takeout/delivery.
However, Zajdowitz says there are a few things to keep in mind:
Zajdowicz: A recent study showed that in a laboratory setting with precise environmental conditions (that may not be reflective of the various conditions in a natural setting), the virus has variable survival on different surfaces.
It should also be noted that while the virus may be present on surfaces, it is unclear as to whether the amount of virus that would be transferred to a person is sufficient to cause active infection through contact transfer.
Zajdowicz: You definitely don’t want to mix bleach or other compounds, as the results can be toxic. Any common household disinfectants – Lysol, Clorox disinfectant wipes, etc. – along with bleach, hydrogen peroxide and other products with at least 70% rubbing alcohol are all effective on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If you can’t find those, use soap and water to disinfect.
The CDC recommends against the use of vinegar and essential oils in disinfecting surfaces potentially contaminated with SARS-CoV-2. Seventh Generation products are EPA-approved disinfectants and indicate that they can combat flu and many other pathogens. However, they are not on the recommended list for SARS-CoV-2 because they are not listed under the EPA’s Emerging Viral Pathogen program at this time; they have submitted an application for consideration, though.
Zajdowicz: Your hands should be the most washed items in your house! Otherwise, cleaning surfaces that are commonly touched such as countertops, handles, doorknobs and even light switches, etc., is always good practice in preventing the spread of sickness.
Zajdowicz: Getting outdoors for fresh air and exercise is great for the immune response and for mental health. There is low risk if you are maintaining distance (even if you are in the most vulnerable populations).
If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, however, you should stay indoors to recover or seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe.
Zajdowicz: This is a tough question to answer as predictions are based on modeling and there are different variables that can be put into play. ... With the lack of the ability to test all individuals to determine those who are currently infected as well as those who may have already been infected, it’s challenging to get a clear representation to make predictions.
I’m hopeful that studies from the cruise ship and the antibody testing being done in Telluride will give a better representation for predictions. There was a great report in Science magazine recently that discussed three models and predictions.
Zajdowicz: It’s important to not panic. Take precautions as suggested by the CDC – frequent handwashing, not touching your face, disinfecting surfaces, social distancing, staying home if you’re sick – and if you have suspected symptoms, call your medical provider for guidance while limiting your interaction with people in your home. If your symptoms are severe and require emergency attention, go to the hospital.
Exercise and boosting the immune response can help to protect you as well. These are all true for preventing the spread of any infectious agent.
Try to find something to bolster your spirits … whether it’s taking a walk, reading a good book, snuggling with kids or fur kids, binging a show on Netflix, watching those cheesy movies that you’d never admit to watching, trying a new recipe, gardening, taking virtual guitar lessons with a group of other enthusiasts, Facetiming for coffee time or happy hours with friends and family, or whatever else may give you a little boost.
Lifting your spirits has great benefits for not only your mental health but also your immune response.
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