News

A doctor shares 7 steps he'll review to decide when and where it's safe to go out and about

William Petri
By William Petri
June 14, 2020

As we return to some degree of normalcy after weeks of social distancing, we all need a plan. As an immunologist, I’ve given this a lot of thought personally and professionally.

When I venture out, I am first going to check the number of new COVID-19 infections in my community. In Virginia, for example, as of May 16, some health districts had 200 new daily cases and others fewer than 10. I am going to be less risk-averse when new cases fall to near zero.

Second, I will assess my risk for severe infection and the risk for severe infection for those I will be visiting. The CDC defines these risk factors as being over age 65 or having serious underlying medical conditions, which include chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromise, severe obesity (body mass index over 40), diabetes, kidney disease requiring dialysis, liver disease or living in a nursing home or long-term care facility. If I have one of these risk factors, or am visiting someone with one of these risk factors, I am going to be extra-cautious.

Third, I will draw from knowledge about how COVID-19 is transmitted. Airborne transmission and fomites, or contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs, are both means of infection. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is stable in airborne droplets, or aerosols, for hours and on the surface of cardboard for a day and plastics for two days. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine, for example, showed that half of nursing home patients who had COVID-19 were without symptoms at the time of diagnosis, by nasal swab PCR test for the virus, and yet infectious to others. Normal speech generates oral fluid droplets which are potentially infectious but are captured by a cloth face mask, preventing transmission to others.

I am going to wear a mask to help prevent my giving the infection to others, avoid touching surfaces such as handrails, try not to touch my eyes or nose or mouth with my hands and wash my hands frequently.

I am going to try to stay outdoors, where the risk of infection from aerosols is less, and if indoors stay six feet distant from others and limit my time there.

I am going to assess my risk for infecting others. If I have a fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches or tiredness, I am not going to venture out and risk exposing others to COVID-19. Even if healthy, I am going to wear a mask when out so that I can protect others if I am unknowingly infected but pre-symptomatic.

While it is tempting to resume normal activities, I have to remember – and I hope you will, too – that my individual behavior affects not only my health, but also yours.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image credit: Danielle Rice/Unsplash
William Petri
William Petri

William Petri is a professor of  medicine and microbiology at the University of Virginia who specializes in infectious diseases.

Related articles

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions
Miguel A. Contreras Hidalgo & Danielle Guarracino
From the journals: MCP
Nuala Del Piccolo & Laurel Oldach
Ceramides’ role in liver disease
Eleonora Scorletti & Rotonya M. Carr
Share your aha moments!
Allison Frick
Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest
Richard F. Ludueña, Mindy Engevik & Kazuhiko Igarashi

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions
Contest

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions

May 6, 2021

To celebrate our three journals going open access, we invited readers to share their moments of discovery in science. Here are two honorable mentions.

From the journals: MCP
Journal News

From the journals: MCP

May 6, 2021

Using silver nanoparticles to target cancer. Glycosylation of SARS-CoV-2. Characterizing the glycan signature in tumor tissue. Read about recent papers in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.

Ceramides’ role in liver disease
Lipid News

Ceramides’ role in liver disease

May 5, 2021

These biologically active sphingolipids have roles in apoptosis, inflammation and insulin resistance, all critical factors in the pathogenesis of chronic liver disease.

Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest
Contest

Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest

May 4, 2021

To celebrate our three journals going open access, we invited readers to share their moments of discovery in science. Here are the first, second and third place winners.

The 17th-century cloth merchant who discovered the vast realm of tiny microbes
News

The 17th-century cloth merchant who discovered the vast realm of tiny microbes

May 2, 2021

Although untrained in science, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek became the greatest lens-maker of his day, discovered microscopic life forms and is known today as the “father of microbiology.”

Do kids really need to be vaccinated for COVID?
News

Do kids really need to be vaccinated for COVID?

May 1, 2021

Many experts argue that Covid-19 cannot be curbed without vaccinating children. But others aren’t so sure.