Now that more and more activities and services are reopening after coronavirus closures, how do people who fight the virus every day decide which activities are safe to resume and which are off-limits?
Dr. Michelle Barron, who oversees infectious disease control and prevention at UCHealth and Dr. Ken Lyn-Kew, a critical care pulmonologist with National Jewish Health both agreed to tell us how they look at re-entering the world after long sheltering as a precaution against COVID-19.
Both doctors acknowledge they are hyper-vigilant.
Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution to re-entering society, it’s like any complicated decision. Everyone has their own set of factors to consider. The doctors recommend Coloradans adhere to legal restrictions and inform yourself about the risks and how to mitigate them, learn about the safety practices of the places you frequent, and, finally, do what feels right for you and your family.
Go for a haircut?
Barron got a cut and color May 22 from her stylist David MacDonald at Moda Salon in Denver. She’s known him for 20 years. As someone who is trained in infectious disease prevention, she grilled her stylist about how well he sanitizes the salon before she became his client.
“Even before coronavirus I was the crazy person wiping everything down with wipes and using hand sanitizers,” Barron said.
Since she knew he was thorough and cautious, she was comfortable going back for a 3-hour appointment.
“I ended up coming through the back door instead of the front door because he moved his area so that he could socially distance from the other person that works in the salon,” Barron said. “ I had to wear a mask. I didn't just sort of march in, he texted me ahead of time and said, when I'm ready for you, I'll text you and you can come into the salon.”
Her stylist even got rid of the magazines in the waiting area; one less point of contact to have to worry about.
Lyn-Kew has a “pandemic-proof” hairstyle — he’s bald — however, he said he would want his wife and children to stick with a hairstylist they know, who they trust to follow all the precautions.
It’s worth noting that even before the pandemic, the state has required salons to follow strict protocols for sanitizing tools and surfaces.
Dine-in at a restaurant?
Lyn-Kew is a no. He'd rather support the restaurant by ordering takeout he can take home rather than sitting there worrying about all sorts of things.
“I'd be staring at every table and be like, how are they cleaning this? What are they doing? What are they cleaning it with? And it would just make it stressful,” Lyn-Kew said.
To him, patio seating with social distancing would be better because of the airflow. Even so, he'd still worry about how they clean.
“Did they clean underneath the arm of the chair?” Lyn-Kew said with a laugh. “You know, like all those types of crazy things that I would be hyper-vigilant about.”
The same goes for a brewery. Although he is glad the state allows carry-out alcohol which he gets from his favorite brewpub.
Dining in at a restaurant might work for Barron if she was familiar with the cleaning protocol. She thinks it can be safe but it might not be very relaxing. She normally likes a leisurely meal, lingering over a glass of wine while people watching.
“I think I would be looking more from the lens of infection control than I would normally look, like how they're putting things down, how water is being served. If people are wearing masks or not wearing masks,” Barron said.
Go to the gym, yoga class or play team sports?
As with other places she’s deciding about, Barron would want to know specifics at her yoga studio. Oh, and she’d bring her own mat, too.
“The yoga benefit I think might be worth it to my mental state,” Barron said. “But I'd probably again have to have sort of all these things outlined in ahead of time before I would go so that I could actually do the practice and get the benefit that I'd want rather than being paranoid again and watching everybody instead of practicing.”
Lyn-Kew wants to figure out how it will work for his children, 8 and 12 respectively, when their competitive soccer leave starts again. He thinks it’s very important for them physically and mentally. Practice should be fine, he said.
“When you're spaced out and you're doing your drills, you know, you're huffing and puffing and you're breathing hard and anything that's inside you, you're going to breathe out. But you're, again, you're spaced apart,” Lyn-Kew said. “When they start playing together and you know, you're defending a offensive player and your right up on each other and now you have this elevated respiratory rate and you're kicking out more and more than you normally would. That's the one I struggle with.”
Wear a face mask when they enjoy the outdoors?
Lyn-Kew said it isn’t necessary to wear a mask when riding a bike, running, or even walking if you aren’t near others. That's because there is so much air movement and so little time spent near others in those circumstances.
“The one thing that we like to do here in Colorado, which is go find some trailhead that's got like not enough parking and people are spilling over onto the highway and crowding into that area, and I think that that's the area where people are at risk with outdoor recreation,” Lyn-Kew said.
Go to libraries when they reopen?
Both said they would likely go to the library. Barron said she’d bring her own hand sanitizer (that she brings everywhere already, naturally). She would wipe down any table she sat at and wash her hands frequently. She'd take any books she checks out home.
Lyn-Kew is more cautious than Barron. Since you can’t wipe down books with disinfectant, he would check-out library books and leave them in the garage a couple of days to kill off any virus on the surface.
Bonus Question: Do they worry about bringing home stuff from the store?
Barron isn’t too worried about bringing packages and take-out into her home because of the research she’s read about the virus on surfaces. Even though studies show it can remain on some surfaces, she said she doesn’t think that in the real world everything is contaminated. The surface she most worries about is her hands.
“The hands, the hands the hands!” she said when she described her cleaning habits. It comes naturally after working in the infectious disease field for two decades, she said. So she’s not worried about unloading groceries or take-out from restaurants because she washes when she gets home and after she puts things away.
Like books from the library, Lyn-Kew is more cautious.
“I wipe down everything,” Lyn-Kew said. “You see somebody pick up a box, they look at it, they put it down. I don't know if that person's washed their hands right. If they have washed their hands, did they touch anything else before they touch that box?”
“And the chances of picking something up that way admittedly are quite low,” he added. “But I'm all about any of the risks I can mitigate, mitigating them, cause I take enough risks as it is at work.”
Lyn-Kew has to sterilize himself when he returns home after 12 hours in the ICU with COVID-19 patients. He said he showers at work and when he gets home he dashes straight into a basement shower before seeing any of his family.
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