How to protect yourself from infection as COVID-19 cases increase
Tips for everyone, from advice on food and take out to phone care and online love
TORONTO — With COVID-19 now impacting the lives of Canadians on so many levels, people across the country are seeking answers to numerous important questions they have about the novel coronavirus.
How does one stay safe in close quarters during COVID-19?
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert based out of Toronto General Hospital, says people need to use common sense when navigating high-traffic areas like condo lobbies, elevators and shared laundry rooms.
Natasha Salt, the Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, recommends taking the stairs when possible.
With apartment buildings brimming with high-touch surfaces – think door knobs, elevator buttons, garbage chutes, the front desk and mail room areas — Bogoch and Salt both stress maintaining good hand hygiene, especially for people living in close proximity with what could be hundreds of others.
Itching to get outdoors?
Dr. Peter Donnelly, Public Health Ontario’s president and chief executive officer, says if people want to get some exercise they should do so on their own, or in very small groups of people with whom they already live.
Infectious disease specialists are also asking people to use common sense in choosing their destinations when they want to enjoy the outdoors. That means crowded parks, boardwalks and beaches are a no-go.
Dr. Andrea Boggild, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, cautioned against using picnic tables, playgrounds and even sports courts, characterizing all of them as “high-touch areas.”
Kevin Coombs, an infectious disease specialist and professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, says COVID-19 can also stick “fairly well” to clothing, and conceivably to hair.
What about takeout?
Experts say while the chances of transmission via food courier are quite low, taking a number of precautionary steps can help minimize risk and put the mind at ease.
University of Guelph food science professor Keith Warriner says there’s more chance of being infected by a person rather than a parcel. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and on other surfaces, including plastic, for up to 72 hours.
Warriner says while there’s a small possibility an infected person may have sneezed or coughed while handling your food order, chances that the virus will be passed along on the packaging are slim. He says frequent hand-washing, particularly before or after handling food and containers, can further mitigate the risk.
How to eat healthy during the pandemic?
Experts say healthy food options are still possible while practising social distancing and self-isolation, even if it means having to rely on frozen and canned choices in an effort to make grocery store trips less frequent.
Debora Sloan, a registered dietitian in Ottawa, says things like tofu, Greek yogurt, egg whites and cottage cheese are perishable protein items that “last longer than we think,” whereas lentils and canned beans, chickpeas and tuna pack a protein punch with a longer shelf life. Having a plant-based protein powder on hand to add to things like smoothies and pancakes also helps.
Frozen fruits and vegetables also provide plenty of nutrition, says Sloan, adding that frozen options can be even better than fresh produce that has been sitting on a delivery truck after it has been picked.
How well can cell phones carry COVID-19?
A microbiology specialist from Edmonton says cell phones are like an extension of a person’s body. Jason Tetro says people have to think of their cell phones in the same way that they would think of their hands or feet and keep it as clean as they would normally keep their limbs.
Tetro, the author of “The Germ Files,” says a cell phone – like any other surface – can be contaminated by the coronavirus if it comes into contact with droplets from an infected person. Those droplets, he says, can remain infectious for “several hours,” though the degree of their ineffectiveness depends on how long they’ve been there.
Tetro cleans his own phone multiple times a day – one thorough cleaning followed by periodic wipes. He suggests using a damp cloth with soap to disinfect, being careful not to use too much liquid on an electronic. Eye glass cleaning solutions, which typically contain some form of detergent, also work.
What you need to know about working from home.
Experts say separating home office from living areas is important and that means no to using your laptop on the couch, and no to transforming your dining room table into a makeshift desk.
Toronto-based interior designer Laura Stein says natural light from windows is a must-have to avoid eye strain and depression.
Ashley Vancardo, an instructor at the Interior Design Institute of Canada, says as social distancing and self-isolation practices continue into the future, people may have to consider upgrading their current home office equipment, which includes ditching the dining room chair for an ergonomic option.
Is there love in the time of COVID-19?
COVID-19 has upended the dating scene. Experts say people who live alone will be among the hardest hit by the emotional effects of the coronavirus, with stress and uncertainty only compounding the loneliness of isolation.
Ramona Pringle, the director of the Faculty of Communication & Design’s Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University, says dating apps are not going to be for one-night hookups, but they’re going to be satisfying the need for human contact.
She says people need to be leaning into the ways that they can be there for each other digitally, and that’s why dating apps are “so, so, so important.”