The coronavirus pandemic has triggered rapidly changing strategies in local cities to reduce the spread while maintaining some form of economy and socializing. “Social distancing” at least 6 feet away from others is a main official recommendation, and while area restaurants are order to cease dine-in service, takeout and delivery remain allowed.
Those efforts are about reducing, not eliminating, the risk of catching the virus, infectious disease expert Dr. Phyllis Kozarksy says.
“All is not known and nothing is 100% guaranteed,” said Kozarsky. “All interactions have risk….”
Kozarsky is a recently retired professor of medicine at Emory University in its Division of Infectious Diseases and a consultant at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine and its Travelers’ Health branch. She is also a Buckhead resident.
The 6-feet rule of social distancing is rapidly becoming a social norm relied upon by people who continue to visit such public places as grocery stores and parks. But there are also reports of the virus remaining in the air for a time after a person has exhaled it, where it could infect others passing by.
“Social distancing means maintaining enough distance to decrease the risk of inhaling droplets containing virus shed from someone else,” Kozarsky said. “Droplet spread is said to decrease with keeping a distance of 6 feet or greater from someone else. The virus can remain in the air for a while. How long ‘a while’ is may depend on variables such as the temperature, wind, humidity, etcetera. All is not known and nothing is 100% guaranteed.”
Food takeout and delivery still involve human interaction, though plainly less than sitting in a crowded dining room.
“All interactions have risk — we need to do the best we can and clean our hands as best possible after handling items that have been just handled by others,” Kozarsky said. “It is recommended that after delivery or pick-up, we empty the contents of the packages into our own containers or onto our own dishes, and then discard the plastic or cardboard.
“Studies have shown that the virus can live from hours to days on inanimate objects, again, depending on environmental factors,” she said. “However, it is unknown whether the virus on these objects remains able to be transmitted. There has been no evidence about which I am aware that shows transmission of disease in this way.”
As for Kozarsky herself, she said the pandemic is not keeping her entirely indoors.
“How am I handling this crisis? Teleworking, washing my hands, keeping my distance, going for walks with my husband, keeping up with my family as much as possible, and trying to be grateful for all that I have,” she said.
Information about the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes is changing rapidly. For the latest updates, see cdc.gov.