Go to the gym? Get a haircut? Dare to touch that package Amazon just left on the front stoop?
Yes, life in the age of COVID-19 can be dizzying. Decisions once made on autopilot have become stressful, each a microcosm of the world in which we now live. Every day, we’re forced to weigh the benefits of countless activities — grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks, seeing friends, getting that toilet fixed – versus a single danger: the potential of contracting a life-threatening virus.
It’s enough to drive you to drink. Except, of course, don’t do it in a bar. Because, well, that’s just too darned risky.
But, really, where’s the line between things that are OK and those that aren’t?
In February, we gave a series of presentations to board members at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation about the then-new virus. We ended pretty much every discussion point in our Power Point with the warning, “but, at this point, we just don’t know.”
With 11 million-plus cases around the world, we’ve learned a few things since then about the virus technically known as SARS-CoV-2. So, when The Washington Post recently asked Dr. Anthony Fauci and five other health experts how they’re dealing with the day-to-day conundrums that confront us all, we took note.
Their responses (summarized below, with excerpts) offer an interesting snapshot, both of what we’ve learned and what even the experts still can’t agree on.
When do you wear a mask?
Consensus: Any time I’m indoors, other than my home or in my office alone.
Paul Volberding, professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco: “I think people are crazy not to be wearing masks. The evidence that they are effective is pretty strong.”
Do you allow cleaners and service people into your home?
Linda Bell, South Carolina state epidemiologist: “I allow repair workers in the home and don’t make them wear a mask while they’re working, but I do when I have contact with them, and I keep my distance.”
Are you getting your hair cut?
Consensus: No consensus. Some are doing it themselves, others have stylists come to their homes, and one went to the salon to get it done.
Bell: “I would go if the business allowed only one client at a time in the general area, there was no waiting with other clients and the use of masks by all employees was required.”
Do you disinfect items you buy at the grocery store?
Elizabeth Connick, professor of medicine, University of Arizona: “I don’t wash the packages. I did that for about a week, then decided there would be more cases if the virus was transmitted that way. I don’t think there is a lot of virus hanging around on the packages. I do wash my hands.”
Do you take precautions with mail or packages?
Consensus: No consensus. Some do nothing, others let items sit a day or two, and some wash their hands after touching mail or packages.
Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: “I used to, but now I just bring the mail in, wash my hands, then let it lie around for a day or two before I open it.”
Would you dine inside at a restaurant?
Connick: “I avoid any closed space with a lot of people, particularly when it’s people whose risk I don’t know. I think the biggest risk is being in a closed space and breathing the same air that other people are breathing, and also not wearing masks.”
How about eating outside at a restaurant? Or takeout?
Consensus: Yes and yes.
Barry Bloom, former dean, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “I’m a big believer in outside, that it’s safer outside.”
Connick: “I would die if I didn’t do takeout.”
Would you work out at a gym?
Volberding: “They can’t disinfect everything all of the time.”
Do you have friends over for dinner, or vice versa?
Consensus: Very rarely, if at all, and only to dine outside.
Fauci: “We don’t do anything inside. If it’s too hot, or rainy, we cancel it.”
Are you making routine trips to the doctor or dentist?
Bloom: “I’m still nervous about infection control. If I had a major dental or medical emergency, I would go.”
Are you willing to fly?
Fauci: “I have been on flights where I’ve been seated near people who were sneezing or coughing, and then three days later, I’ve got it. So, no chance.”
If you had young kids, would you send them to school in the fall?
Consensus: No consensus.
Connick: “I think that’s a very difficult question. I’m very glad I don’t have to make that decision.”