7 Healthcare Experts On Staying Safe Throughout COVID-19 Pandemic

Figuring out what advice to listen to about staying safe from COVID-19 can seem frustrating. A great example is the use of personal protective equipment such as masks. At first, masks were supposed to be used only by healthcare workers and were NOT recommended for the average person. Now, it’s highly recommended to wear a mask whenever out in public and some places even require it. With so much contradictory information out there about the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) we took the time to ask multiple health experts including physicians and doctors whom are very familiar with what really matters during this pandemic.

Dr. Chad Sanborn, MD

Infectious Disease Pediatrician

KIDZ Medical Services

Dr. Sanborn did his undergraduate studies in biology at Brown University then proceeded to obtain his medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Sanborn completed a 3-year pediatric infectious disease fellowship at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.

For over a decade, Dr. Sanborn has worked as a pediatric infectious disease physician in Palm Beach County where he treats his patients for infectious diseases such as MRSA, recurring fevers, skin and bone infections, parasitic infections, HIV, and recurrent viral infections.

Dr. Sanborn is board certified in both pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases from the American Board of Pediatrics.

Dr. Chad Sanborn’s Tips

When shopping, we use our hands to touch a lot of objects and products on the shelves that other people may have touched. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer while shopping and after you finish is helpful.* 

It is a good idea to wipe your shopping cart or basket down with sanitizing wipes. Upon returning home, wash your hands as soon as possible for at least 20 seconds to remove any virus particles you may have picked up from the store.

Try to shop during off-hours if at all possible. This one is pretty simple- the fewer people you’re around, the less likely you are to become ill while out shopping. It’s good sense to avoid large crowds. Also, you’ll be able to get in and out quicker if there are fewer people in the store. 

Try to think of others and do not go shopping if you are sick. This can include fever, cough, sore throat or nasal congestion. As per the CDC COVID-19 section on infection control guidance “ Current data suggest person-to-person transmission most commonly happens during close exposure to a person infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, primarily via respiratory droplets produced when the infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes.” We will inadvertently touch our faces, cough or sneeze and possibly expose others to coronavirus if we are ill. 

Curbside pickup and delivery are great options during this pandemic. If you can avoid going into a store you are decreasing your exposure to others who might be sick. Also, by not entering a store, you are not exposing other shoppers and store employees In the event that you are asymptomatically infected.

 If you have to go to the store, try to keep your distance (ideally six feet or more) from others. Wear a face mask so you don’t touch your face and reduce the chance you expose others to the virus by coughing or sneezing. Plan your visit ahead of time to minimize your time in the store. Most of all, be patient while shopping! 

*Persistence of Coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection. 2020 Mar; 104 (3):246-251.

Dr. Alexis Parcells, MD

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Parcells graduated from Georgetown University with her (B.A.) and obtained her medical degree (M.D.) from St. George’s University. Her specialization in plastic surgery was completed at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS).

Dr. Parcells serves as a clinical instructor to residents and medical students at RWJ Barnabas Health. She’s renown for her excellence in teaching with two NJMS Golden Apple nominations. She is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Alexis Parcells’ Q&A

How can the average person protect themselves as society reopens?

The best thing you can do is check in and make sure you are feeling healthy before venturing out. If you don’t feel well, stay in and if you have symptoms related to COVID-19, contact your doctor’s office. If you do decide to head out, make sure to understand your local government’s current policies and prepare to abide by them. Most states are still requiring the use of masks in public places. Carrying hand sanitizer and applying it both before and after touching surfaces or your face can help prevent the spread of disease. Practice social distancing.

What are the most effective infection control methods businesses and organizations can use to keep their employees safe?

Employers should have an open dialogue to address their employees’ concerns so everyone feels safe during business hours. Plastic or acrylic barriers to prevent contamination, frequent hand washing, social distancing, and touchless payment are all helpful ways to keep both employees and customers safe.

Should people still be cautious and wear personal protective equipment? How does reopening affect behavior in society?

Being aware and taking care of yourself is still of paramount importance during this time. While we have flattened the curve in many parts of the country, we are still responsible for our own health and behaviors to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Remember, we are all in this together.

Dr. Jay Woody, MD, FACEP

Emergency Room Physician

Intuitive Health

As chief medical officer of Intuitive Health and founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care, Dr. Jay Woody, MD, ABEM, FACEP he has established himself as an authorithy on the subject of emergency medicine and helped pioneer the combined ER and urgent care hybrid model.

Dr. Woody has been a contributor to important references such as the Prehospital and Disaster Medicine Journal, the Journal of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine as well as two textbooks – Medical Response to Terrorism: Preparedness and Clinical Practice, and AAEM Emergency Medical and Family Health.

Dr. Jay Woody’s Q&A

How can the average person protect themselves as society reopens?

Wash your hands. The absolute best way to prevent germs from spreading is to simply wash your hands. This is a small yet significant step in living healthier. Regularly washing your hands helps prevent bad bacteria and viruses from entering your body and causing you to get sick.

Should people still be cautious and wear personal protective equipment? How does reopening affect behavior in society?

For personal protective equipment (PPE) we follow the CDC recommendations. Currently the CDC is advising the public to wear a face covering in public settings, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.  Per the CDC, cloth masks are fine for the general public. Surgical masks and N-96 respirators are critical supplies and should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

COVID-19 is passed from one person to another through respiratory droplets (cough/sneeze). Face masks are primarily used to prevent the sick person’s respiratory droplets spreading to others. While masks do help when worn, removed and disposed of properly, they are only one part of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Frequent handwashing will always be the first line of defense against COVID-19.

Removing your face mask

However, many individuals are not removing them properly increasing their contamination risk. If you are not infected, the highest risk of contamination is the front of the face mask. Individuals should follow the CDC protocol on removing their masks. Masks should be removed from the back not the front. Unfortunately, I witness individuals haphazardly removing their masks. Their unwashed hands are touching the inside of the mask and then their hands touch their face. When this happens, the face mask becomes pointless. Additionally, If the person recuses the same face mask and has touched the inside of the mask, when they reapply their face mask the germs have direct access to their mucous membranes.

Don’t stop washing your hands

Remember your first line of defense against spreading the virus is to wash your hands. Before you put your mask on, wash your hands. Before you remove your face mask, wash your hands. After you remove your face mask, wash your hands. The general public is simply not used to washing their hands this frequently and there is a lot of room for cross-contamination and even self-contamination.

Cloth masks aren’t as good but better than none

Currently, there are hundreds of thousands of handmade cloth face masks. Cloth face masks are not as effective as medical grade face masks, but they do offer some protection. Some protection is better than no protection. However, these cloth masks need to be machine washed and dried thoroughly, ideally after each use.  For those who do have single-use face masks they need to dispose of their face masks properly. Cross-contamination is highly probable when individuals leave their masks in their shopping cart, in the parking lot or leaving it in their cars.

Ditch the gloves:

Frankly, in my opinion, non-healthcare people are doing more harm wearing gloves than not. Gloves give people a false sense of security. Gloves do absolutely no good if the wearers are not washing their hands diligently. People who wear gloves need to recognize that the risk for cross contamination is huge. And, removing, also known as doffing, the gloves must be done properly. Removing gloves presents the highest risk of contamination. Gloves must be removed by essentially purling from the top and turning them inside out.  The CDC has a step-by-step guide on how to properly remove gloves. Once the gloves are on you should not be touching anything else – like your mobile device.  The virus and germs will be on the gloves and easily transferable.  People are commonly doing everything they would typically do without gloves with gloves or even more.

Boosting Immunity

Promoting healthy habits can stave off a lot of the most worrisome illnesses and help to improve one’s immunity.

  1. Washing hands: This is a small yet significant step in living healthier. Regularly washing your hands helps prevent bad bacteria and viruses from entering your body and causing you to get sick.

  2. Sleep: Getting the proper amount of sleep at night is absolutely necessary. Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, which gives your body time to rejuvenate.

  3. Balanced diet: This doesn’t mean you have to cut out carbohydrates or condemn sugars, but it does mean you should be conscious about what you eat as it does affect your overall health. Eating a balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy body weight and aid in reducing illnesses. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans offers a few guidelines on how to maintain a healthy diet.

  4. Fitness: Whether you’re a gym junkie or you take a walk a couple times a week, it’s important to get your body moving. Some form of exercise is important for your heart, mind and overall health.

  5. Water: Simply follow the 8×8 rule – you should drink about eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Water is good for your skin, muscles, maintaining body fluids and making sure your body functions properly.

  6. Reduce stress: Whether you read a book, take a trip, socialize with friends or do some yoga, reducing stress is vital. Immune systems come under attack more easily when your body is stressed, making it much easier for you to get sick.

  7. See your doctor: It’s important to periodically check in with your doctor. They can help monitor your body, answer any questions you may have and advise you on how to live a healthier lifestyle. Stay up to date on all vaccinations: Vaccinations are important, especially flu shots, which are recommended once a flu season for children and adults ages 6 months and up. Typically, the U.S. flu season lasts from October through May with peak periods between December and February. The CDC recommends people get a flu shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available (usually around October) to ensure as many people as possible are protected early in the season. Vaccines generally fire-up the immune system. They don’t cause sickness, but the body doesn’t know that. They essentially trick the body into thinking it is sick, which may cause mild aches, pains or a feeling of being “off”, but these things are short-lived and mild in comparison to true infection. When vaccines trick the body, they cause it to create antibodies to fight something that isn’t there. Because the antibodies are present and don’t have an actual foe to fight, they generally stay ready in the body. If you encounter that infection later, your body should already be primed and ready to fight because it can tap into those stored antibodies.

Dr. Leann Poston MD, MBA, M.Ed

Licensed Physician and Director of Admissions

Boonshoft School of Medicine

Dr. Poston is a licensed physician who holds an MBA and an M.Ed. Her career includes practicing pediatric medicine, mentoring medical students, and acting as Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.

Dr. Poston has an extensive background in writing articles for medical journals. Currently, she also works as a professional content contributor for Ikon Health.

Dr. Leann Poston’s Tips

The CDC recommends wearing gloves if you are using cleaning supplies or caring for someone who is sick. Wearing gloves while using cleaning supplies is recommended to protect your skin from the harshness of the chemical in the cleaners. Wearing gloves when you are caring for someone who is sick has an obvious start and stopping point. You don gloves before touching contaminated bedding and other items. You remove the gloves as you exit the area and you wash your hands. 

If you wear gloves in situations that do not have an obvious start and stopping point you forget that your gloves are contaminated. People put on gloves, go shopping, use their cell phones, touch their faces, enter their cars and homes, and then remove their gloves. Their hands were covered, but they cross-contaminated everything they touched. It is easier to forget about cross-contamination when wearing gloves. You are much more aware of what you touch when your hands are bare. Gloves sometimes give a false sense of security or protection.

Incorrect removal of contaminated gloves, improper disposal of gloves, and failure to wash your hands after removing gloves compound the problem. It is better to not wear gloves, be aware of what you are touching to prevent cross-contamination, and use soap and water or hand sanitizer as you transition from one environment to the next.

When wearing gloves to take care of a sick person, know that the outside of the gloves is contaminated. To keep from contaminating your hands when removing gloves, pinch the palm of one glove with the other gloved hand and peel off the first glove.  Hold the dirty glove with the fingers of the gloved hand. Then slide the fingers of the ungloved hand under the cuff of the other glove at the wrist and peel off the second glove. Dispose of both gloves. 

One mistake that people make is confusing cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning is wiping dirt and germs from an object such as a counter, but it does not mean killing the germs. To kill germs you need to disinfect.  Disinfecting is the process of using chemicals to kill pathogens. These chemicals are frequently called antimicrobials. They are not without risk as you can breathe them in through your lungs and absorb them through your skin. Use them in a well-ventilated area while wearing gloves. 

Both cleaning and disinfecting are necessary to remove coronavirus from surfaces. If surfaces are visibly dirty, clean using a soap product and water before disinfecting the surface. If you are unable to get a disinfectant product, use bleach in water. Never mix bleach with anything other than water and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

When disinfecting, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some products need to be in contact with pathogens for a specified period of time in order to kill bacteria and viruses. Make sure that you are using enough product to disinfect the surface or object. Disinfecting only works on hard, nonporous surfaces. If a disinfectant is misused, it may kill weaker germs but let the stronger ones survive, leading to resistance. Another mistake people make is not disinfecting enough or too much. There is not enough time in the day to go around the house, car, and place of employment and disinfect every surface that may have germs on it. Weigh the risk by answering these two questions: 1. How contaminated is the surface?  How likely are you to touch the surface? Pay attention to high touch surfaces that are likely to be contaminated such as doorknobs and elevator buttons. 

Dr. Chris Norris

Chartered Physiotherapist and Neurologist

Board Certified in Sleep Medicine

Dr. Chris Norris

Dr. Chris Norris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine and Clinical Associate Professor at University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.

Dr. Chris Norris’ Q&A and Tips

How can the average person protect themselves as society reopens?

Many states have lifted their shelter-in-place orders and reopened parts of their economies. However, the COVID-19 is still out there and so is the possibility of further sufferings.

It is important to know that individuals need to take care of themselves and pay attention to protection. Without a vaccine or reliable treatment and cure, the only thing keeping the virus at bay is social distancing. At any point in time, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home. Avoid gatherings and crowds of more than 5 to 8 people.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds especially when you have out in public places, in the bus, in the train, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Use a hand sanitizer with at least sixty percent alcohol when soap and water are not readily available. Do not keep touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth with dirty and unwashed hands and fingers.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily – at the workplace or at home. This includes sinks, sink taps, tables, keyboards, light switches, switchboard, doorknobs, countertops, handles, desks, phones,keyboards and toilets.

Keep monitoring your health. If you have fever, cough or any other symptoms, immediately see the doctor.

What are the most effective infection control methods businesses and organizations can use to keep their employees safe?

There are a number of actions businesses and employers can keep in place to check and reduce the risk of transmission and spread of infectious diseases in the workplace. Encourage workers to maintain hygiene. Provide them with simple guidelines and make it a mandate that these guidelines are adhered to. Offer them information related to basic personal actions to stop the spread of infectious diseases. These include:

  • Immunization against infectious diseases
  • Washing hands with soap and water frequently
  • Staying in their shelter if they are unwell
  • Covering their mouth and face while coughing or sneezing
  • Maintaining a distance of at least 2 meters with other people.
  • Provide immunizations to workers (such as the seasonal influenza vaccine.) 
  • Offering maximum protection to workers and staff who, because of the nature of their work, may be required to have contact with people who are sick (for example, health care workers).

Keep workplaces clean

  1. Special attention to regular cleaning
  2. Use appropriate cleaning and disinfecting products
  3. Clean, AC units, chairs, tables, keyboards, switchboards etc.
  4. Use disposable cloths, if available.

Ensure good ventilation

Open windows on a regular base, if air conditioning units are not working all the time. A good ventilation minimizes the spread of infectious diseases and ensures the circulation of fresh the air within the working place.

Plan for outbreaks and pandemics

A plan should be in place in case of disease outbreak within the organization such as:

  • Workplace pandemic influenza guidance

  • Health sector pandemic influenza planning

Should people still be cautious and wear personal protective equipment?

I personally think YES. Since this virus is still out there, we cannot afford to make costly mistakes. There is no harm to continue wearing PPE especially the healthcare workers or any other front-line workers. Refusal to wear PPE or neglecting safety gear can be catastrophic for the individual and even the whole company.

How does reopening affect behavior in society?

This pandemic has changed many things. People are still experiencing worry, anxiety and fear, such as a fear of dying, a fear of their relatives dying, or fear of what it means to receive medical treatment. Without a cure and vaccine available, people are going to remain stressed all the time. It will be normal to hit the elevator buttons with your elbows. Many will continue to wear face masks – maybe even after the pandemic is over. It’s a unique phenomenon by itself. There isn’t any good way really to capture and quantify the threat and capture its scope, which makes people extremely anxious.

Dr. Kunjana Mavunda, MD

Former Medical Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control at The Miami-Dade Department of Health

Pediatric Pulmonologist and Travel Medicine

KIDZ Medical Services

Dr. Mavunda is a board certified pediatrician with a subspecialty in pediatric pulmonology by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Dr. Mavunda graduated from the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow, Poland where she obtained her medical degree. Her residency in pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric pulmonology was completed at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. She received a master’s in public health from the University of Miami in 1996. Additional training was done at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health in Tampa; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland; and Moorehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

While previously serving as the medical director of epidemiology and disease control at the Miami-Dade Department of Health, she has stayed ahead of infectious diseases in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Dr. Kunjana Mavunda’s Tips

Sneaky Ways You’re Exposing Yourself to Coronavirus
  1. Phones, keyboards, remote control for TV or games, computer mouse

  2. Stair railings, banisters or other things to hold on to – eg in the elevator.

  3. Door knobs, sink faucets

  4. Shared objects, for example, pens/pencils in offices; fax machines; toys in day cares (no matter how often staff may clean toys in a daycare – children will share – and in fact, I wonder whether these children may be bringing the virus home to their grandparents who may be trying to self-isolate). Also, shopping carts.

  5. Gloves – give a sense of false security. When people wear gloves, they feel that it is ok to touch, for example, buttons on elevators or gas pumps. But the gloves become a vehicle for transporting whatever was on the object touched.

  6. Hand gel sanitizer container: For example – yesterday I had a couple come into the office with their infant twins. They had a small hand sanitizer container attached to the stroller. At the end of the visit, while they were still in the room where we have the sink with running water and soap, parents picked up the hand sanitizer container, pressed the gel into their hands and used it appropriately. My thought was – the outside of the hand sanitizer is dirty. You are dirtying your hands with that container to clean your hands. Water and soap are always better. May need to use Clorox wipe on the hand sanitizer contained after every use.

  7. When we go to certain grocery stores or pharmacies – they provide wipes for hands as you enter, or to wipe the carts. The container has to be open, so you can pull out the wipe and use it safely. However, if the container has been open too long, then the wipe may dry out – and then it is useless. It happened to me when I went to CVS yesterday. I keep moist wipes in the car – so I can use them frequently.

  8. Car – when you enter the car after leaving a public place, you will be bringing germs with you. So – clean hands before touching anything in the car.

Dr. Catalina Botero

Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. Catalina Botero

Dr. Cat has state licenses to practice dentistry in Colorado and Florida. She is a member of the American Dental Association (ADA), Florida Dental Association (FDA) and affiliate member of the American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD).

Dr. Cat worked as a licensed hygienist for 2 years in the Tampa area, before deciding to go back to dental school a second time. In 2006, she was accepted into the International Student Program at the University of Colorado.  She graduated in 2008, obtaining her second degree as a dentist (Doctor of Dental Surgery degree). This means Dr. Cat has 2 different dental degrees from 2 different countries, which makes her extremely qualified; and on top of that, she is also a registered certified dental hygienist.

Dr. Catalina Botero’s Q&A

How can the average person protect themselves as society reopens? 

For people who are now facing anxiety returning to doctor’s offices or dental offices as society reopens, especially anxious children, we suggest scheduling a mask-free FaceTime visit before your in-person appointment. Consider asking your health professional for a FaceTime call to allow yourself time to meet/reconnect with them after COVID-19. During this time, you can find out what new safety measures they’re implementing and more so you feel as comfortable as possible when returning to their clinics.

What are the most effective infection control methods businesses and organizations can use to keep their employees safe? 

New common protocols to help prevent disease transmission and keep your employees and clients/customers safe are to:

  • Screen employees and guests before they enter your building
  • Implement a curbside waiting room where patients and guests can wait in their car to support proper social distancing guidelines, this will also help protect your employees from unnecessary outside exposure
  • Only allow one guest in with the patient at a time
  • Have a welcome table rather than an open waiting room, where patients can use hand sanitizer, complete forms, and have their screenings done
  • Stagger appointments to help with social distancing
  • Have an aerosol spray containment strategy
  • Make it well-known that anyone who is symptomatic, or been around anyone who is symptomatic, should not come into work and/or reschedule their appointments with your office.

Should people still be cautious and wear personal protective equipment? How does reopening affect behavior in society?

For now, people should still choose to wear personal protective equipment to keep themselves and others safe. However, just because you wear masks doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. To help people feel more comfortable in your establishment, we’ve noticed that wearing colorful, bright masks can help people feel more at ease, as it helps make the atmosphere more lighthearted and fun. Reopening society after the novel coronavirus will be a learning curve for everyone, but ensuring your employees and patients on the steps you are taking to keep them safe will help them feel better about returning to see you. Take the time to introduce them to your new sanitation and disinfection protocols, and show them that all areas of concern are being sanitized for everyone’s safety.

Being able to ask busy healthcare experts such as physicians and doctors regarding current best practices for COVID-19 prevention is out of reach for most people. With this Q&A and open response hybrid format, these generous experts were able to provide a wide range of valuable insight from the frontlines. The takeaways from their answers and tips are as follows:

  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when out shopping or out in public
  • If you feel sick, stay home to avoid infecting others
  • Consider using curbside pickup and delivery options
  • Employers should maintain open communication and implement contamination-prevention protocols
  • Washing your hands is superior when it comes to killing the novel coronavirus
  • Forget using gloves unless you’re a healthcare worker
  • Remove masks the right way: from the back and not the front
  • Cloth masks are better than no masks
  • Maintain at least 6 feet away from others
  • Perform regular cleaning at home and work
  • Pay attention to high traffic and high touch areas and sanitize yourself often
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