3 Places Not Ready for Prime Time
At this point in time, 43 states across the nation are transitioning out of COVID-19 quarantines and allowing non-essential businesses to re-open. For many of these states, policies are shifting from stay-at-home to safer-at-home guidelines, with limits placed on the number of customers allowed in a space at one time and requirements that masks be worn and social distancing maintained.
Understandably, people are anxious to get their lives back to some resemblance of normalcy after, in some cases, months of government-mandated shutdowns. However, all of these states are making it clear that a threat to pubic health from the coronavirus has by no means subsided. For many, uncertainty abounds as to how safe it is to venture out as shops, fitness centers and restaurants reopen.
Recently, Shauna Lagatol, CEO of Wellin, asked Dr. Aaron Milstone, a Pulmonary Critical Care Specialist at the Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, TN, if he thinks that even with restrictions easing, people should still consider avoiding certain venues until widespread testing or a vaccine is available.
Limit Exposure to Large Events
Shauna: The COVID-19 outbreak led to the interruption or cancellation of several professional and amateur sport seasons and brought concert tours and theatrical productions to a halt. These types of shared experiences are so much a part of our lives, and it should be no surprise that one of the first things we all want to do is get back to cheering for our favorite teams or enjoying the arts in our communities. Is this a realistic expectation at this time?
Dr. Milstone: It's natural for people to crave community, to attend theater and musical performances and especially go to sporting events. It's true that these types of events are so much a part of the fabric of this country. However, those types of gatherings are most definitely going areas where we've got to define how to do it safely.
Therefore, it's unfortunate that sporting events, concerts and going to the theater are gatherings we are going to have to avoid for a period of time in the near future. Those types of events will have a These events typically involve a large volume of people in a very closed area which means people will be in much closer proximity to one another. If even only one person is infected with the virus, they have the potential to spread the disease to a large number of others easily. This is one instance where the relaxing of COVID-19 interactions is going to be a work in progress for our government right now.
Summer Camps for Kids May Have to Wait
Shauna: When I was growing up, for many of my friends and me, summer always meant camp. These days, camps cater to every interest, from arts to athletics. After weeks of families being quarantined with no school for children and parents having to work from home, kids spending a few weeks away from home has got to be very appealing to everyone. Should parents think twice about sending their kids away to summer camp?
Dr. Milstone: Unfortunately, summer camps may be off this year. Going to a summer camp and having lots of children and young people in close proximity 24/7 is taking a big risk. They'd be doing all types of activities where equipment is shared. They'd be using facilities like cabins, dining halls and bathrooms. It would be almost impossible to keep everything disinfected.
I realize this is one area where people are thinking the virus may have a limited chance for transmission because everything is outdoors, but even in the outdoors social distancing should be practiced and that just can't be monitored well in a camp setting. Camp activities are only going to increase the risk of transmitting the virus further.
Restaurants Should Not Be On The Menu Quite Yet
Shauna: Restaurants have been one of the business sectors most negatively impacted by COVID-19 quarantines. Many have been able to survive by offering takeout or curbside service, but for most that simply means treading water. We all want to help our favorite eating establishments stay in business, and the idea of sharing a night out with friends and family is appealing. How should people handle going out to restaurants?
Dr. Milstone: I'm still nervous about restaurants. Each state is handling restaurants differently. Some are allowing restaurants to open up at 50% capacity, others allowing 30% capacity. Regardless of capacity requirements, however, restaurants will face real difficult decision-making points, and the reason for that is simple. Without a health department to continually check on every restaurant to make sure that they are following the rules, it won't take long before government regulations fall to the wayside.
For instance, I could see a restaurant opening today at 30% capacity. People flock to the place and as a result, they have a line out the door. Gradually, the restaurant moves to 40% capacity, rationalizing that doing so only means adding maybe one more table of diners. Then that 40% becomes 60% and the next thing you know, you have tables with six to eight diners in close proximity to other tables with six to eight diners. Of course, few would be wearing masks because it's difficult to eat if one constantly has to pull down their mask for every forkful of food. One infected person coughs, and the virus easily spreads.
In addition, while you're in the restaurant you might get up to use the restroom, which may not be disinfected after every previous user, or even pick up COVID-19 from a doorknob or door push plate. Even if the place is using individually wrapped plastic utensils that are only used once, you don’t know if your server has time to follow safety protocols if the restaurant is busy. They need to be wearing masks and gloves, but even then they could touch their face and still transmit the disease.
I would encourage people to continue doing take out or curbside service for a little while longer. We need to be very vigilant about restaurants because like sporting events, they could be the Achilles Heel of the effort to control the spread of the virus.