Dr. Cecilia Fry, M.D. is a Bayview resident and pediatric critical care medicine specialist in Spokane, WA. She has been practicing for over 30 years and recently initiated a "Walk With a Doc" program in Bayview.
The following interview was conducted over email with questions approved by Dr. Cecilia. The exchange has been published completely unedited:
Note from Dr. Cecilia: Coronavirus disease 2019 is abbreviated COVID-19. COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the new Coronavirus that is called SARS-CoV-2. In the following I will refer to SARS-CoV-2 as Coronavirus.
How does COVID-19 spread?
Most Coronavirus is spread by droplet transmission: Virus particles travel in large respiratory droplets that people cough, sneeze, drip, blow or exhale. These droplets can infect another person if they land in another person’s mouth, nose or eyes. They can also infect another person by landing on surfaces that another person then touches and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.
The second way Coronavirus might be transmitted is via airborne or aerosolized spread. This is when a tiny droplet or particle is so small that gravity doesn’t make it fall to the ground so it remains suspended in the air for long periods of time.
Is it harder to catch COVID-19 outdoors as opposed to indoors?
To get an infection from Coronavirus you must come in contact with the virus and it usually enters you through your eyes, nose or mouth. Most spread of the virus is believed to be droplet but some is airborne. For both of these types of transmission, the likelihood of coming in contact with the virus is increased in confined spaces such as indoors. Each area of an indoor space is more likely to have been touched, sneezed on or coughed on by another person than each area of our great outdoors. Therefore there is more droplet spread indoors. Objects in the outdoors that have frequent contact with people are an exception to this. For example, a gas pump at a filling station is outdoors but has frequent contact with people. Ventilation and airflow is much better outdoors so there is much less airborne spread outdoors. Being outdoors also has significant temperature variation, which most viruses don’t like. Therefore, viruses might not live as long outdoors as indoors. Finally, people usually are closer together indoors than outdoors. This leads to increased risk indoors.
What is the benefit of wearing a facemask? If air can get through, can’t germs get through too?
Wearing facemasks can help prevent you from getting Coronavirus by helping you remember not to touch your nose or mouth. When you have the mask in place, you have to move it in order to touch your nose or mouth. Hopefully the mask will be a reminder that you want to avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. Wearing a facemask can also help you prevent unknowingly spreading the virus to somebody else. Since you can be infectious before you develop symptoms wearing a mask even when you are healthy can help prevent the spread of the virus. Any mask that prevents droplet spread will decrease the viral load on surrounding surfaces.
If everybody wears masks it reduces the stigma that might prevent those who are sick from wearing them.
Also, masks may be more effective than you would expect based on the size of the virus versus the size of the pores in the mask because the electrostatic forces within the mask may catch the nanoparticles even if they could go through the pores.
Do gloves help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Gloves can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in very limited scenarios. If you need to come in direct contact with somebody or something known to be contaminated with Coronavirus, wear gloves. For example, if you are living with someone who is sick with COVID -19 and you need to clean his or her living area or come in close contact with the person gloves might be a helpful additional safety measure. Generally however good hand washing or sanitizer is adequate. The virus does not go through your skin. The virus can get on gloves as easily as it does bare hands so if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your gloved hand you can still get it.
Is it possible to safely spend time with people in groups?
There is always going to be some risk but currently the risk is fairly minimal in our region. The risk increases as the prevalence increases. Currently the prevalence of COVID-19 is low in our area so I feel safe seeing people at the marina, walking though Farragut, going to the store, etc.
What are some safe tips to remember when spending time with people?
To keep from getting COVID-19:
Social distance – at least 6 feet
Wear a mask in public areas
Wash your hands for 20 seconds or use sanitizer with at least 60-70% alcohol
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Avoid being around anybody with fever or cough or flu-like symptoms
Sanitize surfaces like steering wheels, door knobs, counter tops, etc
To keep from spreading COVID-19 if you have symptoms or known exposure:
Wear a mask if you are around anybody
In your home if you are sick, isolate to one area to prevent spreading to other people in your home.
Contain and dispose of properly anything with potentially infected secretions on it – tissues, napkins, etc. Proper disposal includes putting infected items in a sealed bag and putting in covered trash receptacle
Clean and disinfect surfaces that you have touched
Avoid sharing personal items