Make It

From Haircuts to Yard Parties, Here's How Infectious Disease Experts Are Running Errands and Socializing Safely


Do you need to wear a mask while exercising? Is it safe to socialize outside? Should I wipe down my groceries when I get home? These are the questions that still remain as the country reopens amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Many infectious disease experts and epidemiologists have been fielding these types of inquiries from family and friends who are curious how to safely resume their activities. 

"As a physician, I always try to practice what I preach," Jay Varkey, associate professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at Emory University Hospital, tells CNBC Make It. "So, the activities I engage in with my family are similar to what I advise my patients and my friends when they ask."

Here, five experts share their personal strategies for running errands, spending their (very limited) free time and socializing safely:

Host a yard gathering

If you live somewhere with a spacious yard, use it to get together with people from a distance, like Varkey. "The rules here are strict — the group is always limited to no more than 10 people," he says about his own yard parties.

Additionally, the event should be BYOB and BYOM, meaning everyone brings their own beverage and mask, Varkey says. "Masks stay on when not eating or drinking, [and] no one shares food or utensils," he says.

Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, lives in a suburban neighborhood where it's easy to walk around.

"We take an opportunity to walk down the street and visit with neighbors at a distance, and that's been nice as well," he adds.

Skip the hair salon, for now

Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health has forgone haircuts during the Covid-19 crisis.

"My hair hasn't been this long since high school," Brewer says.

In many counties in California, where Brewer lives, hair salons and barber shops reopened on May 27 with safety measures in place. When he has the time and it seems safe, he says he will schedule an appointment to get a haircut.

Bill Miller, senior associate dean for research at the college of public health at The Ohio State University, is sticking to home cuts, but he has been doing it that way for many years. 

Golf alone

Miller goes on a walk or run every day for about 45 minutes to an hour.

"I live in an area where it is easy to maintain distance while walking running," he says. "We don't wear masks because we can easily cross the street or get out of someone's way when they approach."

Miller hopes to go golfing soon, alone. "But generally golf and tennis would be great outdoor activities, as long as people maintain distancing throughout," he says.

Brewer goes for a walk with his dog two or three times a day.

"Usually on the dog walks, because we're tending to walk around areas where there are other people, my nose and mouth are always covered," Brewer says.

But when Brewer bikes on weekends, "if I'm biking along the bike path or stretch of street where I'm not around other people, then [the mask] kind of positioned closer to my chin than over my nose."

Drive to work

Brewer can work from home most days, but when he must go into the hospital, he drives.

"Before Covid-19, I took the bus to work every day or other public transportation," he says. But public transportation is considered high-risk for infection. For this reason, the CDC's reopening guidelines say people who use public transit to get to work should work remotely if possible to maintain distance.

Grocery shop strategically

Miller says he is the designated grocery-shopper for his household.

"I try to plan the trip ahead of time," he says. "I go at off-peak hours, usually just as the store opens. I wear a mask. I stay physically distanced in the store."

When Miller gets home, he wipes everything down with a disinfectant. (However, Brewer and other experts say that this is not necessary.) "And I wash my hands thoroughly — actually, I usually take a shower," he says. 

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