COVID Q&A: Answers To The Most Popular Coronavirus Questions

As part of Northwell Health Physician Partners, we at Westchester Health would like to share the following article from Northwell Health concerning the COVID-19 outbreak, which contains questions about the coronavirus answered by Dr. Lorry Rubin and Dr. David Hirschwerk.

In brief, the article covers:

  • whether you can get COVID-19 from packages, mail, clothing or food
  • if take-out food and fresh produce are safe to eat
  • does the virus mutate and can you get it more than once
  • is a child with asthma at high risk
  • the importance of handwashing
  • advice for dry hands

The full article is reproduced below.

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Our experts provide the answers and information you need to know.

During these uncertain times, we are all hungry for answers from medical professionals. In fact, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a Gallup Poll suggested that 92% of Americans trust medical advice and information provided by medical professionals—including doctors, nurses, and scientists—over information provided by others. With that in mind, we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Lorry G. Rubin, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, and Dr. David Hirschwerk, attending-infectious diseases and executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine at Northwell to answer those questions we are all looking to have answered.

Can I get coronavirus from a delivered package or by touching a piece of delivered mail?

Rubin: Theoretically, yes, because the virus has been shown to live on cardboard for three hours under laboratory conditions. However, in real life the mail or package is subject to extremes of temperature and is an unlikely source of COVID-19 infection.

Can coronavirus live on clothes?

Rubin: It can potentially live on clothes for some hours.

Can I get coronavirus from food?

Rubin: This is theoretically possible, but very unlikely. Cooking food should completely eliminate the potential risk.

Can I order take-out?

Rubin: While maintaining social distancing, take-out food from restaurants you trust is fine.

Can we still eat fresh produce?

Rubin: I recommend washing all fruit and vegetables with a wash designed for that purpose or a dilute detergent. Be sure to rinse well with water after. This will remove germs, as well as some pesticide chemicals.

Can I get coronavirus more than once?

Rubin: For most viruses, the infection results in protection. Whether that protection is complete or partial varies with the virus and the time since the original infection. For COVID-19, most experts believe there will be some level of protection, but we do not yet know.

Can coronavirus mutate?

Hirschwerk: It’s very likely, but probably not at as rapid a rate as other viruses. We need more data to better understand this process and its clinical implications.

Rubin: Important changes in the virus that would make it more transmissible (catchy) or more virulence (causing more serious infection) have not yet been seen.

My child has asthma, but children don’t seem to be getting this virus. Does that make my child high risk or not?

Rubin: We still do not know if COVID-19 infection in a child with asthma puts that child at an increased risk for severe disease compared to a child without asthma. As parents of children with asthma know, getting any respiratory virus—even the common cold—can trigger worsening asthma and COVID-19 infection may be no different in that regard.

Why is hand-washing so much more important now than it is as a rule of general hygiene?

Hirschwerk: Hand-washing in general is important because germs can adhere to the surface of the hands after touching contaminated structures in the environment. These days, when someone brings their contaminated hands to their face (which is done often, and usually subconsciously), the virus can be introduced into the nose, mouth, and eyes. This is the second-most common form of transmission of COVID-19, after inhaling infected air droplets. While hand-washing may not kill the virus entirely, research has shown COVID-19 is wrapped in a membrane that can be broken up by soap lather. When you rinse the soap away, the pathogens flush away with the lather.

How do I keep my hands from cracking and hurting as I wash them/use anti-bacterial gels more often?

Rubin: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers such as Purell and good, old-fashioned soap are drying to the skin. Use a quality hand cream (creams work better than lotions) several times during the day.

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