18 Jul CFO Jon Cartu Publishes – How Dr. Anne Zink and 5 other Alaska health experts manage…
If you’ve been following the COVID-19 news, you probably know that health officials have warned about going to parties and bars. But how risky is hiking or dipnetting? How about ordering takeout? Should you send your kids to daycare?
Inspired by The Washington Post, reporters Tegan Hanlon and Nat Herz recruited a panel of six local health experts to answer those questions, and to explain how they manage COVID-19 risks in their everyday lives.
Here’s what they had to say: (Answers have been edited for clarity and condensed.)
Question: When and where do you wear a mask?
Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska chief medical officer: I wear it every time I walk into any sort of public space, building, grocery store, work, office building, anything like that. And if it’s a busier trail, I’ll have it on.
Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska state epidemiologist: Pretty much any time I can’t maintain at least a 6-foot distance from people who are outside of my social bubble. All indoor situations when I’m around other people. Also, outdoor situations when I’m going to be in close proximity to others outside of my social bubble for more than maybe a minute or so.
Dr. Bob Onders, medical director, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium: I wear it whenever I’m around other people — indoors in particular such as stores, picking up to-go food, and at work if I’m not in my office alone. If I’m outdoors and in a situation where I can have adequate separation, I do not wear a mask.
Dr. Ellen Hodges, chief of staff, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation: I wear a face mask at all times, except when I’m in my household or with my household members outside exercising or when I’m seated at my desk when there isn’t anyone in the office.
Dr. Tom Hennessy, infectious disease epidemiologist and affiliate faculty member, University of Alaska Anchorage College of Health: I wear a mask when I’m out in public and there’s a really good chance I won’t be able to maintain social distance. Sometimes I wear one even in the parking lot as I’m moving toward a grocery store, just in case I get close to somebody. I am not wearing a mask when I walk around in my neighborhood or ride my bicycle.
Dr. Elise Pletnikoff, family medicine physician, Kodiak Area Native Association: I’m wearing a mask any time I’m at work when I’m not in my private office with the door closed. I rarely am going in public spaces, but when I do, I wear a mask if it’s not open air, and when I have close contact with other people.
Q: Do you shop in grocery stores or order online? What precautions do you take?
Zink: We’ve made a decision, as a family, to not go to the grocery store. We order online — the whole family chips in and puts their own order in on the app.
McLaughlin: I definitely shop in grocery stores. I just wear a mask before I go in. When I’m inside, I’ll socially distance and I always wash my hands after I leave.
Onders: I’ll order when I can, but sometimes I have to go into the store to get things. I try not to go when it’s a busy period. I wear a mask and wash my hands frequently. And I usually pack hand sanitizer with me.
Hodges: I have a household of three people, so we really try to have only one of us go into the store and we try to limit our shopping to once a week. I always wear a mask and make sure that we try to go at odd times when there aren’t a lot of people.
Hennessy: I’ve been buying groceries in stores. I wear a mask, I try to go at off hours so it’s not as busy. I bring hand sanitizer, I bring my own bags and bag my own groceries and I try to follow the directional signs, if they have lane markers. I’m also avoiding people who are in stores and not wearing a mask. That’s less common now, but prior to the mask mandate, I would steer around them and try to stay away from them. If they passed by me, I would sometimes hold my breath and wait for quite a few seconds until I would go into the air space that they had just occupied.
Pletnikoff: I order online and get the groceries delivered to my car in the parking lot. My husband goes physically grocery shopping with a mask on.
Q: Are you eating inside restaurants or going to bars? Why or why not?
Zink: I’m not. Indoor spaces are definitely higher risk for transmission. I love a good restaurant and a great bar, but that is not worth the risk for me.
McLaughlin: I haven’t been inside a restaurant or a bar since all this started. I’m not much of a bar-goer anyway and don’t go to restaurants a whole bunch.
Onders: I am not. With the spacing right now and the indoor environment, and with the increased cases in Alaska, I think that it is a risk to dine indoors right now.
Hodges: I do not dine in at restaurants, mostly because it’s indoors with lots of people around who may or may not be wearing masks, and I don’t feel like that’s particularly safe at this point in time.
Hennessy: I’m not. I don’t feel comfortable going into restaurants. I certainly would not feel comfortable going into a bar, knowing the nature of those loud places where people are not observing social distancing. I’ve done takeout food, and have gone in to pay for my food.
Pletnikoff: I’m not dining inside at all at restaurants right now. Mostly because I don’t want to be in an enclosed space unmasked. And, I have a 2-year-old so I’m not really spending any time in bars. I’m also 18 weeks pregnant, so I’m double not spending time in bars.
Q: Are you eating outside at restaurants?
Zink: It depends a lot on how it’s set up. We’ll eat outside, particularly if they’ll deliver to you. In Palmer, there’s a great little shop, 203 Kombucha, that from the beginning, they’ve all worn masks, and there’s a…