What you need to know about masks, shopping, walking during COVID-19

Did i see message about story? can't find it now but here it is: Have your groceries, medications and other essential items delivered. Avoid crowded parks. Wear a cloth mask. And leave your house “as little as possible.” These are key recommendations by Emory University infectious disease expert Dr. Marybeth Sexton, who held a briefing with reporters Monday, part of an ongoing effort by Emory to give the media access to medical experts during the coronavirus pandemic. *(Report by Helena Oliviera, video edited by Ryon Horne)

Have your groceries, medications and other essential items delivered. Avoid crowded parks. Wear a cloth mask. And leave your house “as little as possible.”

These are key recommendations by Emory University infectious disease expert Dr. Marybeth Sexton, who held a briefing with reporters Monday, part of an ongoing effort by Emory to give the media access to medical experts during the coronavirus pandemic.

People wearing masks wait in line to receive free groceries at the first of five pop-up grocery stores provided by the Atlanta Hawks, Goodr, and State Farm at At-Promise Youth Center during the COVID-19 crisis, Friday, March 20, 2020. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
People wearing masks wait in line to receive free groceries at the first of five pop-up grocery stores provided by the Atlanta Hawks, Goodr, and State Farm at At-Promise Youth Center during the COVID-19 crisis, Friday, March 20, 2020. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Sexton stressed that most patients sick with COVID-19 who have been admitted to Emory University and other hospitals, including people sick enough to be hospitalized in the intensive care unit, are recovering.

But it’s a delicate situation, and we are still more than two weeks from the predicted peak for COVID-19 deaths and demand for resources in Georgia.

“We have the staff and equipment and resources devoted to make these people better,” she said. “It’s critically important we don’t have a surge of patients that would overwhelm the health-care system.”

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A woman walks past the Georgia Theatre Friday, March 20, 2020, in downton Athens, Ga. A note posted on the theatre's door says they are close and all shows are postponed. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
A woman walks past the Georgia Theatre Friday, March 20, 2020, in downton Athens, Ga. A note posted on the theatre's door says they are close and all shows are postponed. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Sexton said she realizes that for people sheltering in place, “the novelty may be wearing off,” and she urged people to stay the course.

Here’s a look at major points made by Sexton, an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine, and part of the Serious Communicable Disease Unit (SCDU) team at Emory University Hospital.

Stay home as much as possible and use extreme caution when grocery shopping

Georgians should stay home as much as possible and try to get their supplies delivered.

For those concerned about the packages, and the delivery person possibly being sick with COVID-19, she recommended that people wash their hands after handling packages. She added that the odds of a delivery person sneezing or coughing on your packages is “vanishingly low.”

Sexton urged people who decide to go to a grocery store to shop when it’s less crowded, wash their hands before and after going shopping and avoid touching their faces. Also, they should wipe the handles of the shopping cart with a disinfectant wipe.

Ernnee Webber wears a scarf over her head and face and gloves as she puts her groceries in the trunk of her car Friday at Meijer in Springfield. Webber said she tried to find some medical masks but every place was sold out so she made her own. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Ernnee Webber wears a scarf over her head and face and gloves as she puts her groceries in the trunk of her car Friday at Meijer in Springfield. Webber said she tried to find some medical masks but every place was sold out so she made her own. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Why everyone should now wear masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines recommending everyone wear cloth masks when out in public. Sexton said the recommendation for the general public is not to wear medical and surgical masks because they are in limited supply and are most critically needed for health-care workers.

She said cloth masks are helpful because if you wear one, it will make sure you don’t cough, sneeze, breathe or speak out some of the infectious viral particles. “So you wearing one keeps other people safe, and so everyone wearing one protects you,” she said.

In the past, the recommendation was that only people who are sick should wear masks. But with this new coronavirus, health officials are stressing that people can be contagious before they have coronavirus symptoms. Sexton said it appears as though people are contagious a couple of days before they know they are sick. In other words, you may think you are fine, she said, but could be coming down with COVID-19. So you wearing a mask protects all of the people around you, and the way you get protection is if everyone else does this, too, she said.

“This is a team effort,” she said.

Local schools and churches are on shutdown but the sign at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens posts what is fast becoming a national motto. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Local schools and churches are on shutdown but the sign at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens posts what is fast becoming a national motto. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Disposable gloves not recommended at this time for general public

Gloves are not recommended because they seem to give people a false sense of security. The COVID-19 virus can attach to gloves in the same way that it attaches to the hands. If you touch a contaminated shopping-cart handle, for example, with gloved hands, or any contaminated surface, the gloves can become contaminated with the virus. Touching your face with the same contaminated gloves adds to the risk of you contracting the virus.

The best thing you can do is your wash your hands, Sexton said.

No, strolling along a busy Beltline is not a good idea at this time

There is better airflow outside than in confined spaces, but Sexton said it’s still very important to maintain a safe distance of six feet from other people. Sexton said she avoids busy areas such as the Beltline. And she said when she goes out running, if she sees someone coming, she crosses the street.

“You want to maintain social-distancing parameters as much as possible.”

MORE COVERAGE: Essential workers will begin to receive "hero pay" from Atlanta Public Schools. Vanessa McCray reports the pay will be given to workers who cannot shelter in place as they work or are still required to interact with the public.

Gov. Brian Kemp's statewide shelter-in-place order doesn't close state parks and beaches, and Bo Emerson reports Georgians have crowded hiking trails and parks.