By Marlene Cimons | July 3, 2020
As Americans learn to live with the coronavirus, many are struggling with decisions about which practices are safe or risky for them. The Washington Post asked six public health/infectious diseases specialists about their own behavior choices.
Questions & answers
Q: When and where do you wear a mask?
Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: It dominates everything I do. The only time I don’t wear one is when I am alone, when I am home with my wife, or when I am speaking in public — provided there is 6 feet between me and the people to whom I am speaking, as was the case when I answered questions at the recent Congressional hearings.
Elizabeth Connick, chief of the infectious diseases division and professor of medicine and immunobiology at the University of Arizona: I walk in the morning and never wear a mask walking around in my neighborhood. Even if you see somebody, you can keep your distance. But I do wear it otherwise. I don’t wear one inside my own office, but I do wear one in the general office area. I wasn’t wearing one before, but now everyone is masking because we have more covid spread [in Arizona]. Paul A. Volberding, professor of medicine and emeritus professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California at San Francisco: I wear a mask most of the time, although not inside the house or sitting outside on my second-floor deck. I think people are crazy not to be wearing masks. The evidence that they are effective is pretty strong. I’ve noticed in recent weeks that the number of people wearing them seems to be decreasing, which concerns me. There is no shame in wearing a mask.
Linda Bell, South Carolina’s state epidemiologist: I wear one in public whenever possible, in stores, office settings, if I encounter groups of people that I can’t distance myself from and during press conferences when I’m not speaking. Barry Bloom, Jacobson research professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Every time I leave the house, inside and outside, and certainly when I shop. David Satcher, former U.S. surgeon general, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and, most recently, founder of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine: All the time. Even when I’m in the office, I keep it on, since people are always coming in and out. The only time I don’t is when I am home.
Q: Besides family, do you allow anyone else inside your home, such as cleaners or service people for repairs?
Fauci: The only person who comes into the house besides (my wife) Christine and me is the woman who cleans the house once every two weeks. She wears a mask and gloves at all times while in the house.
Connick: I pay someone to clean house. She was very afraid at first, and didn’t come for six weeks, but I paid her anyway. Then she decided she was comfortable and came back. I’m not here when she cleans, and she’s gone when I come home. So I am not breathing her air. I do have a pest control guy come. He’s quick, and I stay far away from him.
Volberding: We have cleaners who come once a week. They text me when they are nearly here, and (my wife) Molly and I close ourselves into a room on the top floor study and don’t interact with them at all. They text when they are leaving. They are good about disinfecting. As for the room we stay in, it’s my chore to keep it clean.
Bell: I allow repair workers in the home and don’t make them wear a mask while they’re working, but I do when I have contact with them, and I keep my distance.
Bloom: Yes, but only people I know, and we keep our distance and often wear masks.
Satcher: Yes, probably more than I should. My daughter is upset at the number of people I let in who don’t wear masks, although I wear one.
Q: Do you shop in grocery stores, or order online? Do you wash the items off or disinfect the outside of packages once you get home?
Fauci: I do physically go to the grocery store, but I wear a mask and keep my distance. I usually go at odd times. I spend half the day alone in my office, and I’m part-time at the White House. In the late afternoon or evening, when I’m finished with the White House, I go shopping for groceries, or to drugstores. I don’t disinfect the bags. In general, I will take the materials out of the bags, then wash my hands with soap and water, and then use Purell, and let everything sit for a day.
Connick: I wear a mask when I shop, and stay away from people while in the store. I try to minimize my trips. As infections become more widespread, I think I will be more conscientious about making only one visit a week. I don’t wash the packages. I did that for about a week, then decided there would be more cases if the virus was transmitted that way. I don’t think there is a lot of virus hanging around on those packages. But I do wash my hands.
Volberding: We have wonderful stores in our neighborhood that really enforce everything. They don’t let you get close to anyone else and everyone wears a mask. I don’t disinfect or wash anything. I don’t think the evidence for surface contamination is real. I don’t wear gloves in the store, but I wash my hands before I go and when I come back.
Bell: I shop in grocery stores and order online. I don’t disinfect packages that I bring into my home.
Bloom: I shop at grocery stores, and also have them shipped. I don’t wash them, but usually let them sit for a day before I use them. The bug dies pretty quickly.
Satcher: I shop in grocery stores and I wear a mask. I do the handwashing thing. I’m compulsive about that. I don’t wash or disinfect the packages, but I do wash my hands after touching them.