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How to safely visit loved ones during COVID-19

Family wearing face masksSince COVID-19 arrived, there has been a constant stream of concern and curiosity about how to safely visit loved ones during the pandemic. Can I give them a hug? Should we enjoy a meal together? Are my elderly grandparents off-limits? 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, shares with Livestrong what to consider before planning an in-person visit with family and friends. 

First, it is important to acknowledge that keeping yourself safe is just as important as keeping those whom you are visiting safe.   

Secondly, realize that not everyone has obvious symptoms who may be carrying the virus. “It is possible to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19,” Dr. Berger told Livestrong.

Ideally, both you and those you are going to be with would isolate for 14 days prior to your get-together—especially if you each have already ventured outside your home. 

Make sure to have a frank talk with friends and family beforehand about any symptoms experienced or previous exposure to the virus, and do not feel guilty about rescheduling if there are any concerns. 

Dr. Berger also reminds us that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states those who are over 65 years and who have underlying health issues should avoid group gatherings altogether. He says the risks far outweigh the benefits of a visit. 

Some tips to help best protect you and your loved ones as you make plans to meet include:

  • Keep gatherings to a limited number of people.
  • Select somewhere outdoors, preferably a private setting like a backyard, where you can maintain a safe social distance of six feet apart. 
  • If meeting somewhere in public, try to keep touching of any objects or surfaces to a minimum, then avoid touching your face, and disinfect hands immediately afterward.  
  • Also, while in public, avoid using restrooms as much as possible. 

Dr. Berger also says to be sure and wear a mask, but remember that even masks have limitations because “extremely small particles, including the virus itself, might pass through the spaces that allow air to pass.” Evidence suggests that is essential to adhere to a combination of multiple, safe practices (mask-wearing, handwashing, social-distancing, etc.) to protect yourselves and loved ones from spreading the virus to each another. 

You can read the entire article in Livestrong here.

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Catching COVID-19 In A Crowd (Even If You’re Outside)

Crowd protesting

Recent waves of crowd protests throughout the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death have set off alarming new concerns about the spread of COVID-19. 

Even though it is thought to be safer outside where the virus may be less contagious, those who are not practicing social distancing and congregating in close crowds could be putting themselves and others at risk. 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently explained in both Healthline and YahooFinance how easily COVID-19 could be transmitted in a crowd. 

“The center of a large crowd is no different than a sealed off, an unventilated room filled with potentially infected individuals — many holding large signs which will block the flow of clean air,” Dr. Berger said.   

Many protests document people not wearing masks or keeping a safe distance of six feet apart from one another. 

“If even one carrier of COVID-19 was present at these gatherings, we can expect to see a wave of cases appearing during the next 2 to 14 days,” explained Dr. Berger.

He adds that along with a potential spike in new cases attributed to protests, more spread could come during these summer months as businesses begin to open up and people grow tired of cautionary restrictions and guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing.  

He further recommends that those who participate in protests or other large summer gatherings should be vigilant about using a face mask and maintaining distance. Dr. Berger says that it is wise to “assume that the stranger next to you is spreading the virus.”

You can read the entire articles in Healthline here and YahooFinance here

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Dr. Berger On Face Shields: Are They Functional or Just Fashionable?

Face shield 3D medical visualization, Surgical equipment

Plastic face shields, or now “COVID visors,” are one piece of PPE still questionable as to how effective and necessary they are at protecting against the virus. 

Unlike fabric face masks which are recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in many situations and settings, there are no official guidelines or suggestions for wearing face shields. 

This begs the question: are face shields merely just in fashion at the moment – with many style influencers on social media sporting them — or are they actually functional? 

GIDEON Founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, answers questions about face shields for a recent article in InStyle magazine. 

“Theoretically, the virus of COVID-19 could arrive at the eyes and travel down through our tear ducts into the nose and throat,” says Dr. Berger. In this scenario, a face shield could protect the eyes from infected respiratory droplets potentially entering the body. 

However, there is still little to suggest that someone going about their everyday business would need to wear one. A protective fabric mask that fits snuggly over the mouth and nose is still the better option. “Plastic visors and shields do not filter air, and at most, prevent larger droplets of infectious material from arriving at our face directly,” Dr Berger explains. 

Additionally, face masks could lend a sense of false security with the wearer getting too close to someone else or feeling confident in attending large gatherings which are still considered unsafe. 

To help prevent the spread of the disease, the best protection remains wearing a cloth face mask, social distancing, and practising good hand hygiene.

Medical experts concede that the few instances when it may be helpful to wear a face shield are when working out and it is difficult to breathe in a tighter mask, or when it is necessary for someone who is hearing impaired to read lips and see facial expressions. 

The full article from InStyle is available here.  

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Dining Out Amid COVID-19: Dr. Berger speaks with Healthline

Family dining in a restaurant with face masks on

Missing dining out in your favorite restaurant? As businesses have begun to reopen, many are wondering if it is safe to eat out again.

GIDEON Founder and infectious disease and microbiology specialist, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently answered questions about safe dining amid COVID-19 for Healthline

One of the most important things to take into consideration, Dr. Berger says, is whether a restaurant is set up for safe social distancing and keeping the designated six-foot separation between tables. 

Also, he says, “before sitting down and asking for a menu, check to confirm that the restaurant staff is wearing masks and that these masks cover their noses and mouths.”

Dr. Berger reminds those venturing to dine out that any number of objects found in a restaurant could potentially be contaminated with the virus–such as tablecloths, menus, salt shakers, credit card machines, chairs, and doorknobs—but it is only harmful if it then gets into the body. Scrupulous attention to basic hygiene (handwashing and sanitizing) before and after eating must be followed. 

Other ways you can check if a restaurant is working hard to keep the spread of the virus to a minimum are if they offer disposable menus and silverware, hand sanitizer for guests, contactless payment, and strictly adhere to limited seating.  

Finally, Dr. Berger suggests it might be better to opt for a table outside if possible, or a spot that is “large, open, and ventilated.” 

You can read the entire article in Healthline here

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Do gloves protect you from COVID-19?

Can gloves protect you from COVID-19? Blue surgical gloves hanging on clothesline string with clothespinThere have been many recommendations set forth over the past few months by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Gloves have also been suggested as a way of preventing the spread, there are no official recommendations on wearing them.

Because the virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets and not through the skin, the jury is still out on whether or not gloves are beneficial at all. 

Our co-founder and infectious disease expert, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently commented on the efficacy of gloves for an article in InStyle magazine. He says “there is no evidence that gloves can protect us from acquiring COVID-19.”

Dr. Berger adds that, if anything, they are more likely to prevent someone from passing the virus to others rather than protecting one’s self from getting it. 

It is also important to remember that wearing gloves can potentially promote a false sense of security in the event you touch something thinking it’s safe while wearing them and then inadvertently touch your face.

Along with Dr. Berger, most medical experts agree that gloves are not necessary unless you are an essential worker (perhaps somewhere like at a grocery store) or a medical professional. 

Frequent and thorough hand washing is still recommended as the best defense against the virus, but for those who still want to cover their hands, some tips for best use include: 

1. Opt for disposable latex versions and throw them in the trash after each use. 

2. Wait until the last possible moment to put gloves on before going out. 

3. Minimize touching your face while wearing gloves. 

You can read the entire article from InStyle here.

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Can Cell Phones Carry COVID-19?

spray disinfecting phone from germs and viruses

It’s long been known that cell phones can carry a multitude of germs, bacteria, and different forms of fungi. With the arrival of the COVID-19 virus, it begs the question if it too can live on the surface of a phone and subsequently be transmitted to another person. 

A compilation of studies from across 24 countries over the past 13 years indicates that it is a very likely possibility. 

Although COVID-19 was not included in any of these original studies, the rapid rate at which it has spread throughout the world, and the increased and ever-growing physical attachment that people have to their cell phones, leads researchers to believe that phones could in fact harbor the virus. 

Our co-founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, who is double board-certified in infectious disease and microbiology, recently commented on this topic for an article in HealthDay

“Cellular phones are ideal vehicles for the virus of COVID-19,” he agreed. “They are repeatedly exposed to material exhaled from our mouth and nose and spend literally hours in our rather filthy hands. Viruses of this type are known to survive on plastics and stainless steel for two to three hours; on aluminum for two to eight hours, on cardboard and paper for up to 24 hours, and ceramic or glass for up to five days.”

While many experts suggest wiping down your phone frequently with a disinfectant and abstaining from sharing your phone with others, Dr. Berger says that it is our hands and not the phones that merit the extra attention when it comes to disinfecting. 

“Whenever these and other objects in our daily life are examined in the laboratory, a veritable ‘zoo’ of bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses are discovered. But the common denominator for all of these is the human hand that touches them, and then goes to our mouth or nose.”

Keeping your phone clean may help limit exposure to the virus, but even more helpful is to keep your hands clean with frequent washing and then away from your face as much as possible. 

You can read the entire article here

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Why Some Countries Have Fared Better in Fighting COVID-19

World map with an outbreak marker indicating COVID-19

There are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States right now with nearly 80,000 related deaths on record. This number is greater than a quarter of the total deaths suffered worldwide. 

What has America gotten wrong in its response to the deadly virus, and what have other countries done right?  

New Zealand, South Africa, and Vietnam—even sharing a border with China where the virus originated —all have experienced relatively few cases and minimal deaths from COVID-19. 

Our co-founder and infectious disease expert, Dr. Stephen Berger shared his thoughts for a recent article in Healthline as to why these countries might be faring better than others.

“All three countries have a coordinated, nationwide, centrally planned response as well as travel restrictions, both domestic and international,” said Dr. Berger.  

Elements of each country’s response that likely have contributed to their success in keeping the virus at bay include:

  • Speed: rapid response to the situation in closing borders immediately, implementing full lockdowns, and requiring that masks be worn right away
  • Aggressive enforcement: all three countries have been stern in enforcing these regulations with government assistance and even military intervention 
  • Testing: meticulous attention devoted to testing and then contact tracing as to following where someone infected has traveled  

Additionally, South Africa and Vietnam have been able to draw on their past experiences with such deadly diseases such as HIV infection, Tuberculosis, and SARS.

Experts agree that early and swift action is key to a country’s success in fighting any deadly virus. “Trying to play catch-up is always more difficult than heading things off early on,” says Dr. Berger.

You can read the entire article here

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Antibody vs antigen testing

Coronavirus testing. Hand holding a tube with 'coronavirus' written on it.

Our co-founder and infectious disease expert, Dr. Stephen Berger, recently explained the differences between diagnostic, antibody, and antigen testing for the virus in Business Insider

Not sure what are antigens vs antibodies? Find out in less than 3 minutes here.

  • Diagnostic test: conducted via a nasal or throat swab; best suited for someone with severe symptoms; results may take several days or even weeks to become available. 
  • Antibody test: taken via a blood sample; confirms if you had a previous infection of the virus, but may not detect if it is still in your system as it generally takes 14 days following symptoms for antibodies to appear; does not determine if you will get the virus again; can help track where the virus has spread and monitor fatality rates if conducted over a widespread area. 
  • Antigen test: quickly registers antigens to the virus (or certain molecules that help evoke an immune response to something foreign in the body, such as a virus); results are ready in a shorter time; may potentially become a more efficient and affordable option for testing in the future.

“The presence of COVID-19 and many other viruses in patient specimens can be confirmed using these antigen tests, usually within minutes to hours,” Dr. Berger told Business Insider. 

Although these antigen tests are not yet currently on the market, they are in development right now. The speed at which they can detect the virus, as well as the possibility of at-home antigen test kits, making them an attractive option as we continue to face COVID-19. 

You can read the entire article here.  Learn more about antigens vs antibodies here.

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Is it Safe to Go Back to the Gym? Dr. Berger talks to Shape.com

Illustration of two females exercising in a gym

Many states are relaxing their stay-at-home guidelines, which includes opening up fitness facilities to the public again.  Most must operate under a limited capacity, enhanced cleaning and sanitation practices, and use signs and floor markers to ensure social distancing. But the big question is whether it’s safe to go back? Experts warn social distancing may not be so easy at a gym.

“A gym is just another venue in which disease can be passed from person to person, and the risk of contracting COVID-19 might increase there, where group sports and games require close personal contact,” our co-founder and infectious disease specialist, Dr. Stephen Berger explained to Shape.com

“The fact that you might be young and healthy won’t affect your chance of becoming infected; it will really only increase your chances of surviving an infection without severe or fatal consequences.”

Similarly, if you’re in a region where local officials are mandating or strongly urging residents to wear face masks or other facial coverings in public, the gym is not exempt from those guidelines, notes Dr. Berger.

You can read the entire article here.

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How to wear a face mask – PEOPLE shares Dr. Berger’s advice

Illustration on how to wear a face mask correctly

Wearing a face mask is now a part of our everyday life. In early April, the CDC made the official recommendation that everyone should wear one to help slow the spread of COVID-19 after new research showed that 50% of people who get it don’t show symptoms. So they will likely be around for quite some time, but unfortunately, many people aren’t wearing them correctly and could be exposing themselves unnecessarily. 

Our founder, Dr. Stephen Berger, who is double board-certified in infectious disease and microbiology, provided important tips to People.

“A face mask should be as closely fitted to the skin as possible,” Dr. Berger told PEOPLE. He added there shouldn’t be any gaps on the side of the mask and it should cover everything from your nose to your chin. 

Dr. Berger said “The nose must be covered. Note that when people are tested for the virus, a swab is inserted into the nose — because that is where the virus is!”

Dr. Berger also provided tips for people who wear glasses and how they can avoid fogging up their lenses. 

You can read the entire article here

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