Coronavirus Q&A: Is hiking OK? Does it live in drinking water? What about sex?

"Shelter in place" gets a lot more complicated when we start thinking about the many ways we might cross paths with the COVID-19 virus in day-to-day life. Experts explain how to stay safe while hiking, cooking, reading a newspaper or having sex.

Coronavirus Q&A: Is hiking OK? Does it live in drinking water? What about sex?
“Shelter in place” gets a lot more complicated when we start thinking about the many ways we might cross paths with the COVID-19 virus in day-to-day life. In response to your questions, we joined a recent “virtual town hall” with experts at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Their answers, as well as information gathered from other sources, are summarized here. Read to the bottom and fill out the form to let us know if you have other questions about coronavirus. Check our page of tips for an archive of more general advice and read Part 1 and Part 2 here. What washer or dryer setting do you recommend for killing coronavirus on clothes? Detergents will kill coronavirus. So I wouldn’t worry about the setting. Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health Does UV light kill it? Yes. Dr. Lee Riley, professor and chair of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at UC Berkeley School of Public Health Does it live in drinking water? The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html Can it survive in my refrigerator? Yes, if it’s not exposed to any sort of detergents or any disinfectant. It will probably survive in there for a period of time. Dr. Lee Riley, professor and chair of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at UC Berkeley School of Public Health How should one handle fresh produce or groceries as to minimize this risk? I don’t know of any studies where they looked at fruits and vegetables. I would say there is some duration of survival. But fruit markets and vegetable stands often wash produce with chlorinated water — and that would definitely kill the virus. But I think it’s advisable that if you eat those things uncooked, you should wash them — preferably with some sort of detergent. If the water is flowing in your house is chlorinated, then that that that should suffice. Dr. Lee Riley, professor and chair of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at UC Berkeley School of Public Health My condominium complex has a swimming pool and a hot tub. Are they safe? There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection — with chlorine or bromine — should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19. But it’s still very important to practice social distancing, so avoid locker rooms, team workouts or other gatherings. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html The CDC says it found coronavirus on cabin surfaces of the Princess Cruise ship up to 17 days after passengers disembarked. That’s really scary. The CDC said it was detectable for at least 17 days. It’s not saying it survives 17 days. That’s like saying: “Detecting DNA on a piece of hair, post mortem, means a person is alive.” Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology & immunology, Harvard School of Public Health/Medicine https://twitter.com/michaelmina_lab/status/1242320437788409856 Can I get it from my pets? There’s no evidence that animals are involved in transmitting the virus to humans. I don’t personally think that dogs and cats and other pets pose a particular risk to people that can’t be dealt with by good hand washing. Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health What about my daily newspaper and mailed packages? The World Health Organization states that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low. At my house, we’re bringing in cardboard packages and newspapers and putting them on the floor, then washing our hands, getting disinfectant and wiping off the surface. But I’m guessing this is overkill. Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health Is regular soap just as good as antibacterial soap for washing hands? What about bleach solution or Seventh Generation products? The oily lipid envelope that encases this virus is vulnerable to soap or detergent. The soap molecules wedge themselves into the membrane and pry it apart, killing it. We don’t really need anything new. It’s a virus — so the ‘antibacterial’ part of the soap isn’t needed, just the soap itself, or any EPA-approved disinfectant. There are no studies to support the claims that Seventh Generation makes that it can kill 99.9% of whatever. Bleach is hard on surfaces. But if you’re going to use bleach to kill the COVID-19 virus, you want to put it on and let it air dry for about four minutes. You don’t want to just put it on and wash it off. Nicholas Jewell, professor of biostatistics, UC Berkeley School of Public Health https://www.seventhgeneration.com/blog/coronavirus-information-and-resources Any advice about handwashing? As the Canadian health officer Bonnie Henry said recently, “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapeños and you need to change your contacts.” You really have to make sure you lather up, scrub your palms and get under your fingernails, especially if you have long fingernails and jewelry. Get in and around your thumb and places that you don’t normally think about. I have a nine-year-old son and he just tends to dash his hands under the water. That’s not going to cut it. The best products on earth aren’t going to work if we don’t use them right. Dr. Anna Harte, medical director of UC Berkeley University Health Services https://globalnews.ca/news/6624856/bc-covid-update-tuesday/ Can I get infected through sex? Being within six feet of someone else who has COVID-19 could certainly expose you. And kissing exposes you, because viruses spread through saliva or mucus. But we know that other coronaviruses do not efficiently transmit through sex. COVID-19 has not yet been found in semen or vaginal fluid. It has been found in feces of infected people. General advice: You are your safest sex partner; masturbation doesn’t spread it. The next safest partner is someone you live with. You should avoid close contact — including sex — with anyone outside your household. If you do have sex with others, have as few partners as possible. If you meet your sex partners online, take a break from in-person dates. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, San Jose https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-mar-monte/campaigns/safe-sex-covid-19 I live independently in a retirement community. How risky is it to stay in that community compared to moving in with an adult child who’s working from home? If it’s possible for an older grandparent or parent to move in with a family — and that family is social distancing meticulously — that’s a good alternative. But it’s often not possible. And so those institutions that older people are in have to be meticulous in terms of their infection control. Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health My husband and I have been practicing ‘social distancing’ and self isolation for two weeks. Would it be OK to visit my 96-year-old mother? Yes — with the caveat that you’ve really self-isolated for two weeks. It would be OK if your mother doesn’t live in an extended care facility or nursing home… that is, if she lives independently, for example, in an apartment, and you can go visit her without having contact with other people. That would be a reasonable thing to be able to do. Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health How do I limit my exposure while hiking outside? When passing people heading in the opposite direction on a narrow trail, is there a risk of contracting the virus from the air, or in the air on the trail that they came from? What keeps me from from picking up their viral spray? Outdoors on the trail, where there’s a breeze, the virus will probably be quickly killed by ultraviolet light from the sunlight. If a person is coughing and passes closely, it’s potentially possible that the virus could be transmitted. But the risk is exceedingly small. In still air, the virus can remain suspended for up to about three hours. So if you walk into a room after somebody has been coughing, it’s possible that you can get infected droplets that are suspended in the air. But outdoors, I think it’s highly unlikely. In hospitals, we consider a risk of substantial exposure somebody who has been within six feet for four minutes. Dr. Lee Riley, professor and chair of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at UC Berkeley School of Public Health Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health My kids are getting restless. And children aren’t at greatest risk of illness. Can they have playdates? I understand why parents are doing that, but it really defeats the purpose of ‘social distancing’ to protect the rest of society. It also defeats the purpose of keeping your child safe. Children are just little people and they should be treated accordingly. And recognize, of course, that if the children live with their grandparents, those children may transmit the infection and cause severe illness. And don’t have your children share utensils. If your children are restless and running around, make sure your house is childproof to prevent injuries. Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health Related Articles 48,600 coronavirus test results still pending in California Lake County Office of Education partners with Age of Learning to help families during the COVID-19 outbreak Lake Area Rotary Club Association raises $40k for senior centers during COVID-19 COVID-19 outbreak has Sapeta surrounded COVID-19 quiets lake fishing scene President Trump wants the country to open up by Easter. Do you think that’s realistic? The National Academy of Medicine just posted that a four-week intervention, even if it’s effective, makes very little difference to the ultimate size of this epidemic. Even an eight-week intervention only reduces the cumulative number of infections by 20 or 30%. That was assuming no seasonality effects. So, of course, in eight weeks, we will be into the summer. Saying that we can go back to normal in Easter and have packed churches is really not realistic. The decision will have to be driven by data. And we will certainly be watching things in the next two or three weeks. But believe that if we lift restrictions in two or three weeks that we will not actually have done much to slow down the epidemic. You really need to maintain or suppress transmission for 12 or even 20 weeks before you will really make a big impact. That’s a very long time for society to handle this, and I’m not able to comment on whether we can afford to do that economically. But it all depends also on how successful we are. If a significant fraction of the population doesn’t really practice shelter in place, then the fact that many of us are… that will mute the impact. And it will mean that longer interventions will be even less effective. So the really the best strategy is to have a very strong intervention happen simultaneously in an entire population to suppress transmission. Dr. Nicholas Jewell, professor of biostatistics at UC Berkeley School of Public Health