Masks, groceries, pets: Common Sask. COVID-19 questions answered

Dr. Anne Huang joined The Morning Edition host Stefani Langenegger to answer Saskatchewan residents' biggest questions about the coronavirus.

Dr. Anne Huang joined Stefani Langenegger on CBC Sask.'s The Morning Edition

Saskatchewan has reported 249 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, April 5. (NIAID-RML/The Associated Press/The Canadian Press)

Dr. Anne Huang is a former deputy medical health officer for Saskatchewan and has overseen public health programs in the province for the past five years.

On Monday morning, Huang joined Stefani Langenegger, host of CBC Saskatchewan's The Morning Edition, to answer common questions about COVID-19. 

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Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Langenegger: Should we wear masks when grocery shopping?

Huang: As of today, the recommendation is yes for everyone — health care workers or not health care workers. While we are out grocery shopping or in areas where it's difficult to maintain at least two metres for some other people, it's advisable that we wear cloth facemasks, whether it's homemade or  sold by expert stores.

One of the key things now is emerging evidence that infected individuals are in fact most infectious and breeding the virus just before they become symptomatic ... that means especially healthier and younger individuals who may be infected could be spreading the virus unknowingly.

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How should you handle your groceries when you arrive home? 

Think about your groceries coming into the house as potentially contaminated. When you're handling them, practise a typical sort of hand hygiene and food safety tips.

The key is to consider the packaging and the surface that you touch when you bring your groceries home as potentially being contaminated and needing to be clean, as well as your own hands.

Should I change clothes and/or shower when I get home from being outside? 

If you're a healthcare worker, if you're working with people who may be sick or vulnerable, I would recommend when you come home you do dispose of the clothing and wash it in laundry machines.

For the rest of us, we know that there is community spread at this time but the numbers are low, so at this point I don't think we need to worry about that.

Are we making too big of a deal out of the coronavirus? 

No. I don't think so.

A good example is the fact that we are seeing an increasing number of community transmission cases.

Can pets get the coronavirus or transfer it to others?

If you are sick ... keep your pets away from you, because we don't know at this point for certain. But there is emerging evidence that cats especially ... are at risk and may even spread the virus.

There's the potential that if you have undiagnosed COVID-19, you could potentially have passed it onto the dog. Right now, we do not have studies or evidence to show and we don't think that's the case, but if it's left on the fur and then you touch the dog fur with the COVID-19 virus there is a theoretical risk then it could sort of contaminate yourself.

So I would practice physical distancing for your doggy and if you're sick, don't go to the dog park.

Can I go self-isolate at my cabin or cottage? 

[If] the risk of you developing COVID-19 is very low then I would personally feel that is OK if you choose to go to a rural area if you have a second home there.

The concern from the health authority and public health perspective is that if you are someone who is immunocompromised, at higher risk — elderly for example — if you develop the COVID-19 illness and you are far from a centre that could manage those complications, you could be putting yourself at risk because the smaller hospital or health centre might not have capacity to manage the critical case and you could be overwhelming the rural area health system.

Should I remove my loved one from long-term care? 

I'm not saying that you should or should not. But obviously if you are going to bring your family and relatives home, you want to make sure that you have the capacity to look after them.

Should we be doing more tests in Saskatchewan? 

It's one thing to say let's think that it's everywhere in the community already, but it's another thing to have concrete numbers and knowledge of what's the scale of asymptomatic transmission or a number of people that we have in the province.

So I absolutely do agree, we need to test more.

With files from The Morning Edition


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