Health

Is it safe to play cards with friends? Your COVID-19 questions answered

As more regions of the country reopen and Canadians get the green light for different social gatherings, we're hearing from seniors who want to know what activities they're allowed to partake in, including their regular bridge groups. We're answering that and other audience questions about COVID-19.

From a game of bridge to going outside more, here's what you're asking us today

As provinces continue to reopen further, seniors are wondering if it's safe for them to get together for a game of cards. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic. Send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we're also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and on CBC News Network. So far we've received more than 46,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Is it a bad idea to play bridge right now?

As more Canadians get the green light for more kinds of social gatherings, we're hearing from seniors who want to know what sorts of activities they're allowed to partake in. 

Marilyn T. wrote us to ask if it's OK to join her regular bridge group now.

The short answer is technically yes — as long as the number of people in your group is within your region's guidelines for social bubbles and circles.

In Ontario, for example, people can create social circles of up to 10 people without needing to  physically distance. But the catch is that all 10 people need to commit to this one bubble and can't be part of other ones.

And that means trusting that your bridge-mates haven't been exposed to the virus.

"When you're getting together with your older friends, you're all at a high risk," said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. 

WATCH | An infectious disease expert puts his cards on the table: 

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether it’s safe to play cards in a group.  3:06

"If one of your friends potentially got infected and if they infect any of you, that can have traumatic consequences." 

He said it's important to consider if the other players are being cautious, like being stringent with hygiene and mask-wearing, and whether they visit with kids and grandkids without physically distancing.

Card games usually require players to sit close to one another, which could be risky.

"This infection can be transmitted more efficiently if people are in close proximity in an indoor environment," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases physician at Toronto General Hospital.

What about the playing cards themselves? Are they a risk?

Bogoch says cards themselves are less of a threat. 

"Touching the cards and then rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth can certainly contribute to transmitting this infection," he said.

But he says in general, playing cards "is something that can be done with great hand hygiene."

Sharing food, however, might be a problem.

"No one plays bridge without having some excellent food in close reach," said Bogoch. 

"Impeccable hand hygiene would be something to really be mindful of."

Additionally, both experts recommend wearing masks and taking the game outside if possible to further reduce the risk.

And there's no harm in taking a raincheck for now.

"If you're not comfortable with it and you're not entirely sure that other people will be negative for this infection, stay home and you can always postpone that for later on," Bogoch said.

But things are opening up. Do seniors really need to stay home?

With more Canadians heading out to enjoy things like going to the library or hitting movie theatres, seniors like Renee P. are wondering if they still have to isolate.

Despite the loosening restrictions, Sinha said the virus that causes COVID-19 is still around and older Canadians are at "the highest risk" of dying if they catch it.

That said, it's OK for seniors to go for a walk or shop at the store, he said, but they — and their caregivers — need to be especially mindful of what they're doing when they're out.

"This is where I would encourage older Canadians to really be adhering to public health guidance," Sinha said, which includes frequent handwashing, practising physical distancing and avoiding sick people and large gatherings

The same advice applies to caregivers, whose responsibilities typically require them to be physically close to vulnerable people.

"You also have to be hyper vigilant on what you do and who you congregate with."


Thursday we answered questions about hosting guests

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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