Good hygiene practices are a must to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

In an exclusive interview, Racine County Eye owner Denise Lockwood spoke to Dr. Michael O. Frank, Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the Medical College of Wisconsin about the importance of good hygiene practices. We asked him several questions about facemasks, gloves, and how long the virus can last on surfaces.

He also offered up advice on when you should wear a mask, his feelings about opening up businesses, and explained the pitfalls of testing and counting COVID-19 cases. The answers were edited for length and brevity. Keep those good hygiene practices up.

5 hygiene questions answered

Q: Should people wear masks?

A: So as you know the CDC does recommend that people wear masks when they’re in public and when they leave their home. My recommendation is that if you are going to be by yourself there’s no reason to wear a mask if you’re driving in your car by yourself or if you are with someone that you live with. If you are at the park walking or you’re playing golf when you’re outdoors there’s no reason to wear a mask.

If you are going to Home Depot and you’re going to be around a bunch of people that you can’t avoid that you don’t know, I would wear a mask. I wear a mask if I’m going to the grocery store, the drugstore, or the hardware store. That’s because there are people around that I can’t stay six feet away from that I don’t know. And I can’t tell if they’re sick or not. They may be shedding virus even if they’re not ill.

Q: Are cloth masks effective

A: I wear a mask. A cloth mask will significantly reduce your risk because most of the transmission if not all of that occurs through droplets that you may not be able to see. This isn’t like the kind of big droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. But they’re droplets that will be blocked by a cloth mask, or by six feet of space. So, I do recommend that people wear cloth masks if they’re out in public around people that they don’t live with.

Q: Sanitizer wipes, gloves or both?

A: So yeah if you go to a store takes some wipes with you and wipe down the cart before you touch it. I actually don’t recommend gloves. The problem with gloves is if you wear gloves in a store you get stuff all over the outside of the gloves. Then when you take the gloves off, you contaminate your hands by touching the gloves.

Gloves are a great place for the virus to kind of accumulate unless you have enough that you’re going to change them regularly and you know how to do it without touching them, which most people outside the medical field don’t need to wear gloves when you’re out in a store. I would take hand sanitizer with me and I would take wipes or get wipes. After you get back to your car you need to sanitize right away before you touch your steering wheel, keys, or anything else because your hands are now contaminated. That’s a hard one.

Q: How long does the virus live on hard surfaces?

A: So, there are two main ways that this is being spread. One is through droplets through the air so that’s why people should wear masks. The other is through what we call fomites. Fomites mean certain surfaces — nonliving surfaces — that the virus can survive on. You pick up (the virus) on your hands and then touch your nose or your eyes and then get it.

Q: How long the virus lives on fomites is variable depending on how much virus was put on there, to begin with, what the temperature is and how much humidity there is. But in general, the virus can last on surfaces between a few hours, and a few days, depending on the surface.

Hard surfaces like steel, it actually survives longer on than things like cardboard so to be perfectly honest, I don’t worry as much about packages coming to your house because it actually doesn’t last very long on cardboard or paper or cloth. But it can last up to a few days on hard surfaces like metal or plastic. And so to avoid that, that’s part of why you wash your hands. We recommend you wash your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. It’s partly because you’ll touch stuff when you’re out, and not knowing, you picked up virus. So you need to wash or sanitize to kill that virus and get rid of it before you touch yourself.

Read more: Symptoms and testing

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.