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From shopping to a possible second outbreak, here’s what you’re asking us today
Restrictions are beginning to loosen across Canada, which means some retail stores will open soon. Can you contract the virus when trying on clothes? Experts say it’s not likely. (Shutterstock / bbernard)
We’re breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions.
You can 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 News Network.
So far, we’ve received more than 35,000 emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking.
Can I try on clothes at the store?
As more businesses reopen throughout the country, people are wondering how this will apply to retail stores. Pat H. is curious if trying on clothing will be safe.
While we don’t have a definitive answer to Pat’s question, we spoke to a couple of infectious diseases specialists who helped us understand the risks of retail shopping.
“People who want to try on clothes in a store should follow general principles intended to reduce the risk of exposure,” says Dr. Matthew Oughton, infectious diseases specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and assistant professor at McGill University.
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This includes not trying on clothing if you are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms, following all store policies in place, using good hand hygiene before and after trying on clothing. Oughton also says you could consider washing your clothing in a washing machine after purchase.
Dr. Lisa Barrett, infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at Dalhousie University, agrees.
“If you wash your hands and don’t touch your face, it is very unlikely you would get the virus from clothes.”
We also know the virus can remain infectious on different surfaces for varying amounts of time. So how does it behave on clothing? Oughton says it seems the virus is “less viable” on absorbent surfaces like cloth as opposed to “surfaces that are hard and non-porous.”
According to the World Health Organization, the disease spreads primarily through tiny droplets expelled when a person infected with SARS-CoV-2 sneezes, coughs, exhales or spits while talking. In order to curb the spread, Oughton says the emphasis should be on ensuring physical distancing and good hand hygiene within the store.
“If I have had to pick two things for stores to do to keep their staff and clientele the most safe, it’s still the same two things we’ve been telling the general population, which is really good hand hygiene … the second thing is physical distancing,” he says.
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But remember, the reopening of businesses is a good sign.
“The reason that things are opening up (in most places other than Quebec) is that the amount of virus in the community in general is starting to decrease,” says Barrett. “So your chances of encountering the virus are generally starting to decrease.”
Will a COVID-19 vaccine need to be administered yearly or just once?
We are receiving a lot of questions about the race for a vaccine. Cate B. is wondering how long a potential COVID-19 vaccine could last, and whether it’s something we’ll have to get every year like the flu shot.
Dr. Michael Curry, a University of B.C. professor and emergency physician, says the answer to Cate’s questions depends on how quickly the novel coronavirus mutates, adding that influenza vaccines protect against particular strains of the virus, but only until it changes into something else.
“But [the coronavirus] evolves more slowly than the flu, which would suggest an immunization for COVID-19 will probably provide slightly longer protection than we would get from a flu shot,” says Curry.
Chris Glover looks at the process involved in developing a vaccine the whole world is waiting on. 3:03
Matthew Miller, an infectious diseases expert at McMaster University, suspects that once a vaccine is developed for the coronavirus it will need updating, but probably not every year.
“You know it’s hard to guess on the time frame but maybe something like every five to 10 years,” says Miller.
But until we have a COVID-19 vaccine, it is difficult to predict how long it could last.
Will there be a second wave of COVID-19, and how bad it could be?
Donald G. is wondering whether there will be a second wave of COVID-19.
“We know with great certainty that there will be a second wave — the majority of scientists [are] sure of that. And many also assume that there will be a third wave,” Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s national disease control centre, said Tuesday.
A second wave of the outbreak is defined as an increase in infections that occurs after a sustained period of time when there are no—or very few—new cases of that illness, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital.
Whether that happens is dependent on how Canadians “gradually shift that dial or that dimmer switch toward fewer and fewer public health restrictions,” said Bogoch.
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