Cigarette smoke, random testing and public pools: Your coronavirus questions answered

Public pool
Photo credit Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio 1060

KYW Newsradio’s Medical Reports are sponsored by Independence Blue Cross. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Concerned about coronavirus? You’re not alone. 

KYW Newsradio medical editor Dr. Brian McDonough answers all of your coronavirus-related questions below.


Q: I have a son that’s been in the hospital with coronavirus since last week. I was told not to go in his bedroom and to close the door as it's toxic, but how long do I have to wait until I can go in to clean his room? 

A: A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus is detectable on plastic or steel surfaces as long as 72 hours, and up to 24 hours on cardboard. 

Virus particles are detectable in the air for 30 to 60 minutes. 

There are professional services available to sanitize rooms, especially in hospitals and public settings, and these people wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and masks. If you are cleaning a room in your own home, make certain you wait at least five to seven days if you can, and wear a mask and gloves. 

Make certain you wash your hands thoroughly, discard the mask and gloves, and wash the clothes immediately. I would also recommend showering. 

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Q: I’m hearing about the possibility that public pools will not open. There are four swim clubs in an eight-block radius in my area that are still planning to open Memorial Day. What would be necessary in terms of numbers at pools to feel safe?

A: As the weather heats up, it’s always refreshing to head to the beach or the local pool. COVID-19 is making this exciting in a different way. 

According to the CDC website, COVID-19 can not live in properly chlorinated pools, but social distancing still applies, which can be tough in pools — just think about children and the natural desire to play. 

Sdd to this the fact that the owners of the pools must follow strict guidance regarding sterilization of everything from bathrooms to the gate used to enter the pool area. 

Finally, remember that you are dependent on the actions of others. There are still a surprising number of people who do not understand that COVID-19 will attack anyone at any age and doesn’t care if you respect the virus or not. 

As we move through summer, leaders may change certain rules, but keep in mind that you are the best person to protect yourself and your family.

Q: Why aren't we doing random testing for people who do not have any symptoms when it’s clear there are people testing positive with no symptoms? 

A: In an ideal world, we would test everyone for COVID-19 because we could get exact numbers about who is infected and who is not, as well as true reports of people who had no complications, were hospitalized or died from the infection.

The reality is that the number of tests are limited, and even when we are ramping up testing like we have been doing for the past several days, we are finding that there is a significant delay in getting results back. 

However, we know that social distancing is an extremely important step to take whether testing or not.

Q: I have a son who lives with his two sons together in one house. His daughter came home for an overnight from school and will eventually be moving back home. We have no knowledge of where or who her contacts have been. Is isolation necessary for her? 

A: There should be a 14-day period of the best form of isolation you can provide. What this means is that you ideally should have the child sleep in their own room with their own bathroom, as well as wear a mask when near family members. 

You should try your best to remain social distancing, and everyone should wash their hands often. Surfaces need to be repeatedly cleaned.

It’s annoying and makes everyone appreciate what we have taken for granted, but it can prevent illness and save lives.

Q: Can cigarette smoke spread the coronavirus?

A: It is highly unlikely that cigarette smoking would spread COVID-19 but nonsmokers are aware of the dangerous toxic particles that come from secondhand smoke. But the CDC is warning cigarette smokers and those who vape that smoking can increase their risk of getting sicker with COVID-19 if exposed. 

We are seeing this in young people, and the theory is that the use of tobacco products increases the inflammation in the lungs, making them more susceptible to a serious reaction. If you are a smoker, this is a critical time to stop.