Public Transportation, Haircuts and Hikes: 3 COVID-19 Experts Share Their Safety Habits

By
Emily Boynton
Image
Laura Evans, MD, and her nephew at Hurricane Ridge
Laura Evans, MD, and her nephew at Hurricane Ridge.
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By now, you likely have the three Ws on lock: you’re washing your hands, watching your distance and wearing a mask. 

But what about the minutia of everyday activities? 

In this three-part series, experts instrumental in our COVID-19 response share how they’re handling the pandemic at home. 

The experts

Geoffrey Baird, MD, PhD, is a pathologist and acting chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the UW School of Medicine. He has played an instrumental role in expanding COVID-19 testing for local hospitals.

Laura Evans, MD, is a physician and the medical director for critical care at UW Medical Center – Montlake. After working with COVID-19 patients in Seattle, she traveled to New York to help aid patients during the height of the city’s outbreak.

Ali Mokdad, PhD, is the chief strategist for Population Health at UW School of Medicine and one of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) senior faculty. He works on the IHME team building COVID-19 projection models.

Do you take any public transportation, be it a bus, the light rail or a ferry?

Baird: I was a regular bus rider to work, but I stopped sometime in March. I actually have an electric scooter I can take and sometimes I drive if it’s inconvenient. Normally I would bus in and then run home, but I haven’t been able to do that. You can’t run with a scooter; it’s put a little cramp in my style. 

Evans: I have taken a ferry several times and I think the ferry guidance is really useful. I’ve driven on the ferry and stayed in the car, though I think I would feel pretty comfortable with my mask on in the outdoor deck. 

Mokdad: I've taken the ferry twice. The first time we drove but we stayed in the car, and we went to Whidbey Island. This weekend, I went with my family to San Juan Island, we took our car and the ferry. We did not stay in the car and went up but with masks and staying away from others. We stayed in a hotel.

Ali Mokdad, PhD, and his daughter on San Juan Island physically distanced from others in a park.
Mokdad and his daughter on San Juan Island, physically distanced from others in a park.

Have you seen any friends?

Baird: We have had some socially distanced interactions. I’ve had them with work colleagues who are friends too. We’ve taken to sitting in the backyard all 10 to 15 feet away from each other, all bringing our own beverages, individually wrapped snacks and wearing masks. I wear a mask when not eating and drinking.

Evans: Yes, strictly outdoors. It’s funny, I went over to a friend’s house for the first time last week and it felt so strange because I haven’t been to someone’s house for such a long time. I walked through the house to get to the backyard. I wore my mask through her home and took it off sitting outside 6 feet apart.

Mokdad: In person, no. But on Zoom, yes.

Have you had anyone in your home, be it friends, cleaners or other home service individuals?

Baird: Yes, once. Sometime in spring, maybe earlier summer, we had a big ant infestation and an ant guy had to come because it didn’t get remedied the first time. We left the house when that happened and took a walk as a family around the neighborhood, so we left time for it to air out. 

Evans: Just my nephew who visited, and then a close friend, but for a very short period of time just to pick up something and leave.

Mokdad: I had one guy come and fix my air conditioning, but most of the work was done outside.

Have you gone to a barber or hairdresser? 

Baird: No, my hair got pretty shaggy, as did my boys’. I can cut my kids’ hair, so I did that. My wife is having her hair grow out. Only a few weeks ago my wife cut my hair for the first time in her life, and it turned out not too bad. From the front it’s perfect, if you were to scrutinize the sides or back, maybe not, but you can’t tell on Zoom. 

Evans: I got my first pandemic haircut three weeks ago and it was amazing. I needed a haircut so badly. I felt like the system they had was actually quite good. They had appointment only, they asked your symptoms for screening, you were the only person in the salon at the time, and both me and the stylist were wearing masks. I felt like getting a haircut was really humanizing. 

Mokdad: No, this [referencing his hair] is my work. I use a hair trimmer except for the front part, which is longer, and I cut it with scissors. If I look straight at you it’s OK. If you see the sides, it’s a different story. 

Have you gone hiking or to parks or beaches? 

Baird: I go to Magnuson Park essentially every day and run around it and through it. I wear a mask 100% of the time, except when I’m running. I also went to Mount Si with my son one time, but other than that no. We really have been homebodies. I’m not terribly interested in going to places with crowds, even with masks. 

The son of Geoff Baird, MD, on Mount Si.
Baird's son on Mount Si.

Evans: Yes, getting outside is the only thing keeping us sane. I’ve done all of those things within the city and within western Washington. 

Mokdad: I do a lot of hikes, but again wearing masks and staying away from people. To avoid crowds, I pick hikes that are very difficult, a two-hour drive from here where you go on top of the mountain. I did a hike sometime in May, and when we reached the peak there was a snow flurry.

Looking ahead to the fall, what is something you want people to know?

Baird: I think things can go a bunch of different ways, but I don’t see much changing until there is a vaccine. If I wasn’t an optimist, I wouldn’t have my job, but I’m trying to maintain some pessimism so there is a pleasant surprise if things do go well. 

Evans: I am kind of concerned about how to stay social with people in this area, particularly when the weather is not great. I think it’s going to be hard in the fall. I’ve been getting e-books from the Seattle Public Library, which has been a great asset to still have access to books that way without having to go to the library itself. I do particularly enjoy the New York Times crossword puzzles. 

Mokdad: If you locked the door right now, how much would you have? How long would you be able to stay at home? I’m originally from Lebanon, and I grew up in the civil war, so right now my advice is to store in your house enough food — for a month if you can — but be ready to be in lockdown at home. It’s a preparedness question of how much people have regarding medication and food. In my case, I am prepared mentally for another lockdown if it happens.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 to learn more about our experts at-home safety habits during the pandemic.

Did You Know?

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