In the second part of this series, three additional experts instrumental in our COVID-19 response share how they’re staying safe and handling the pandemic at home.
Seth Cohen, MD, MSc, is the director of Infection Prevention and Control at UW Medical Center. He has helped coordinate efforts to ensure the hospital environment is safe for patients and staff and is the medical director for the drive-up testing site at UW Medical Center – Northwest.
John Lynch, MD, is the medical director of the Infection Control program at Harborview Medical Center. From making initial house calls to creating new hospital policies and procedures, he has been at the forefront of COVID-19 safety and prevention.
Allison Zelikoff, RN-BC, is the nurse program manager for Population Health at Harborview Medical Center. She has helped lead the hospital’s response to the pandemic, with a focus on employee health and safety.
Do you order takeout or eat at restaurants or bars?
Cohen: I do a lot of takeout, but I haven’t yet eaten in a restaurant. I did sit on a restaurant patio recently, but I’m not at a point where I’m ready to sit down in the building, though I do absolutely support getting takeout from some of our great local spots.
Lynch: We do takeout. We desperately miss some of our favorite foods, which we can’t make at home. We also haven’t eaten at a restaurant where you can sit outside. I think the issue I’ve seen is there is a spectrum of outdoor eating options and some are not distanced, which I don’t think is a great idea.
Zelikoff: I do not go to restaurants or bars at this time. I do order takeout in an effort to support local business. My perspective on going out at this time is that it is not essential and not worth the risk to the server, myself, my family or other guests at the restaurant or bar.
Do you shop at a grocery store or order food and other essential items?
Cohen: I do a mix. When I order grocery curbside pickup it’s because of a time crunch, not because I don’t want to go into grocery stores. I think stores are doing a good job monitoring the number of shoppers and mask usage.
Lynch: We definitely go to the grocery store, and we go to three or four different grocery stores depending on what we need. One thing that’s been interesting is I have two children and they’re home all the time now, so we have to constantly feed them. One’s 11 and one’s 13, so we’ve actually been going to Costco more because you can get a lot of food in one shot.
Zelikoff: I do grocery shop but with a clear plan. I love to cook and being able to pick my ingredients is important to me. I find it soothing somehow. I make a list, I mask, and I’m in and out as fast as possible, with hand hygiene before and after. I order other goods online to avoid lingering inside of stores for a prolonged period of time. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss meandering around and shopping in stores though.
What does your cleaning regimen look like at home?
Cohen: We have a housecleaner who comes occasionally, and we try to be either out of the house or in a different room than that person is in. But our goal for cleaning our house is not to sterilize it but to keep up the normal maintenance of the house.
Lynch: The usual. We don’t do anything particularly special. We don’t wipe down groceries, and I don’t wipe down mail or boxes. What we do is wash our hands a lot. If you’re getting mail, wash your hands when you come in the house, or wash your hands after getting groceries. That’s how we handle it.
Zelikoff: I wipe down all high touch surfaces daily and I steam mop once per week. I try to keep as much ventilation and air flow going in my home as possible.
When and where do you wear a mask?
Cohen: I wear a mask essentially any time I leave the house. There are times when I might go for a trail run or a run in an area where I know I won’t be around people so I don’t wear a mask, but essentially any other time where I may be around someone I mask up.
Lynch: I wear a mask whenever there’s any chance I’m going to be near other people. I have a mask in my car and computer bag all the time, and whenever I go into any store, I wear a mask. On the flip side, my wife and I walk every evening and we don’t wear a mask when out walking. The idea is that masking mitigates a lack of distance, so if you can maintain distance then masking isn’t as important. That’s my yardstick: if I can’t maintain distance then I’m wearing a mask.
Zelikoff: I wear a mask anytime I leave the house — even if I don’t plan to interact with anyone. If there is a possibility that I will cross paths with another person within 6 feet, I am masking. I wear a mask anytime someone enters my home and anytime I answer the door to accept a delivery.
How do you plan to adjust to Seattle’s upcoming dark, rainy weather?
Cohen: It’s been a really hard adjustment. For me, mental health is incredibly important. I think my mental health is strongly impacted by the weather, as it is for many people. I recently bought some cooler running gear and dug out an older exercise bike. My wife and I are also thinking about ways to bond with the kids. We are setting aside time on the weekends to drag them outside in the rain and finding good books that the whole family can enjoy.
Lynch: We have lots of raincoats and other tools that allow us to be outdoors and do those things. I also think people should get prepared for living life with a lot more time indoors. My kids and I started learning how to do Dungeons and Dragons earlier this year. It’s one of those activities we do indoors together and maybe even remotely with other kids. They really enjoy it and the three of us play it together. We also built a climbing wall with a little roof that we should be able to use through the rainy season.
Zelikoff: This is a challenge that I think about frequently. I aim to exercise as much as possible, set goals for myself — maybe a project around the house, maybe getting through some books that I’ve been meaning to read — and stick to healthy eating. I think it’s important that everyone is kind to themselves and seeks out resources when they struggle. Please reach out to us in Employee Health Services if there is anything we can do to help guide you, connect you to resources or just be an ear for listening.
Looking ahead to the fall, what is something you want people to know?
Cohen: As somebody who works in the hospital, I think it’s incredibly important to create and maintain a culture of gratitude for everyone who is working so hard under tremendous stress. I want to make sure that staff are receiving appropriate recognition for all of the incredible work they do every day. We will get through this, and I could not be more proud.
Lynch: COVID-19 can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. You don’t know who has it and who doesn’t, so please use physical distancing and please use a mask. One of the most important things we can do is stay home if we have any symptoms of any illness and to get tested. We know what works and we can deal with the change of seasons if we stick with using all of those tools.
Zelikoff: Please do not let your guard down with masking, distancing and hand hygiene. The situation is very real, it is exhausting and it requires every single one of us to respect and protect each other as you would your own family.
Read Part 1 and stay tuned for Part 3 to learn how are our COVID-19 experts are handling travel, upcoming holidays and hugs.