April 23, 2020: Public Health Update

From: Tom McLarney, MD
April 23, 2020
Subject: Public Health Update

To the Wesleyan Community,

Greetings from the Davison Health Center. As of Monday evening, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has mandated by executive order that face coverings be worn in public anywhere a 6-foot distance is unavoidable, including in stores, pharmacies, and at grab-and-go restaurants, as well as when using public transportation and in the workplace. Employees working on Wesleyan’s campus are required to wear face coverings while at work and when the 6-foot distancing requirement is unattainable. Employees may have some flexibility when working in offices alone with the door closed, but must have a face covering available. Please see the State of Connecticut’s “Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employees.”

Wesleyan is offering free face coverings to students, faculty, and staff on campus. Students may pick up masks at a pop-up station on the main floor of Usdan. Staff and faculty masks are available for pick-up at Wes station in the basement of Usdan.

For everyone, I would recommend that face coverings, which cover the nose and mouth, be worn anytime you are outside, as one can never guarantee that the 6-foot distancing can be adhered to. If you are outside for a walk or jog and there is more than adequate distance from others, I would advise that a face covering is readily available to be donned if an area becomes more populated. Recently, our local trails have become busier as people feel the need to get outside for some fresh air and sun.

It is important to understand that the purpose of a cloth face covering is not to protect the wearer but to protect others in the vicinity. This is because people with Covid-19 may not show symptoms for two to three days before symptom onset or may never exhibit symptoms at all. Face coverings are NOT a substitute for physical distancing. They are another layer of disease prevention.

Instructions for making a cloth face covering are available on the CDC’s website, along with instructions for proper care and usage.

Many of you may be wondering about how to handle packages, groceries, and take-out food.  A recent New England Journal of Medicine article reports that the coronavirus can last up to 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic.  Here are some guidelines to protect yourself:

  • Leave your mail unopened for at least 24 hours.  After opening, discard the paper or cardboard. Wash your hands and any surface the mail was on. You may wipe down packages and mail with a disinfecting wipe, and can divide your countertop into “clean” and “dirty” areas to maintain sanitation.
  • If possible, non-perishable groceries should be put aside for up to 72 hours before using. You may also remove and discard the outer packaging, and store food in only the inner packaging, which is less likely to have come into contact with the virus recently.
  • Fruits and vegetables should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds followed by a thorough rinsing with water.
  • For take-out food, it is believed that cooking destroys the virus. In other words, beware the pizza box but not the pizza.

As always, I send all my best wishes for good health.

Tom McLarney, MD