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Should we wear masks and gloves to the grocery store?

The Day has received dozens of reader-submitted questions about the coronavirus, ranging from general questions to ones specific to certain conditions or situations. We've been going through them and trying to answer some every week.

If you want to submit a question about COVID-19, visit theday.com/coronavirusquestions.

Making our trips to grocery store as infrequent as possible, but when we do need to go, are wearing gloves and a face mask necessary, and are there other precautions to take?

The guidance on face coverings has changed since this question was asked on March 24. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started recommending "wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

Health officials had long said face masks should be reserved for health care workers and people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but studies show people can have the virus without having any symptoms and still be at risk of transmitting it to others. Still, the CDC maintains that surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be reserved for medical personnel.

Doctors and scientists aren't recommending people wear gloves for grocery shopping, because they don't have a lower potential of carrying the virus than your hands. If you touch something with gloves and then touch your face, it's no better than touching something with your hands and then touching your face.

Dr. Lauren Sauer, emergency medicine professor at Johns Hopkins University of School of Medicine, told TIME magazine gloves and masks can give people "a false sense of security," and people have a higher risk of exposure if they take gloves off incorrectly. Microbiologist Kelly Reynolds told Men's Health that studies show even 30% of health care workers remove gloves improperly.

Other precautions experts recommend, if having your groceries delivered isn't feasible, include sending only one member of the household to do the shopping, going at times that aren't as busy, using a paper grocery list instead of one on your phone, not touching your face, and getting enough groceries for two weeks.

How safe are the fresh fruits and vegetables at the local markets?

"Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19," the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says. "Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill."

One would hope there aren't people sneezing or coughing onto produce in grocery stores, though a woman was arrested after allegedly intentionally coughing on fresh food in a Pennsylvania grocery store, causing product loss totaling more than $35,000, the store said in a Facebook post.

Wash your fruits and vegetables with water, and don't use any soap or chemicals.

How many people have recovered? Are people who have recovered from coronavirus being examined to see if their blood can be made into some type of vaccine as was the case with flu in 1920s?

As of Saturday afternoon, Johns Hopkins University has tracked 235,775 recovered cases worldwide, including 9,920 in the United States.

But that's only among confirmed cases, and it's impossible to know how many people have actually recovered from the coronavirus, due to limited testing capacity in some places and cases without symptoms. Many people may have had mild or no symptoms, never been tested, and recovered from COVID-19.

The FDA said Friday that limited data suggests convalescent plasma, or blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19, may be beneficial to those diagnosed with the illness, so it's important to evaluate such therapies. The agency said it is facilitating "well-controlled clinical trials at academic institutions to rigorously evaluate the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma."

Is there a database of those who recovered from COVID-19? For example, when did they show symptoms? What was the duration of their sickness? Did they test positive? Did they go to a hospital? Can we send these people back to work without fear of infecting anyone else or being re-infected?

Av Harris, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said in an email Saturday, "We do not have that information yet. Our hope is that in the future we will start to get those reports."

I keep hearing that if you do develop COVID-19, you should not take Advil or ibuprofen, but only Tylenol or acetaminophen because Advil will make your symptoms much worse. I'm on a regimen of Celebrex, a similar class drug. If I develop COVID-19, am I in danger of severe symptoms?

Researchers at Kings College in London reviewed 13 studies on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include ibuprofen and Celebrex, and "did not identify any strong evidence for or against the use of ibuprofen for treatment of COVID-19 specifically." This review was published March 27.

In a FAQ updated March 30, the CDC said it's "currently not aware of scientific evidence establishing a link between NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen) and worsening of COVID-19."

The FDA said the same thing but also noted that all prescription NSAID labels warn that "the pharmacological activity of NSAIDs in reducing inflammation, and possibly fever, may diminish the utility of diagnostic signs in detecting infections."

I live with my boyfriend in a one-bedroom house. No basement and one bathroom also. What do we do if one of us contracts the virus? What's the best way to protect ourselves when we have to stay in the same house?

The CDC recommends that a sick person in your household stay in one room and away from you as much as possible, and wear a cloth face covering when in the same room as you.

For a shared bathroom, the agency says "the person who is sick should clean and disinfect after each use. If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting."

The CDC's other recommendations include not sharing personal household items like dishes or towels or bedding; using household cleaning sprays or wipes to clean shared surfaces, such as doorknobs and counters, every day; washing laundry thoroughly, and avoiding having unnecessary visitors.

Joseph Allen and Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also recommend running a portable air purifier and humidifier in the room where the infected person is, opening windows and running an exhaust fan in the bathroom.

e.moser@theday.com

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