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Coronavirus questions: A Houston health expert on playgrounds, restaurants and self-quarantine

Is it safe to go to a restaurant? What about a playground? A health expert answers these questions and more

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 14:  A passenger looks at his phone while wearing a protective face mask at the Houston International Airport on March 14, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Passengers are wearing masks to avoid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Carol Coelho/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 14: A passenger looks at his phone while wearing a protective face mask at the Houston International Airport on March 14, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Passengers are wearing masks to avoid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Carol Coelho/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

Dozens of Houstonians sent us the COVID-19 questions concerning them most. We shared them with Dr. Vivian Nriagu, a longtime physician with experience working in Houston trauma centers and emergency rooms.

Here, Nriagu answers five coronavirus-related questions we received from readers:

1. Can you have coronavirus without upper respiratory symptoms?

“Every human has a unique biology that will react to the virus in its own unique way,” wrote Nriagu. "So, Yes, you can have covid-19 without classic Upper respiratory Symptoms. Symptoms associated with Covid-19 are generally “flu-like”, which encompasses a broad range of symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, runny nose, and fatigue. "

2. Is it safe to to go to a restaurant?

“Social distancing is being practiced for the first time in USA history,” wrote Nriagu. “It involves staying away from places where people meet and gather and reducing interpersonal contact. By minimizing our exposure, we minimize the spread of Covid-19. Social distancing means staying away from places where people meet and gather including restaurants. Individuals may consider delivery and pick up services instead. Restaurants may consider spacing out tables, taking advantage of outdoor space, and improving restaurants’ hygiene and cleanliness standards."

3. Is it safe to take kids to a playground?

“Children can be infected by Covid-19 (but do not appear to become very ill when infected) and are definite spreaders of Covid-19,” wrote Nriagu. “As such, consider play dates in the yard where there are fewer places for germs to collect, reduce interpersonal contact, consider outside activities like biking or hiking where sport equipment aren’t shared and its easier to keep a good distance from each other. Use bleach on all surfaces to disinfect.”

4. If you have to self-quarantine in your home with family in a separate room, can the virus travel through the duct system?

“There is no evidence that suggests that Covid-19 can spread through duct systems,” wrote Nriagu. “Preliminary studies are showing that the main way the virus is spread is through respiratory droplets spread through coughing, touch, and sneezing within a fairly close range of people.”

5. Can you get coronavirus by eating food that was prepared in a room where someone with the virus sneezed or coughed?

“There is no evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted via food,” wrote Nriagu. “However, theoretically it could happen. There are strict guidelines that restaurants have to follow to ensure food safety and reduce the spread of all germs. These guidelines include washing hands and disinfecting surfaces.”

Do you have a coronavirus-related question? Send it our way, and we will try to work with experts to get an answer for you.

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