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Can cooks spread coronavirus (COVID-19) by talking, breathing near prepared food?

Dr. Frank McGeorge answers viewer question about coronavirus

DETROIT – There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there about the coronavirus (COVID-19), so Local 4 is letting viewers submit questions so we can find verified answers.

Click here if you want to submit a question about the coronavirus.

Dr. Frank McGeorge wants to verify or refute any information about the coronavirus, but there are also some questions experts still don’t know the answer to. McGeorge is discussing them because acknowledging what we don’t know is just as important as verifying information so people don’t rely on incorrect answers.

Restaurant workers

Several viewers have asked a question similar to this one: “I’m all for supporting restaurants, but what about breathing or talking near prepared food? Should those who prepare food be required to wear a mask? It seems the virus could spread as they’re cooking and talking.”

The answer is yes, we’ve reached a point in which we should assume anyone might be infections, even if they don’t have symptoms.

In the case of food preparation and handling, cooking food would obviously eliminate the virus, but once it’s been plated and has cooled, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that infections virus could contaminate it. Everyone should wear a mask to prevent that from happening.

Are ventilators helping?

Here’s another question: “Are ventilators helping COVID-19 patients? After hearing you say most people who are put on ventilators die, why the big push to make more ventilators? Shouldn’t we be looking at a different treatment as a solution?”

Unfortunately, when you can’t breathe on your own, artificial assistance with a ventilator is really the best option. While it’s true that most people who require ventilatory support don’t survive, many do. Without the ventilators, they wouldn’t have a chance to recover.

Incidentally, there a step beyond a ventilator that is much more invasive, called ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Deoxygenated blood is removed. Then, using what amounts to an artificial lung, it’s reoxygenated outside the body and returned to the patient.

Using ECMO in coronavirus patents is an even more complicated proposition.

Should we change furnace filters?

Another viewer asked if those who have had the virus and stayed home should change their furnace filters to prevent the virus from staying in the home duct system.

The answer is no. Based on the air movement, temperatures and the virus’s survival time on surfaces, it’s highly unlikely that it could survive in ductwork or furnace filters.


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