Doctors warn health risks remain as coronavirus restrictions are lifted


SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Even though stay-at-home orders are being lifted, that doesn’t mean the threat of the coronavirus is gone.

“What I am telling my patients whan they come out is, if you are high risk, you need to act as if everybody around you has the virus,” said Dr. Karen Walker with Oil City Medical Clinic. “And protect yourself.”

Doctors said dining inside a restaurant puts yourself at greater risk than eating outside on a patio.

“You’re in a contained area with smaller square footage, for the most part, with lower air turnover,” said Dr. Walker. “So, that puts you at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus.”

Consumers we spoke with said that makes sense.

“It kind of does because more germs are gonna be inside, you know, compared to outside,” said Alyssa Taylor. “‘Cause not as many people eat outside.”

“if people spread apart correctly, you know, give a good amount of space and everyone continues to sneeze and cough properly like they’re supposed to and wash their hands, I think it should be fine,” said Tiera Williams.

Even so, some would rather just take their food to go.

“I wanna do my part to stay safe,” said Ray Perkins. “I don’t want to get infected and I don’t want to infect nobody else just in case. So, I’d rather just do the drive up, the curbside and enjoy it at home.”

Doctors said an even greater risk than eating out is singing praises at church.

“By far the highest rate of transmission, if it’s not a sneeze, is singing,” said Dr. Walker. “You get a large volume of droplets that are put out over an extended period of time.”

The most common way the virus is transmitted is through droplets, according to the CDC.

“Talking, singing, laughing, sneezing – sneezing really blows it out there,” said Dr. Walker. “That’s what the face coverings are for. That’s what the masks are for.”

Even though they’re often optional, the masks make a difference.

“It’s a courtesy,” said Dr. Walker. “And I understand human rights and freedoms and all that and I’m ‘born on the Fourth of July’ and as much about individual freedoms as the next person.”

People we spoke with had mixed reactions to wearing the face coverings.

“There’s two sides to that,” said Curtis Zoss. “There’s don’t spread it, but at the same time you’re a wearing a petri dish on your face, so I try not to stay in public areas too often.”

“It does give people that piece of security mentally that, ‘hey, you’re wearing a mask, I feel protected,’ but at the end of the day it’s technically not supporting us or protecting us against the coronavirus strain,” said Williams.

Wearing a mask may be a little more difficult when working out inside a gym, which makes that activity a bit riskier.

“A lot of times there’s a lot of high droplet emission because you’re exerting yourself and you’re breathing harder and breathing faster,” said Dr. Walker.

“For now, I’m going to avoid the gym and those group settings like that,” said Perkins. “Until it’s better controlled, I’m gonna stay away from them.”

As bars reopen, the risk there’s with the generally smaller spaces and close contact.

A good rule of thumb right now is to keep your distance, but keep living your life.

“I think there’s a certain amount of wise discretion and precaution you should use, but there’s also a lot of potential fear mongering going on making people too afraid to get out and do things,” said Bailes.

Doctors said staying isolated causes its own set of health problems.

“From people getting depressed, their anxiety levels are through the roof, they’re not sleeping, they’re not eating,” said Dr. Walker. “And all that lowers their general sense of well being, which does lower their immune system and put them more at risk for adverse effects.”

Limiting your interaction to just your immediate family and keeping a six-foot distance between groups can help stop the spread of infection. Doctors said that space and wearing face masks is still important as things reopen.

“If you’ve been out recently, people don’t really believe that much in social distancing anyways,” said Christopher Bailes. “Not a lot of people are wearing masks and trying to stay away from each other.”

“I don’t think folks really want to go back under a lockdown,” said Curtis Zoss. “In fact, I don’t think people will even stand for it, so they’ll be smart about it.”

Looking out for others is the most important thing we can all do right now.

“The bottom line is we’re all in this together,” said Dr. Walker. “We all need to protect each other and just use a little common sense and a little respect for everybody’s personal space.”

Doctors said hand washing is still the number one precaution you can take to avoid catching the virus. They recommend washing your hands at least five times a day and after any sort of contact.

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