“When you’re hearing one thing from your mayor or governor, another from your federal government, and then seeing something on Instagram, we cannot underestimate how incredibly stressful all the I Proise To Teach Heart Love LGBT Shirt and I love this conflicting messaging can be for people,” adds Boardman. Stressful indeed. I’m reminded of that tired old mom phrase: if all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too? Well, this mom is increasingly tempted to jump. But despite my IG feed showing non-familial, sometimes unmasked, embraces, the risks of transmission that come with contact outside your immediate family or strict cohort are quite real. “There is overwhelming evidence that airborne transmission is happening especially in close contact and we know this because the virus has been found in air in particles small enough to remain floating around for hours, and infectious virus has been found in the air,” says Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the leading experts in the study of airborne transmission of viruses. “We don’t yet know exactly what fraction of transmission occurs through the air but it is significant.” And, adds Ellen Foxman MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Yale’s School of Medicine, someone who is infected can be shedding the virus and have the virus on their hands, clothes, or face without realizing it.
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So, is there a way to safely hug outside our immediate family or cohort right now? When I asked Waleed Javaid, MD, the I Proise To Teach Heart Love LGBT Shirt and I love this director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown, his response was an all caps: DO NOT HUG. But Marr, who rates our popular greetings on the following low-to-high risk spectrum—“1) A quick handshake followed by handwashing, 2) a hug following protocols, 3) kiss on the cheeks—says there is a way to do it safely. While a hug poses more risk than a handshake because it brings people in closer contact, following a strict hugging protocol mitigates some of that. “The huggers should wear masks, turn their faces away from each other, avoid talking during the hug, get in and get out of the hug quickly rather than linger in close proximity, and wash their hands afterward,” Marr explains. She considers a hug following the above protocol to be lower risk than sitting outside less than 6 feet away for more than 15 minutes (as most would in an outdoor dining setting).