By Robin Clutters

Coronavirus is a rapidly changing situation, and we know so many of you have questions. That’s why CBSN Denver is launching a new, weekly segment with CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida answering some of the most pressing questions about COVID-19.

(CBS4) – As the state’s stay-at-home order expires, Gov. Jared Polis is calling this next phase “Safer at Home.” A big part of that new order includes the use of masks. So how will wearing a mask help us? Dr. Dave says masks really protect other people from us — instead of protecting us from other people.

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“Masks don’t generally do a very good job when you talk about them shielding virus particles from going through a cloth mask,” says Dr. Dave. “However, they do a reasonable job at protecting others from respiratory droplets that may be coming from your mouth.”

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While masks may do more to protect others, Dr. Dave says they also do something that could prevent you from getting sick.

“I think that one of the nicest things about wearing a mask is that it will keep you from perhaps touching your face more often than you otherwise would,” says Dr. Dave.

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He says wearing a mask is also another way to support other Coloradans through this crisis.

“We all need to wear them to show that we are really doing this as a community, as a state, in order to protect each other.”

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Another common question Dr. Dave has been getting is about how long coronavirus lasts on surfaces. Can it stick to your clothes after a trip to the grocery store or a walk?

“The good news is that the virus itself does not really do very well sticking to fabric.” He added, “in other words, it doesn’t live on fabric very long if it does in fact land on your clothing.”

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Dr. Dave says a virus typically has a lifespan of three to five days on a hard surface. It goes down to only one day on something like cardboard. And when it comes to clothing, it lives a few hours at the most. Dr. Dave also says getting the virus while on a walk is extremely difficult, because moving makes it hard for the virus to land on you.

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“Imagine a wind tunnel. What happens when you’re moving is viral particles will come at you, but when they come near you, they wind up spreading apart and going past you.”

Last week, National Jewish started offering antibody tests to the public. The tests are not for people who are actively showing symptoms. Instead, it detects if you already had an immune response to the virus—even if it was months ago. That has many people wondering: can you truly become immune to the virus? Dr. Dave says it’s too early to draw conclusions.

”A test may show that you were at some point exposed to the virus; you may have had no symptoms, you may have had very few symptoms. but we don’t know what that means. Does that give you immunity in the future? We don’t know. Does that mean it’s okay for you to return to work? We don’t know.”

As these tests have shown, COVID-19 affects people very differently. In fact, the CDC recently added six new symptoms: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headaches, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell.


Dr. Dave says he’s seen a wide variety of symptoms in his patients.

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“Some people tend to wax and wane in terms of how they do recover. They’ll have a week that they just feel miserable, then all of the sudden they’ll feel better, then they’re running a fever on day 14. It’s very discouraging.”

Dr. Dave says the virus takes such a toll on the immune system that he cannot clearly say how long a patient may be sick. He says it’s important for people to get medical help when it’s needed, and follow the advice of their doctors.

“The virus takes a heck of a toll on your system. Not just on your lungs, but your immune system in general and many other organs. It is a sneaky virus that tends to affect more body systems than we ever realized, and that’s why we continue to add symptoms that we never thought were involved with the virus, but in fact truly are.”

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Robin Clutters