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Expert: Hand washing, sanitizer more important than wearing gloves in public

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Social distancing works. That’s part of the message conveyed Monday by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo in her daily briefing on the state’s COVID-19 situation.

“The single biggest variable in the model, the single biggest assumption, is the level of effectiveness of our social distancing,” she said. “If you look at the data from other states and cities that are ahead of us, it is 100% true that social distancing mitigates the effects of this — which is why we’re being so serious about it.”

While many Rhode Islanders are following the guidelines, Raimondo said she’s still getting reports of people gathering in large groups and threatened to “shut everything down” if it continues.

Dr. James McDonald, the R.I. Department of Health’s medical director, said during Monday’s briefing that they’re still learning about the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“COVID-19 behaves like other viruses in many ways,” he said. “We now know that two days before you show symptoms, you’re spreading the virus.”

He also emphasized the importance of thoroughly washing hands and using hand sanitizer.

“If you keep wondering why I keep asking people to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer after you touch a common object, it’s because this is really, really important,” McDonald added.

On Sunday, when asked about wearing gloves to protect against the virus, McDonald said he’s “not in love with gloves.”

“When we do transactions with each other at a store — when we exchange credit cards, debit cards, money — if we aren’t changing our gloves every time, then those little viral particles, those little fomites are stuck to our gloves,” he explained.

Eyewitness News followed up with a question about whether or not you need to wipe down the items you buy.

R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said the biggest concern should be with high-touch areas like shopping carts and basket handles rather than food items.

“The FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response said, ‘There is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,’ Wendelken added.

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