Dr. Darria Long Gillespie
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie is an emergency medicine physician in Tennessee whose personal strategy for protecting against the novel coronavirus can be adopted by anyone.
She told Business Insider washing your hands, wiping down surfaces with disinfecting wipes, and walking away from sick people and large gatherings are the best defenses.
She also said people who think they may be sick shouldn’t flock to ERs to visit doctors like her, but rather call their local health departments until better testing protocols roll out.
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Emergency medicine physician Dr. Darria Long Gillespie admits she was “that woman” on a recent flight from Atlanta to Colorado — the one who meticulously wiped down her family’s arm rests, trays (front and back), and seatbelts with Clorox wipes.
Wiping is one of three “W’s” that comprise her stay-healthy motto during the outbreaks of the novel coronavirus, which, as of Tuesday morning, had killed nearly 3,900 people, infected more than 111,000, and spread to more than 100 countries outside of China, where it originated.
Gillespie, who is also a clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine and a spokesperson for Clorox, talked to Business Insider about the other ways she is trying to stave off COVID-19, and why most people shouldn’t be visiting doctors like her in the ER.
Crystal Cox/Business Insider
In addition to wiping down surfaces, including those on airplanes and in “high-touch” surfaces in her home like doorknobs, faucets, fridge handles, and cellphones, Gillespie endorses a basic hygiene principle that health experts say is the best defense against the coronavirus: wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly.
“I am washing my hands even more than normal,” Gillespie said, adding that she washes them long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” at least two times, or as long as a whole minute, and is sure to get the fronts and backs and under the nails.
In a pinch, hand-sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is the next-best option for washing, she said.
The third and final “w,” then, is “walk away,” meaning to keep your distance from people who may be sick and avoid highly trafficked places as much as possible.
“I’m not going to big, large gatherings or places where a ton of people are,” like political rallies, Gillespie said, although she will continue to go out to eat and travel when necessary. “If there’s somebody coughing and sneezing, walk away and put six feet in between you and them.”
What she’s not doing is wearing a mask in public or putting them on her kids, even though she has access to them as a medical professional. Masks, experts say, won’t keep healthy people healthy the way handwashing will. Rather, they should be reserved for healthcare professionals and those who already have symptoms if they must venture out.
Gillespie also said ‘the worried well’ shouldn’t flock to ERs
Gillespie has seen what happens when the “worried well” (people who are not sick but overcome with concern) flock to ERs. It happened during the H1N1 outbreak, she said. “Our waiting room length of stay just to see a physician in the first place was eight hours,” she remembers. Most people didn’t need to be there.
“Most of them needed testing and reassurance,” she said.
This time, she said it’s important for people who think they may have COVID-19 to call their local department of health before making other moves until broader testing protocols are developed, Gillespie said.
“Do not just go into your doctor’s office. Do not just show up at the emergency department right now,” she said. “Most places, if you just show up and you don’t have known exposure or known travel, aren’t critically ill, according to Department of Public Health guidelines, you would not be tested for COVID.”
Not all disinfectants are created equal
More effective than rushing to the doctor at any cough or sniffle is focusing on the three W’s of prevention, keeping in mind that, when it comes to wiping, surfaces need to remain wet for four minutes and completely dried before being disinfected.
They also need to be wiped of any dirt or grime first, and rinsed with warm water and air-dried after if they’re going to come into contact with food or mouths like baby bottles or toys.
Plus, Gillespie added, not all disinfectant wipes are created equal, which is why she decided to partner with Clorox wipes, which the Environmental Protection Agency has approved “to have activity against staph and 99% of your bacteria and viruses — your staph, your strep, influenza, your Coronavirus,” she said.
“That is the way that we can eradicate it,” she said, “not fear-based and fearmongering, everybody putting on a mask and not doing the things that we know can prevent the spread of this disease.”
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