'Safe Sex' Takes On New Meaning In COVID-19 Pandemic

KCBS Radio Morning News
July 31, 2020 - 1:21 pm

    Related: Answering Your Questions About COVID-19 Transmission

    Now that the coronavirus pandemic has gone on for months, the need to social distance and stay home as much as possible has many people starved for affection.

    "Everybody needs intimacy and human contact and I think that’s an important thing," said Dr. Saskia Popescu, Epidemiologist and Infection Prevention Expert with the University of Arizona.

    Dr. Popescu is one of a group of doctors who recently published a color coded chart evaluating the risks of everyday activities from grocery shopping to exercise to air travel.

    But one activity notably missing from the list? Sex. 

    "We really encourage people to stay within their own households," said Dr. Popescu, speaking on KCBS Radio’s "Ask An Expert" segment Friday. So unless you have a willing partner in your home or social bubble who you are already exposed to regularly, "that is going to be a high risk interaction."

    Dr. Popescu said risk level is determined largely on distance and duration. Some of the most effective strategies to prevent transmission of the virus are to stay at least six feet away from others and keep your interactions brief and outdoors, which can be difficult if not impossible when it comes to physical intimacy.

    As for wearing a mask, "that might be quite challenging, but love the idea for infection control reasons," said Dr. Popescu.

    But for those without a partner, being alone for months on end is easier said than done. So there are a few steps people can take to protect themselves and others. 

    She recommended avoiding a potential partner who might be sick. Hygiene also takes on new importance. Avoid other types of high risk interactions in the days leading up to intimacy, and "maybe try to quarantine yourself for 14 days after, or at least be aware that that could be an exposure point."