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Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel answered your questions about the coronavirus pandemic on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday.

Question: How safe is it when I am grocery-shopping to not have a mask? Someone could have just coughed or sneezed before I got there? 

The question comes as a new study suggests that the novel coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours, and live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.

The research, published in the medRxiv depository, also notes that the virus can remain on copper surfaces for four hours and cardboard for up to 24 hours. The research found it could stay on stainless steel and plastic for anywhere between two and three days.

“I think people who are shopping in the grocery should be very, very careful,” Dr. Siegel said on Thursday.

“Wearing a mask actually doesn't help you because it's not going to prevent the spread of this,” he continued. “Even if the virus is hanging in the air, the most likely way you are going to catch it is from somebody coughing and sneezing on you, so you want to keep your social distancing of more than six feet and I would be careful when you are on the grocery aisles of wiping down things and watching what you are in contact with.”

“But you’re not going to get it from just having been in the same air as somebody who could possibly have it. That won't give it to you,” he added.

Question: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 40 percent of sick patients in the hospital are people between the ages of 20 and 54. Do you think that's going to slow them down?

“No, I wish it would,” Dr. Siegel said. “I hope we can do that this morning because that's absolutely what we are finding in the U.S. right now in hot spot areas, including New York here, where not all the people that are very sick and on ventilators are actually 70 or 80 years old, which is what we thought coming out of Wuhan, so our perception is changing.”

“I don't think the disease is, but I think the sense of who’s at risk is expanding,” he added.


Question: My kids are coming back from spring break in Florida, should they self-quarantine? 

In response, Dr. Siegel noted that there are more than 300 cases of COVID-19 in Florida and that there are 1,000 people currently being tested in the state.

“So I really am disturbed by those photos of what went on on spring break,” he said, referencing photos and videos that surfaced showing crowded Florida beaches amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“If it were my kid, I’d have a talk with them on the way back, but that's still not the same thing as saying that I think they are at great risk just for being in the state of Florida,” he said, adding that he wants to see “if anyone from those spring break activities starts to test positive or have symptoms because if I thought my child was in contact with them, I would definitely self-quarantine them.”

Dr. Siegel added that if the student is flying back from Florida after spending spring break there, he wouldn’t mandate a self-quarantine, but added that he would recommend that they restrict their activities.

“Getting on a plane is not something we are advising at all right now,” he said.

Question: I have had a cold and flu symptoms for more than a week, but I have had no shortness of breath. Can I have coronavirus with these symptoms alone and no shortness of breath?

“The answer is you could, but it's not the first thing I think about,” Dr. Siegel said.

“But the thing I want to do in a case like that is, I want to rule out things like the flu, make sure you don't have the flu and then I would consider this a possibility,” he added.

He explained that “it's not a cardinal thing, ‘Oh, I don't have shortness of breath, I don't have it.’ That's not the case.”

Question: Would you recommend that person get a test?

“It depends on the availability and where it's being done and how easy it is to get,” Dr. Siegel said. “Right now we’re not able to test people with mild symptoms who are younger, but I want to be able to do that … within the next week or two I want to test a person exactly like that. As soon as we have the availability.”

He encouraged that, in the meantime, someone with flu-like symptoms should shelter in place as the symptoms are monitored.

Question: Can a CPAP machine help people with breathing problems suffering from COVID-19?

“That's something that’s currently being studied and I have gotten a lot of questions about that and I think the answer is probably yes,” Dr. Siegel said. “It probably can help, but it would be a really severe case and we’re looking into that.”

He added, “I’ll tell you another one I like, is the oxygen test on the finger. That's what we need for people that are suffering from COVID-19, that are being treated at home, that are under quarantine at home.”

“I want to know their oxygen content, not just whether they are short of breath because then I can decide whether they need emergency care or not,” he continued.


Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia contributed to this report.