Former Surgeon General: “You have to be thoughtful” in social gatherings amid coronavirus

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Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as Surgeon General in the Obama administration, spoke to “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell about how to manage recommended social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. He recommended Americans be “cautious” about social gatherings, even with small groups of friends. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: Doctor, thank you so much for being here. Really glad to be with you. There are so many questions that our viewers have about social distancing. Can people spend time with small groups of friends?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY: If you’re thinking about getting together with a small group of friends, you know, four or five, six friends,  you have to be thoughtful about what contact those friends have with other people. And, you know, if they’re in contact with folks who may be at risk or if you are living at home with somebody who’s in a higher risk group — somebody who might be older, above the age of 60, somebody who has other conditions like heart disease or diabetes — I would be cautious about even those gatherings.

O’DONNELL: Is it okay to go to the grocery store — basic things like that, go to restaurants?

MURTHY: So I think that it’s inevitable that we, we have to go out a little bit, but we got to go get food.  I would be conscious of what surfaces I was touching. I would not touch my face. I would wash my hands. When after — certainly after I got back from the grocery store. Everything we touch is a potential source. We should be careful about washing regularly and not touching our face.

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Norah O’Donnell interviews Dr. Vivek Murthy.

CBS News


O’DONNELL:  You know, a lot of times when I open up the door, not by going like this. And I open it like that, is that okay? 

MURTHY: it’s certainly better than using your bare hands. But, since you’re still carrying your sleeve with you, and you may touch your sleeve with your other hand, it’s ideal if you had some wipes with you, and if you could actually reach for that doorknob with a wipe. 

O’DONNELL: You and I have talked before, and you have written extensively about loneliness as a public health concern. How about that now with this social distancing?

MURTHY: Well I think we have both a risk and an opportunity here. The risk is that as we distance ourselves socially from other people, we run the risk of being increasingly lonely. If we are conscious of the fact that our social connections may take a hit here, what we need to do is compensate for that. It turns out that compassion and care for others are one of our greatest weapons.

O’DONNELL: Be kind to one another. Check in on one another. Dr. Vivek Murthy, thank you so much. 

MURTHY: Thank you, Norah.



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