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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Coronavirus Will Bring Changes at the Dentist's Office. OH Really?

photo of dental office
How are dentists, and dental patients, being affected by the coronavirus pandemic? WKSU's OH Really? finds out.

As some of Ohio’s nonessential businesses prepare to reopen, you’ve still got questions about how coronavirus will affect everything from dental appointments to funerals.

Listener James Little asked how the current pandemic is affecting mortuary services. To find out, we spoke with Gary Burr, president of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association.

“The whole purpose of embalming is preservation and disinfection. So that’s something that happens all the time," Burr said. "The chemicals that we use for a person who passes away from a heart attack are no different than what we’d use for someone who has an infectious disease. We just have to be a little more cognizant of making sure that when we handle the person that we don’t let any air get expelled from their lungs. Just as a protection for our staff. And we try not to let family members get too close to the remains. The latest information that we received from the CDC recommends that people who pass away from coronavirus not be touched by family members."

Going to the dentist 
Many dentists have canceled regular visits during the stay-at-home order. As things begin to reopen, the Ohio Dental Association's Dr. Matt Messina said, "I don’t think people will see huge changes in how services are being delivered. Dentists and their staffs have been practicing what’s called ‘universal precautions’ since long before that was cool," Messina said.

He tells us offices may reduce schedules so fewer patients are there at once, reducing the chance for contact. "We’re going to see pre-procedural rinses with a hydrogen peroxide solution, because evidence shows that’s effective at killing the virus and reducing viral load in the mouth. We may see more use of what are called rubber dams [which are a] shield that fits over top of the tooth so it’s on the dentist’s side and the patient is on the other side. That minimizes aerosols in the area. We’re going to use a lot more of the high-volume suction to suction up spray at a higher level. But we’ve always been doing masks and thorough disinfection and sterilization of the treatment rooms. Some dentists may be using face shields. But the basics of dentistry are going to stay pretty much the same, which is good," Messina said.

...or buying groceries
Few of us can avoid visits to the grocery store, and listener Wendy Satterlee wants to know what grocery stores are doing to protect employees, since it can be difficult to maintain the recommended physical distance with customers at the cash register.

Some stores have installed plastic barriers to protect cashiers. Jannah Jablonowski with Giant Eagle said that’s just one of many measures they’ve implemented. "We also moved the pinpad [for payment] to the opposite side of those Plexiglas dividers. We’ve also transitioned our stores to have one-way aisles in an effort to keep our aisles as free and clear as possible for our guests who are shopping."

Giant Eagle, Heinen’s, Marc's and Dave’s Supermarkets among others are also asking people not to bring their own reusable bags, and instead use the plastic bags  -- provided free during the pandemic -- in the store.

Listener Richard Kidwell asked, “What are the guidelines currently for bringing groceries into the house? What needs to be sterilized?”

There’s actually some expert advice about this already. Essentially, they say you don’t need to go crazy disinfecting food. Virologists interviewed by NPR say the biggest risk with groceries is respiratory droplets traveling from other shoppers onto the food you might buy. That’s why masks are being recommended to prevent the spread.

But the droplets would have to survive long enough to make it to your house, and be on the exact spot that you touch on your box of cereal of bottle of juice, and then you have to get the virus on your hand and transfer it to your face. If you’re really worried, you can let non-refrigerated items sit out for a day before handling them.

Using a CPAP machine
Listener Diane Strahan wonders if there are any extra issues to be aware of for people with sleep apnea who are on a CPAP machine.

Dr. Erika Sobolewski at Summit County Public Health says, “using your CPAP, you’re in your own bedroom [and] it’s your own aerosolized respiratory product that you’re being exposed to. So there really isn’t an issue. The concern where they talk about aerosolized products has to do with nebulizer treatments that people often have in long-term care facilities, in hospitals, and those type of settings where maybe there’s a respiratory therapist or a nurse hooking somebody up – and there’s a lot of steam that comes out of the end of the mouthpiece – that’s where that concern is.”

Still navigating unemployment
We received a followup question from a listener who did not make the threshold for receiving state unemployment benefits and wonders what to do. Ohio has a minimum earnings threshold to qualify for unemployment benefits. But there’s a possibility those who didn’t make that cut could be eligible for benefits under the federal CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The state just launched its system to take applications. And it has a call line dedicated to answering questions about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance at 833-604-0774. Or visit unemployment.ohio.gov/expandedeligibility.

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We’d like to hear from you about how you’re feeling these days.

How are you handling home schooling, not seeing friends, and maybe seeing your family more than usual?

Visit the WKSU app, click on “Talk to Us” and share your thoughts. We look forward to sharing some of your responses next week. 

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.