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Curious Cbus: Are People Violating Health Orders By Going To Dog Parks?

Godown dog park, which is managed by the City of Worthington, is the only Columbus City dog park that is closed during the pandemic.
Ryan Hitchcock
Godown dog park, which is managed by the City of Worthington, is the only Columbus City dog park that is closed during the pandemic.

As part of WOSU's ongoing COVID-19 coverage, we asked for listeners to submit their questions about this disease and the government's response. Here are few more of those questions and answers.

Our dog parks are filled with pets and unmasked owners while the CDC recommends no gatherings and a 6-foot leash. Any idea why?

The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks has five dog parks throughout the city. Unlike recreation centers, basketball courts and playgrounds, these parks–with exception of Godown Park in Worthington–have been open for use.

Spokesperson Sophia Fifner says that while the department has not addressed pets specifically, they encourage park visitors to follow CDC guidelines.

It appears that animals as well as humans can contract this virus, and there have been some reports of pets becoming infected after contact with infected humans. Like so many things with COVID-19, information is limited as researchers seek to learn more about how the virus spreads.

Right now, the CDC recommends that you do not let your pets interact with people outside the home, keep dogs on a leash while on walks, and maintain the 6-foot physical distance from others. The guidelines also specifically state that dog parks should be avoided.

But guidelines are just suggestions. If you see groups of dog owners with no masks letting their dogs run around together, they are not following guidelines, but also not breaking the law. Unless they are also violating a health department order, such as the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, there is nothing to report.

As to why some dog owners are not following guidelines, you’d have to ask them. They might be ignorant of the guidelines. You could politely try to inform them of what the CDC suggests, if you don’t mind getting barked at.

Dog and owner behind chain link fence at Scioto Audubon Metro Park
Credit David Holm / WOSU
The dog park at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park is open.

Going on a plane flight sounds like a death sentence. What are they doing to lessen your risk?

The airline industry has been hit hard during this pandemic, as travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders across the country have largely curbed all but essential travel.

According to data from the John Glenn International Airport, there are about 93% less people traveling now compared to previous years at this time. Still, air travel is slowly increasing again. The airport is currently averaging about 850 passengers a day, more than double the traffic from last month.

Going to an airport and getting on a plane certainly increases the risk of coming into contact with coronavirus, and the increased risk of death should be put into context.

While this global pandemic is very serious and has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, calling COVID-19 a “death sentence” is not quite accurate. Researchers are still working to calculate the exact case fatality rate, which is the number of deaths divided by the total number of confirmed cases of the disease. This is difficult when testing is limited.

The studies that have been done indicate that the case fatality rate is below 1% for the general population, with recent studies showing a range from 0.1-0.6%.

Of course, for older adults and those with health conditions, the risks are greater. Some activities are going to carry more risk than others, and everyone ultimately has to weigh those risks for themselves and their families.

Major airlines say they've taken steps to make flying safer. Some are not selling seats to full capacity and trying to leave middle seats open. Most are requiring that employees and passengers wear their own masks and will provide masks if necessary.

Increasedsanitation procedures are in place at terminals and on planes, including the use of electrostatic sprayers that coat surfaces with disinfectant between flights or on a daily basis. Many have also discontinued food and drink service to limit social contact.

It is often thought that the air in planes is just continually recycled through the cabin, but most aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters that can remove 99.9% of airborne particles when engaged. Also, the air is regularly replaced during flights.

A statement from American Airlines said, “the cabin air in all of our aircraft is changed approximately 15 to 30 times per hour, or once every two to four minutes, similar to the standard for hospitals.”

Travelers should check with specific carriers for more information about the measures they have taken.

When going back to work, what should retail and office workers do about the clothes we wear?

As people start to head back to work, some will be in positions where they are interacting with customers and co-workers frequently.

We know that the most prevalent way the coronavirus spreads is through droplets in the air. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of good information about how well coronavirus can spread through contact with clothing, but it is not considered high risk.

However, if you are worried about this possibility, there are steps you can take.

As has been widely reported, this coronavirus is not particularly robust. Soap and water do a good job of breaking it down. The CDC guidelines state that laundry should be washed according to instructions and with the warmest appropriate water setting. And your regular detergent should work fine.

Mark Weir, an assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Public Health, studies how infectious agents can spread on materials and surfaces. He said that any detergent that breaks down oil and grease will be effective against coronavirus.

“No one product can claim better performance in removal of the virus than another,” he said.

Weir also said that warm water is key, as it helps break down the virus and activate the detergent.

If someone has a job that leaves their clothes particularly at risk of contamination and they are worried about exposing others, Weir offered some additional precautions. First, choose an isolated spot in the home that is designated for changing out of work clothes and regularly disinfect that area. Second, put work clothes directly into the washing machine so no one else has to handle them.

For leather or other fabrics that can’t go in the wash, Weir said that isolating those clothes for three-to-four days would be a reasonable measure to put the mind at ease.

The CDC also recommends that people not shake out dirty laundry, because that might make viruses airborne again.

More stringent precautions are suggested for frontline workers or those doing the laundry of someone who is sick with COVID-19.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus in Ohio? Ask below and WOSU may answer as part of our Curious Cbus series.


Michael De Bonis develops and produces digital content including podcasts, videos, and news stories. He is also the editor of WOSU's award-winning Curious Cbus project. He moved to Columbus in 2012 to work as the producer of All Sides with Ann Fisher, the live news talk show on 89.7 NPR News.