Moving Ahead in the COVID-19 Environment

TSE STAFF
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DETROIT – COVID-19 is changing the way we conduct business no matter the industry. It’s forcing us to examine long-held traditions with our professional and social interactions. Yet, it’s also pushing us to be better prepared to keep our workplaces and trade show floors healthier and safer.

TSE talked with Susan M. Malinowski, MD, Vitreoretinal Surgeon, American Board of Ophthalmology Examination Developer, Patent Holder, Researcher and Entrepreneur to gather her thoughts on how individuals and the trade show industry can move forward safely in this new environment.

Q. To get focused, what’s the best way to kill the virus on surfaces?
A. There are two ways to kill a virus and that’s with alcohol or bleach. Everything else is just lifting or removing the virus and not killing it.

Q. The trade show industry is very people-centered. What would you recommend to protect our guests coming to a show?
A. Viruses spread by direct contact and aerosols. Don’t touch door handles. Keep doors open. Frequently clean anything we touch with our hands, such as escalator handrails that might harbor bacteria or viruses. Open windows; multiple studies have shown that better air circulation decreases the chances of contracting a disease like TB. Give people instruction and permission to not shake hands, to behave differently. Consider making the aisles wider and walking traffic unidirectional with floor arrows, so attendees aren’t as close to each other and are less likely to bump into one another. I’d advise using your own pen; don’t borrow someone else’s.

Q. Are those recommendations any different for those hosting booths or educational seminars at the trade show?
A. If I were working a booth, I’d keep it clean and wipe down surfaces. Remember, soap and water don’t kill the virus but will interfere with its ability to stick to something. When we wash our hands, we’re lifting the virus and washing it down the drain. The virus sticks to surfaces from one to nine days. Paper is one day; steel and plastic are nine days. Most surface wipes don’t have bleach, which you need to kill the virus. Look for bleach or alcohol on the product label. You can make a solution by mixing 1/2 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water, leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes and then wipe it off. Bleach disrupts the ability of the virus to replicate. A 70 % alcohol mixture will also kill the virus, like a good hand sanitizer.

Q. How can individuals help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
A. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. If you don’t cover both, it doesn’t make a difference. There are two main reasons for wearing masks.  When you talk, sneeze or cough, you spread the disease. Also, a mask keeps you from touching your face. And don’t forget to practice social distancing.

Q. You’ve written before don’t smell the roses but smell the garlic. Why?
A. More and more proof exists that COVID-19 affects your sense of smell. But it’s much harder to detect you’ve lost your sense of smell unless you’re actively testing yourself. So, open a jar of garlic to test your sense of smell and do it every day. At this time, loss of smell is not officially recognized as a symptom, but it can trigger you to be mindful of other symptoms.

Q. What do you see as the next big issue for COVIC-19 on the horizon?
A. Antibody testing will be the next hurdle. We’ve been trying to diagnose active infection, but antibody testing will help us find out who’s been exposed or has had it without symptoms. I see it as a big issue going forward, both logistically and ethically. We will not have enough accurate test kits and the results will raise a lot of concerns. Basically, we’ll be looking at who should get the test and then how we use the results. Companies might be called upon to use it to allow people back to go back to work. Employees and employers might ask themselves that if they don’t have the tests, do they go back to work? This is an issue for everyone, not just trade shows.

Q. With all the bad news, is there any good or hopeful news you see with flattening the curve or getting past this pandemic?
A. Definitely. We have learned the value of good hygiene to prevent the spread of disease whatever the cause. The rate of regular flus and colds is way down this year. We have seen the value of technology and the power of the internet to bring people to together. We have seen the creativity, bravery and ingenuity of people in a crisis. We have also seen that we are social creatures at heart and that nothing can replace live person-to-person interaction.

Q. Do you have any final comments for us?
A. It will be interesting to see the impact the pandemic might have on our social customs. Handshaking may go away and we may find a new way to greet one another or finalize a deal. Even fist bumps decrease the transmission of any virus by 95 %. But we’ll have to give “permission” not to shake hands and spread disease, or it will be awkward.

Reach Dr. Malinowski at smmalinowski@aol.com. Read Dr. Malinowski’s other writings including her article entitled: Eight Ways to Smash, not Just Flatten, the Coronavirus Curve, visit https://medium.com/@smmalinowski.