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I'm 57 and asthmatic. Can I get intimate with my girlfriend visiting Vancouver from Toronto?

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Summary

Asthma could put 'amorous asthmatic' at higher risk of getting seriously ill with COVID-19, experts say

Couple could wear masks when they get intimate, says medical geographer

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Question:

Alan: “I am a 57-year-old male with asthma, and I’ve been isolated in my apartment alone since March. My girlfriend is flying in from Toronto to Vancouver on June 14. She has no symptoms. Can we be intimate ? I’d like to know what’s the best way to deal with this situation. I don’t want her to feel like I’m just being paranoid.

Answer:

While public health officials have advised Canadians against non-essential domestic travel, there are no restrictions stopping Alan’s partner from flying to B.C. or requiring her to quarantine upon her arrival.

NEWS 1130 asked five COVID-19 experts for their advice to the couple. Here’s what they said.

Dr. Stephen Hoption Cann, professor at UBC’s school of population and public health:

Having close contact with someone outside of your household is not without risk. You need to understand whether your girlfriend was practising social distancing and safe practices when outdoors or in settings with others (hand washing, face mask, etc). Also, are they employed and currently working in a field where they have a lot of contact with many people? This could increase their risk of being infected if they are not being cautious. Studies so far have not consistently shown that asthma is a risk factor for more severe COVID disease. Early studies in China have suggested it might be, but recent studies in the U.S. did find asthma to be associated with an increased risk. As to your age, the mortality rates from COVID illness start rising mostly after age 50, each decade being riskier than the previous. In general, you would not be in a very high risk group, but I do not know how well your asthma is controlled or other health risks you might have. Ultimately, I cannot tell you whether or not to see your girlfriend, but that is a decision you must make based on your understanding of the risks involved.

Dr. David White, professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto:

The pandemic has taken a real toll on dating and relationships for people who aren’t living together all the time. It appears your Vancouver questioner has kept himself safe. We don’t have similar background information about his partner in Toronto. Is she a front-line worker living in a crowded apartment, or has she too been isolating at home alone the whole time? And then, even with the laudable efforts to make air travel safer, it still poses a risk. I’m very sympathetic to these two, but there is still some risk.

Ken Denike, UBC medical geographer:

Technically, I guess she should count as part of the family cluster. Granted, a 57-year-old male with asthma is in a high risk category. So some recognition of social distance is warranted for a short time.

Michael Curry, UBC professor of emergency medicine:

As for the amorous asthmatic, it’s a matter of risk tolerance. Like everything in life being intimate with his partner from Ontario has some risk. If she has been social distancing in Ontario, washing her hands frequently, and has no symptoms it is a low risk that she would be infectious but it’s not totally risk free. She could be an asymptomatic carrier, she may have been infected at the airport, but the risk is probably low overall. Whether it is low enough for them to be comfortable is a decision they have to make for themselves.

Tom Koch, UBC medical geographer:

The asthmatic needs to let his visitor know about his condition and concerns. If she is tested in her home province prior to travel that will make things easier. So perhaps he can ask her to be tested before travel. I have read some who recommend masks be included in any intimate encounter, but realize that would be, for most, a, well, downer. And, too, this person and his prospective partner should question where she is coming from – is it an area of still active viral outbreaks? – and her risk factors. If, for example, the visitor is a nurse working an active ER in an area of outbreaks the risks would be greater.

So the best answer is she and he should both be tested first.

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