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Coronavirus: Do I need to wear a mask in the car with my mom?

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Summary

No need to wear a mask with someone in your bubble, doctor says

Wear a mask in stores, keep it on until you can wash your hands: professor

Your social bubble may be bigger than you think

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you have questions, NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Question:

Michelle: “Can I take my mom, who is 78 years old and has [a] compromised immune system in my car as I help her do her errands?
We both should be wearing a mask since it’s a small space and due to her health, correct?
She is in my bubble, but we don’t live in the same house…
Also, what about others in my car? Friends, family, my kids with their friends in their car….what is the correct protocol during COVID-19 about having others in your car?”

Answer:

Michelle and her mom don’t need to wear masks when they ride in the car together because they are in the same bubble, says Dr. David White, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto.

“[Michelle] can bring her mother to [her] home and back to the mother’s without needing masks,” he wrote in an email. “If they run errands together, they should don masks when they get out of the car.”

Once Michelle and her mom put masks on to go out in public, White recommends they keep them on until they can wash their hands – either when they get home or until they return to the car and use hand sanitizer.

White said social bubbles are bigger than might appear.

“The safe approach is to consider a COVID bubble just like a real bubble: there is only one bubble, people are either in your bubble or not. Bubbles can merge, to become one bigger bubble, but they can’t intersect. That is, if one person joins your bubble, everyone in their bubble also counts as part of yours – whether you see them or not.”

He cautioned people to limit their interactions with others, particularly if they are sharing a vehicle.

Michelle’s mention of driving friends, family, children, and their friends sounds like she is “running a taxi service,” he said, adding, “it’s preferable to limit the numbers.”

White had advice for anyone driving someone who is not in their bubble: “masks for everyone, non-bubble passengers in the back, “[with the] window open.”

UBC medical geographer Ken Denike also said Michele and her mom should determine whether they need to wear masks based on where they are going.

“If in places where distance is maintained it is probably safe enough. If not, avoid those places.”

Tom Koch, another medical geographer at UBC, recommended they wear masks in the car and disinfect its handles.

He, too, recommended Michelle limit the number of people she allows in her car.

Koch cautioned the pair to remain mindful of safety when they go out on errands.

“No sense in being sanitary and careful and then getting somewhere that is at risk. And if [Michelle’s mom is] immune compromised, that would be most stores, I would think.”

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