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Home Canadian News Is it safe to use restaurant utensils? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Is it safe to use restaurant utensils? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We’re breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we’re also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and News Network. So far we’ve received more than 38,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Once restaurants reopen, will it be safe to use their utensils, glasses and plates?

Restaurants are going to look very different than what we’re used to once they open back up. Kerina W. is wondering if it’ll be safe to use the utensils, glasses and plates provided in restaurants.

Dr. Colin Furness, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said there are a few factors to consider when it comes to restaurants.

The first is the level of community spread in the area you’re in.

“Whether it’s a restaurant or any kind of place you’re interacting with people and objects, what really matters is how much community spread there is locally,” he said.

“There’s no question there is risk, and you need to have trust like you do with a restaurant anytime. But it’s going to be higher if there’s community spread.”

He said that because COVID-19 can also be spread by touch, it’s important to consider how many people are touching the same things you are — not only your plates and cutlery, but your food and anything else in the restaurant. 

And like always, Furness said, the most important thing is to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands, and be mindful to not touch your face.

“Any time you’re not 100 per cent sure in the age of COVID, be mindful of what your hands are doing,” he said. “I want to stress this: Use hand sanitizer. It’s extremely effective. 

“Your hands won’t make you sick, but your hands touching your face can … That’s the last step in the chain of transmission. COVID may have come from Wuhan right to your restaurant table, but it stops right there if you make it stop right there.”

A recent study by U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that how long the virus can survive depends on the surface. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study found the virus can last from four hours (cardboard) to up to three days (plastic or stainless steel).

If you are at work and contract COVID-19, are you covered by WSIB?

As people start going back to work, many have expressed concerns about the increase in possible exposure to the coronavirus. 

Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) covers over five million people in more than 300,000 workplaces across the province. Marlene M. asked us whether she would get WSIB support if she contracted COVID-19 at work.

There isn’t a definitive answer on this because the WSIB has said they treat every situation on a case-by-case basis. However, if you do get sick with COVID-19 and contracted it at work, the WSIB recommends an employee file a claim to determine eligibility. 

“Generally speaking, WSIB will apply whenever any injury or illness has occurred on the job,” said Jon Pinkus, an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

On its  website, the WSIB says claims are allowed when the evidence shows “that the person’s risk of contracting the disease through their employment is greater than the risk to which the public at large is exposed.” 

Basically, the workplace must have significantly contributed to the employee’s illness. 

If your claim is denied, Pinkus recommends “seriously consider[ing] applying for long-term of short-term disability.”

And for those working at home, he said they “should also know that they may be entitled to apply for private disability benefits for psychological-related problems caused by the pandemic and the lockdown, which are widespread.”

You can find more information about WSIB coverage of COVID-19 here.

Can organ donors who have died from COVID-19 still donate?

Areefa A. wrote to us asking if someone who has died of COVID-19 that was an organ donor can still donate their organs. 

According to Dr. Sam Shemi, medical advisor for organ donation at Canadian Blood Services, the simple answer is no.

“If you’re a potential organ donor and you die of COVID, you cannot donate organs,” he said.

The current practice, Shemi said, is that before any organs can be donated, the donor must be tested for COVID-19. 

“This is a situation now where all potential donors need to be screened for COVID and they need to be negative,” Shemi said. “If you have COVID, you cannot donate organs. If you’ve had COVID and you’ve gotten over it, and there’s clear testing that shows you have gotten over it, you can. You have to have a negative COVID screen and no evidence of COVID illness.”

Another factor, Shemi said, is that patients who die of COVID-19 likely don’t have viable organs to donate.

“The flip side of that is most people who would succumb to COVID would succumb with a lot of impairment of organ function,” he says. “It affects a lot of body systems, so those organs would likely not be viable.”

Wednesday we answered questions about meat shortages to seasonal allergies.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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