Su Fen Lubitz, 26 of Rittenhouse, has been keeping up a running routine.
A volunteer with Back on My Feet, a nonprofit running group tackling homelessness, it’s the only time she’s been getting outside. With a background in public health, she’s taking the right steps to mitigate any possible exposure to the coronavirus.
She usually runs before sunrise to avoid others, and Lubitz has been keeping away from her normal routes because of the crowds. But she’s not doing anything special with her shoes.
“I just need to keep running to keep my sanity, and as long as I’m not licking the bottom of my shoes, I think I’ll be safe,” she said.
But what should we do with our shoes after we’ve been in public? Do we have to wash them?
Jayatri Das, chief bioscientist at the Franklin Institute, said it’s not a bad idea to take your shoes off once inside, but your sneakers or boots aren’t exactly in a high-risk category. The virus breaks down over time when it’s on surfaces, she said.
“Because we have such an easy way to control this by leaving our shoes at the door, that’s the prudent action,” said Carolyn Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
Das concurs. Leaving your shoes at the door is a good call. “Part of it is that you’re tracking dirt around your home, too, we’re all stuck at home, so make your life a little easier and keep your home cleaner,” Das said.
Remember: The coronavirus is spread through person-to-person contact, and through respiratory droplets like from a sneeze or cough. That is still the primary danger here.
You don’t have to break out the Lysol, but Cannuscio said to treat footwear as if it was contaminated. Minimize handling of your shoes, definitely don’t prop them up on tables or chairs, and of course, wash your hands. Handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you want to be extra careful, you can use the same kind of precautions for shoes as you do for clothes that may have been exposed to the virus, says Andrea Garcia, a biology professor at Stockton University, like using detergent and bleach when necessary.
But the possibility of tracking the coronavirus indoors through a shoe is low, said Don Schaffner, food microbiologist at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. It’s not something he’s especially concerned about.
Becoming a shoes-off household, he said, is an appropriate risk mitigation measure for those who are worried. Clean your shoes if it makes you feel better.
The most important steps to take are the ones echoed time and time again by officials, he said, like practicing social distancing and staying home if you feel sick.
“I worry a little bit that people kind of get lost in this risk hierarchy,” he said, “and they spend too much time on the small things, and not enough time on the big things.”
Staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed to this article.