Staying safe, healthy during the pandemic

Photo by Tony Kukulich

Isis Morales, is a nurse at John Muir Medical Center in Brentwood. Healthcare providers are working to get updated COVID-19 information out to residents throughout the county.

News and internet sources are swirling with conflicting reports on how COVID-19 can affect everyone from children to the elderly.

The advice offered for people to stay safe and healthy can be just as confusing.

To help sift through fact and fiction, The Press sat down with three local health care professionals who offered tips for staying safe, getting tested for COVID-19 and how to keep masks clean.

Dr. Lisa Rood is a pediatrician at John Muir Health’s Brentwood Outpatient Center. With more than a decade of experience in Brentwood, she has a range of experience to draw from and offered some practical advice on keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.

“The most important things to do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are to wear a face mask when you are around people outside of your household, wash your hands frequently using soap and water and stay at least six feet away from people outside of your household,” Rood said.

She added that face masks are most effective when they fit properly, cover the nose and mouth, and are used consistently.

“Everyone over the age of two should wear face masks, including people who have asthma, unless otherwise directed by your personal doctor,” Rood added.

Rood also noted that outdoor activities are an effective way to manage stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. She recommended keeping a mask on your person so it can be worn when coming into close contact with others during outdoor activities such as walking or hiking.

She further urged people to leave little ones at home while running errands and use contact-free pickup services when possible.

 Dr. Robert Beer of Balfour Dermatology usually cautions his patients against sun exposure, but these days he often discusses viral preventative care, as well.

“I think you can’t be too safe,” Beer said. “Overall, the most important thing has always been handwashing. Handwashing is best with soap and water – it’s superior to antibacterial gel. When soap and water aren’t available . . . you can use the antibacterial gel, but handwashing is superior.”

Beer also noted masks should be worn by one person only – never shared – and cleaned on a regular basis.

“I think it’s important to think about mask cleanliness,” he said. “You might want to launder your masks daily depending on the type of mask you use.”

He suggested washing masks in the laundry with your regular detergent at the warmest water level you would normally wash with. If washing by hand, he recommended using a bleach solution made up of 1/3 cup household bleach – not color safe, as it won’t disinfect as well – to one gallon of water.

“You soak the mask in the solution for about five minutes, then rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature water,” said Beer. “Make sure you let it dry completely before wearing, because a wet mask is not going to work as well as a dry one.”

He also advised against passing judgment on those not wearing masks in public, as some people are unable to for a variety of medical reasons.

“There are some people who shouldn’t wear masks or don’t have to wear masks, some people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” he said. “Someone who is caring for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, they need to read lips. Be considerate of others, sometimes there is a reason people are not wearing masks.”

Dr. Ansony Kim is a pediatric dentist and proprietor of Hello Smiles in Oakley. He discussed the ties between oral health and overall systemic health.

“Oral health care is so important in terms of overall health care, we want to make sure to maintain seeing the dentists on a regular basis to catch anything that can lead to bigger issues for your overall health,” Kim said.

He added periodontal diseases can place patients at higher risk from COVID-19, so clean and healthy teeth are important. He recommended maintaining dental visits every six months, and helping kids remember to brush regularly.

“Dental care is still a priority, especially for kids who don’t have the routine of getting ready for school and brushing their teeth,” Kim said.

If you develop possible COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea or acute loss of taste or smell – or if someone in your household develops these symptoms – call your doctor.

If you are interested in being tested for COVID-19, you can go through your doctor, or call the county for a test appointment. Contra Costa County test locations for East County are at the Senior Activity Center in Brentwood, the Antioch Fairgrounds and the Pittsburg Health Center. To schedule an appointment, call 844-421-0804 or visit For more information, call the county’s Public Health Department at 925-313-6000.

If you are with John Muir Health, tests are only done by a doctor’s order. For more information, contact your primary care physician or visit

If you are with Kaiser, tests are only done by a doctor’s order. For more information, contact your primary care physician or the 24/7 advice line to schedule a test appointment. For more information, visit

Hello Smiles pediatric dentistry is located at 2591 Main St. in Oakley. For more information, call 925-690-5437 or visit

Balfour Dermatology is located at 2221 Balfour Road, Suite A, in Brentwood. For more information, call 925-240-9116 or visit