LISTEN LIVE

Public Health Expert Says She's Unsure When Social Distancing Will End

Political leaders making decisions about coronavirus are often straddling the issues of health and money.

Local public health expert Donna Petersen said that's because the loss of jobs and a lack of money can affect human health too.

Petersen is dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health. Petersen spoke with WUSF’s Bradley George about coronavirus and its impact on communities on The State We’re In, a weekly Facebook Live show from WUSF and its partner WMFE in Orlando.

On Monday, Florida's Surgeon General Scott Rivkees recommended that people practice safe social distancing until a vaccine for COVID-19 is in place. That could take a year.

RELATED: Florida Surgeon General: Social Distancing 'Our New Normal' Until Coronavirus Vaccine Is Available

Petersen said public health leaders who suggest there's a long-term need to stay socially distant are ignoring the profound changes to the local and state economies.

“We understand the balancing act between protecting the public's health, but also our economy which is very much linked to our health, which has been made very clear in this circumstance. Our health and our wealth are very much linked,” she said.

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And WUSF Public Media

Petersen said Rivkees made an important point - eradicating coronavirus isn't simple.

While she said she can't predict how long social distancing will be needed in Florida, she believes there are several factors that will need to be underway, or understood.

“Until we have testing available, ideally a vaccine and a low rate of transmission, maintaining that social distancing is going to be absolutely critical to make sure we don't have a resurgence of the virus,” Petersen said.

She reiterated what types of face coverings people can use to protect themselves.

“It can be anything – a bandanna, a scarf, a t-shirt, a dish towel, anything that can be wrapped around the lower part of the face (nose and mouth) and tied in the back. Homemade masks are great and there are many Youtube tutorials on how to make them,” Petersen said.

“The general public does not need to be purchasing surgical masks and certainly not N95 masks.  These are already in short supply and back-ordered so the last thing we need is people buying/ordering them when we desperately need them for our health care workers and first responders," Petersen said. 

To see the whole show, visit The State We're In Facebook page.

This story is produced in partnership with America Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online at WUSF.org/give.