If you’re having sex during the novel coronavirus health crisis and you’re not wearing a face mask, you’re putting yourself at risk. Twice. It might sound funny at first, but it makes sense given the way the virus spreads. A study suggests that sexual activity during the pandemic could benefit from additional protection.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen sex come up in COVID-19 guidelines. New York City issued a document with explicit instructions for how to have sex not long ago. UK lawmakers, eager to conceive of safety guidelines for the pandemic, created rules that effectively prevent people who don’t live under the same roof from having intercourse. That’s not because the virus can be transmitted sexually — it’s just a hilarious result of the wording the officials used in the COVID-19 guidelines, which went viral a few days ago on social media under the #sexban hashtag. The study that advises the use of face masks during sex, however, is based on how the virus operates.
SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person to person via droplets of saliva. These particles are ejected while sneezing and coughing, but research shows that talking loudly is enough for micro-droplets to leave a person’s mouth and turn into aerosols that other people can inhale. Social distancing, combined with the use of face masks and frequent hand-washing, can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and these strategies are already working for most activities.
Three Harvard physicians published a paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine (via CNN) that advises healthcare professionals to inform patients about the COVID-19 risks related to sex. The paper lists various types of sexual interactions and the risks associated with them. The researchers say that abstinence and masturbation, as well as digital platforms, are low risk. They acknowledge that abstinence isn’t a realistic idea for many people.
The risk increases for sexual encounters with people outside of your quarantine. The researchers advise people to avoid kissing and wear face masks during these encounters. They should avoid acts that include oral transmission of bodily fluids, as well. Showering before and after intercourse is also advised, as is cleaning the physical space.
COVID-19 survivors will have gained some immunity, however long-lasting, the research says. This may allow “for the serosorting of individuals for sexual activity, with those testing positive for anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibodies presumed safe to engage in sex together about SARS-CoV-2 transmission.” In other words, immune people can have sex with other immune people without worrying about spreading COVID-19. As for STDs, that’s another discussion.
In practice, people who don’t like to wear protection during sex will probably skip masks. So will those who avoid wearing face masks in public. And so will everyone else. Yes, the novel coronavirus is ruining sex as well.
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