Editor’s Note: Dr. Campbell is a medical professional who specializes in anesthesiology and not a COVID-19 expert or epidemiologist. The following interview features examples of his personal experiences and the actions he takes to protect himself and others from spreading the virus. His views are consistent with medical advice and the state’s guidelines — but they are his own practices. For official state-sanctioned COVID-19 information, visit the Oregon Health Authority.
Wearing blue scrubs, a scrub cap, multicolored Crocs on his feet and a larger-than-life smile, Dr. Jason Campbell led his fellow doctors in a catchy “Cha Cha Slide” on TikTok in April. The sight of these health care workers enjoying their job after a stressful Friday was a bright spot for many while most of the world was still on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It was just one of several viral videos that earned him the nickname Tik Tok Doc. “It was super spontaneous at the end of our Friday shift,” recalls Campbell, 31, an anesthesiology resident in his third year of residency at OHSU in Portland. “People love seeing the genuine and authentic happiness that we’re all exhibiting in our own ways. With the ‘Cha Cha Slide,’ everyone knows it but no one does the moves in the same exact way. That’s what makes it special.”
Campbell — who took musical theater, jazz and ballet classes back in high school — is doing much more than dancing these days. He’s part of a movement called Black Men in Medicine, which aims to boost the numbers of African American men in medicine and all medical fields, since everything from a lack of role models to the education system and many other complex factors are at play.
The dance-loving doc works 10- to 12-hour shifts 5 to 6 days per week and keeps a healthy collection of Crocs to show his spirit at work — his favorites are his red, white and blue pair, as seen in some of his TikTok videos. In his free time, he loves to explore his new adopted state. He’s browsed the coastal boardwalks and run along the Oregon Dunes, snowshoed around Mt. Hood and chased waterfalls in the Willamette Valley.
Now as the nation (and world) tries to stop the spread of COVID-19, exploring looks a lot different these days. State officials still recommend staying home, staying local and adhering your county’s reopening status. If you do travel during COVID-19, it’s critical that you do it safely in Oregon — only taking low-risk trips with caution. Campbell sat down with us to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about travel these days. Here are his thoughts.
1. What outdoor activities are safest?
We know physical distance of 6 feet or more is best. Low-risk activities include walking, running, hiking, Rollerblading, fishing, hunting and golfing — also tennis, kayaking and boating with a small group. Once you get a large crowd, it’s higher risk. One good option is fitness classes that are held outside where you can maintain at least 6 feet of distance, and everyone has their own mats and/or weights.
2. Should I wear a face covering on solo runs?
When I’m on a solo run, I don’t wear a face covering, but I change where I run so I run past fewer people. If I need to avoid people, I jump to the side. I don’t run on as many trails. It is more safe and courteous to have a face covering that you can pull up if you see people coming. I run about 4 to 6 miles these days.
3. Do I really need a face covering when I am out hiking with my family?
The more you can keep your face covering on, that’s the safest course of action. If you’ve been quarantining with your family the entire time and had limited exposure to others, you can lower your face covering. If you’re in an enclosed space like a car with people you don’t live with, it’s recommended that you wear a face covering during that time.
4. I’ve seen on the internet that keeping a 6-foot buffer may not be enough. Is this true?
Six feet has been widely regarded as safe. We know that with less than 6 feet, you’re getting into dangerous territory. Erring on the side of caution is always good. Do try to put more of a buffer when you or others are working out, when you’re exhaling with more droplets than the average person just walking by. Just be aware that there’s a higher risk of transmission with people exercising in close proximity, less than 6 feet apart. If you’re hiking on a narrow trail and people are coming your way, please step to the side and let them pass — be aware of these narrow spaces.
5. Is it safe to swim in lakes and rivers?
From the CDC research I’ve seen, there’s no evidence the virus is spread through water in pools, hot tubs or other water-play areas. The main concern is the crowds attracted to these places, especially on hot days. That’s the biggest concern — the density and close contact.
6. How can I make sure the hotel or B&B I am staying at is totally safe?
It’s all about minimizing risk, but it’s about your mental health as well. We know that travel is good for the soul and mind. The key is to choose wisely. Do a little research to see if the property has put a plan into place to protect guests. If it exists on their website, it shows they’re aware of what’s going on and they care about you. Think about the area you’re going to: Is it a hotbed for COVID-19 cases or a low-risk area? Once you arrive, wear a face covering in the lobby, maintain 6 feet of distance, take the stairs over the elevator, which is also better for your health. Think about opening the windows or the balcony door to increase ventilation. In a hotel, consider declining housekeeping, dine out safely outdoors instead of eating inside a restaurant, and consider avoiding the hotel gym and spa. The outdoor pool is OK as long as you stay away from other people. In your room, you might want to wipe down common areas you’ll be touching a lot, especially the TV remote — it never hurts.
7. My kids are having a hard time keeping face coverings on. What can I do?
Try to normalize wearing a face covering. They need to see you doing it — wearing it any and all times you want them to wear theirs. In Oregon face coverings are required for children 5 and up in indoor public spaces as well as when you can’t keep 6 feet of distance outdoors. For a 2- to 4-year-old, make it a game: Have a face covering they can draw on so they have ownership, or another face covering they can put on their doll. For kids ages 5 to 12, help them understand what’s going on. For teens, validate their feelings — let them know it can be uncomfortable, and that interacting with their friends is different, but it’s important right now and that’s how life is sometimes.
8. If I take a flu shot and work out daily, will my immune system be strong enough to protect me from COVID-19?
A flu shot won’t protect you from the virus, but it’s still a good idea to get one since you don’t want to add on any other issues this year. Nutrition is very important; it’s also a great time to maintain seven to eight hours of sleep each night and do little things to help keep your immune system robust.
9. I’ve read that COVID-19 is mainly spread via airborne particles. So why are park play structures closed?
The virus can remain on surfaces up to 72 hours. Plastic and stainless steel could be included in that. You have to balance the risk: If you let your kids go and play, then get them home and wash their hands and clothes immediately. [In addition to surface contamination], kids interact with each other and shout with each other on the playground — it’s another opportunity for transmission to occur, so be aware of that. Carry hand sanitizer for when they’re done playing.
10. Can I get COVID-19 from door handles and other surfaces, like restaurant menus?
A lot of restaurants are moving to QR codes that let you scan the menu with your own phone to decrease transmission by touching reusable menus. Some restaurants have disposable paper menus. Just like with door handles, it’s a good idea to carry hand sanitizer or wash your hands [for at least 20 seconds with soap and water] after touching anything.
11. How concerned should I be about using the rest areas along highways while traveling?
There are no lids for urinals but if there’s a lid for the toilet, it’s ideal to put a lid on it before you flush. The key is washing your hands or hand sanitizing. Ideally, it’s an automatic sink. If not, I find myself carrying paper towels to turn the faucet on and off and also open doors without touching the handles. In many bathrooms, it’s hard to maintain distance. If the bathroom is super crowded, it’s not the bathroom you want to be in.
12. Are businesses that check patrons’ temperatures before allowing entrance safer than businesses that don’t check temperatures?
Restaurants don’t check temperatures, but I feel comfortable at most of the restaurants I have visited in my Oregon travels. If you’re going to a clinic or some kind of medical practice, there are people with known health-related issues there, so it makes more sense that they require temperature checks. It’s part of the honor system — if you’re feeling sick, you know you shouldn’t be out there potentially infecting other people.
13. In addition to wearing a face covering, should I be wearing safety glasses to protect my eyes from being a point of infection?
Sunglasses are great for looks but won’t protect you from the virus. Goggles that put a nice seal around your eyes would be pertinent on a plane. If I’m not flying, I don’t see other scenarios outside of a hospital where it’s warranted. When I fly, I plan on wearing an N95 mask and safety goggles for eye protection.
14. We plan on eating out during our trip — is it safe to eat in a restaurant? What precautions should we take?
It is safe to eat at a restaurant — dining outside is safest, if possible. If you’re traveling, it most likely is not a restaurant you’ve visited before and certainly not your local restaurant, where you’re on a first-name basis with the staff. So it’s hard to know all the precautions the restaurant is taking. Many have been adhering to Gov. Kate Brown’s statewide mandates [such as keeping tables and patrons at least 6 feet apart], from what I have seen firsthand. If you have children or elderly, especially, I would wipe down the menus (if they are reusable) before touching. I might wipe down my seat as well. The tables have most likely been wiped down by the staff. From Portland to Seaside, I’ve seen many waiters and restaurant staff doing an amazing job. [If you don’t want to stop at a restaurant or store, you can limit your exposure by carrying your own food and water to limit stops on the way.]
15. Should we be concerned if it appears there is a large gathering next to our camping spot?
If I was camping with my family and there was a large gathering fairly close to my spot, I would potentially relocate; otherwise, maintain as much distance as possible and try to be cognizant of the issue at hand. Certainly, groups of more than 10 in close proximity would make me feel a bit uneasy. It also depends on if you need to share restroom areas with this group or use any other communal spaces.