COVID-19: Businesses are reopening. Is it safe for cancer patients to go out?

As states begin to lift coronavirus stay-at-home orders and reopen businesses, people are beginning to venture out in public more frequently. But is this safe for cancer patients, who are at increased risk for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? Is it OK to go out to eat at restaurants now? What about going to the beach or parks? Do you need to wear a mask in public? What about social distancing? We spoke with infectious diseases and infection control specialist Roy Chemaly, M.D., to find out what cancer patients and survivors need to know as businesses start to reopen. Is it safe for me to go out now, if I’m still in cancer treatment? Cancer patients and survivors are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19. So, you should continue to stay home, whenever possible. Every patient is different, so check with your care team about your specific risk. Many types of cancer treatment weaken the immune system. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy (including CAR T cell and CAR NK cell therapies) and even radiation therapy can all reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection. Stem cell transplant recipients are particularly vulnerable, because their immune systems are deliberately destroyed before a transplant, to ensure proper grafting of the donor’s stem cells. What if I’m several years out from cancer treatment? Generally, even long-term cancer survivors should continue to stay home. But it’s also important to contact your care team for guidance. They can help address your specific concerns and your particular situation. Some treatments, especially stem cell transplants, leave patients with weakened immune systems for months or even years after treatment has ended. This can...