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How risky is my manicure? Your COVID-19 questions answered,,on July 9, 2020 at 8:00 am
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How risky is my manicure? Your COVID-19 questions answered,,on July 9, 2020 at 8:00 am

We’re breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic. Send us your questions via email at and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we’re also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and on CBC News Network. So far we’ve received more than 47,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Should I stay away from the nail salon?

After months of quarantine haircuts and DIY manicures, many Canadians are keen to take advantage of reopening hair salons, barbershops and nail salons. But in light of an outbreak in a nail salon in Kingston, Ont., we’re hearing from a number of people who are wondering how safe it is to get a manicure.

Nail salons have been given the green light to reopen in many parts of the country, so long as they abide by strict local health guidelines to keep clients and workers safe. But Kathleen Y. wants to know if that means nail salons are OK for at-risk customers or should they stay away for now.

First, it’s important to note that if you have a health condition or compromised immune system, it is best to talk to your doctor about what would be appropriate for you.

But even if you’re not considered more vulnerable, experts say there are risks whenever you leave your house during a pandemic.

“Nothing is perfectly safe,” said Dr. Dominik Mertz, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton and an infectious diseases physician and hospital epidemiologist at Hamilton Health Sciences.

“We all have to make our decisions based on what we require for our health and what level of risk we are willing to take.”

For nail salons specifically, Mertz said they’re not typically well ventilated and are indoor spaces that require close contact with others for a prolonged period of time — all of which are “risk factors of potential transmission.”

He said getting your nails done is probably “higher risk than low risk, and that should be considered.”

The lights used to dry nails after Shellac treatments emit UV-A light, while the ultraviolet radiation designed for disinfecting is UV-C. (CBC)

“From a hierarchy-of-need perspective, as well as the risk associated with this setting, [I’m] not sure whether it was in the best interest of the population at large to reopen nail salons,” Mertz said.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health, said clients should look for certain safety measures if they decide to go to a nail salon:

  • Salons should have signage at the door asking about symptoms.
  • Hand hygiene products should be available.
  • Waiting rooms should be closed, with clients waiting outside.
  • Everyone in the salon should be wearing masks.

If someone isn’t wearing a mask, Moore suggested you should leave and report it to the business manager or local public health agency.

“We all must create a community standard…. It’s difficult for everyone to keep their antennae up and be vigilant these days, but we must.”

Does the UV light used for nail Shellac kill COVID-19?

Some services use ultraviolet light (UV) machines to cure or dry the polish on the nails, and Lynda R. wants to know if these machines could kill the virus.

The answer is maybe, but don’t count on it.

UV light in general will “facilitate degeneration of the virus,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network in Toronto.

But only devices that emit a certain kind of UV radiation, called UV-C, are explicitly designed for disinfection, he said. “UV-C is not safe for human exposure and when used people must leave the area.”

WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers questions about COVID-19:

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether it’s safe for the elderly to go to the dentist. 4:00

According to CND, the company that makes the popular Shellac nail polish, their machines emit UV-A radiation, the same kind of UV light found in tanning beds. Whether manicure machines could actually kill the virus would depend on the intensity and duration of UV exposure, Mertz said.

Even then, only the areas exposed to the light, like your fingers, would be affected, so there would be “no effect on COVID transmission,” he said.

“I’d be more concerned about close proximity to other people in an indoor setting for a prolonged period of time,” Bogoch said.

I’m bored with my bubble. Do I have to isolate before I join a new one?

Depending on where you live, Canadians have had weeks or months to negotiate and navigate their social bubbles, or circles, that permit socializing without distancing restrictions.

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But Carol S. would like to know what happens if you want to leave your bubble to join a new one.

While the protocol isn’t addressed in most public health guidelines, Bogoch said it would “make sense” to self-isolate before joining a different group, “ideally for 14 days … then certainly you can join another bubble safely.”

Mertz agreed that isolating for two weeks after your last close contact would be ideal to avoid “importing COVID from the old bubble into the new bubble.”

That said, a formal isolation period might not be necessary, Mertz said, depending on the amount of virus in your area.

“If the COVID-19 activity is low in your community, that risk would be very low,” he said.

“If your new bubble members are aware and in agreement, you may decide to not wait and have close contact with your new bubble members from the very beginning.”

We’re also answering your questions every night on The National. Last night we asked an infectious diseases specialist if it’s safe to stay in a hotel. Watch below:

An infection and prevention expert answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic including how risky it is to stay in a hotel and how to mitigate those risks. 2:39

Last week we answered questions about getting back into group sports.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at

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