Out jogging with the dog this morning, I ran over to my brother's house about a mile and a half away and stopped to chat with him. I thought it would be nice to swing by and say "Hi" since technically it's his pet and I was dog sitting, but this visit brought up a cascade of paranoid questions in my mind about the coronavirus. Like, "Who is in the "inner circle" of those I can surround myself with during this time?" And also, "What is careless? What is smart? And what is downright paranoid?"

Since we are all having these thoughts and questions, I thought I should research what is safe, or at least prudent, when it comes to basic human interaction. We stood six feet apart, across a driveway— was this overkill when talking to your only sibling and closest relative in the world?

We kept our distance.

He handed me a cup of coffee in a cardboard cup and I took it with gloves on. His grown daughter is staying with him, and since my co-working has been feeling "not so great," but has not been able to get tested—so we just have to assume the worst-case scenario.

It seemed like a good idea to not get too close to each other. Predictably, we each thought that the other person could infect us. The truth is that we both may risk exposing the other person along with our respective households. No one is safe. No one is in the clear. The only question you have to ask yourself is, who is in my inner circle? Who, if they got sick, would I rush into the room to take care of without hesitation?

Even among those relatives who love—but who we don't live with or need to get close to—the best advice is that we should keep our distance.

What if I infected him? Or what if he infected me? And then we go back to our respective households sick, Not worth it. While standing there in the driveway, a bypasser walking his little dog greets us and the dogs start to play. I yank back on Bonnie's leash and think: Sorry, but I don't want your dog touching my dog. The man reaches to pat Bonnie and I pull her back further. Please don't pat my dog! I think. I don't mouth the words, but the gesture is clear. Lets just not.... go there. He gets the message and backs up. "These are strange times," he says and I agree. My thought process: If I am not getting near my brother, then I am not getting near you. And please don't pat my dog.

Are these paranoid thoughts? Not according to CBS News, which ran a story on what to do when ordering in. When the delivery person brings your dinner, according to CBS News' medical contributor, Dr. Tara Nerulo, it's logical to "not touch the food containers, unpack the delivery meal away from where you'll eat, switch the food into a plate and throw away the one it came in, and use your own utensils." Then she advises us to disinfect where the bag or box was on the counter. We are all scrub nurses, and we are all a little paranoid. Or are we just being smart?

The question of "Who is in your inner circle?" gets narrower by the day or the hour. I might have thought my one sibling was included in my "sheltering in place" circle just a few days ago (we had dinner last Sunday night), but now, with a sick colleague, I don't want to pass anything that I might be harboring on to him or allow him to pass anything he might be carrying on to me. So my inner circle right now is just my dog-niece and my spouse. We're in it together and like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, there's no going back. We're in isolation in one house, one bed and we both pat the dog.

Here are the latest tips on how to stay away from the virus, how long it lingers, and how long people can be carriers. Use this information to be as paranoid, or smart as you like:

1. The virus lives on surfaces for up to 72 hours, according to the latest study.

This new information will send chills up and down your spine. Watch the video here for more reasons to be paranoid. The virus is detected on surfaces for up to 72 hours—or roughly three days— while on stainless steel it is slightly more inhospitable to the bug, which can make it only about 48 hours, and human skin for hours (which is why you should not shake hands or touch others).

But what about dog fur or long coat of hair? If someone with the virus pats your dog and you pat your dog in the exact same spot within minutes, you could theoretically pick up what they put there. That is not scientific, But for now, until further tests tell us whether this could happen in a real-world scenario, just... don't.

The NIH tells us that the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, and they compare it to the contagiousness of SARS in a new study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine. SARS was mostly spread in medical centers and hospitals, but unfortunately, people can be carriers of the new coronavirus and not know it for days.

2. How long can you have COVID-19 and not have any symptoms?

Harvard  Health Publishing, from Harvard Medical School, tells us this:

"Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include low-grade fever, body aches, sore throat, coughing, nasal congestion, and runny nose. However, COVID-19 can occasionally cause more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.

"Because this coronavirus has just been discovered, the time from exposure to symptom onset (known as the incubation period) for most people has yet to be determined. Based on current information, symptoms could appear as soon as three days after exposure to as long as 13 days later. Recently published research found that on average, the incubation period is about five days."

3. What to do if someone you have been in contact with gets sick or has symptoms?

These days you have to assume you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. According to CNN companies have to weigh the rights of the individual to be private and the rights of the other coworkers to know they have been exposed. Assume if someone is sick that they have been exposed, and possibly exposed you.

What that means is whether they get tested and have their case of COVID-19 confirmed (or it's a flu or common cold) the virus that made them sick can harbor in you for 3 to 5 days, and on the outside parameter, up to 14 days (which is why the CDC recommends that amount of time in isolation). Your best course of action is to isolate yourself and unless your symptoms include fever, aches, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath, you don't need to be tested.

Because chances are those tests are better used on someone who is actually exhibiting symptoms, or has a compromised immune system. And if you have some signs of being sick but are not in an acute health situation, by showing up at a medical center your risk infecting the health care workers and everyone in that waiting room or ER.

Instead, if you have mild flu-like symptoms, call your doctor, who should monitor you for breathing issues, and if you have shortness of breath you may need to head to the ER. Dr. Hooman Yaghoobzadeh, The Beet's medical advisor, urges people to ride it out at home if they can. The moment to go to the hospital is when your blood oxygen levels dip below 92 on a pulse oximeter. These can be bought at most drug stores or online for about $22.

Until then whether you let someone pat your dog is up to you. As always, wash your hands!

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